What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?


LAST UPDATED: August 26, 2020 by Ryan M

A tornado ripping through the plains

A tornado watch means that the present weather conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado. A tornado warning means that tornado activity is imminent.

A watch is issued when conditions are favorable for severe weather conditions. This could be for a tornado, flood, thunderstorm, hurricane, etc. This doesn’t mean that severe weather is imminent, it only means that conditions are favorable for severe weather to happen.

Typical watches will cover about 25,000 square miles. There are no set criteria for issuing watches. If current conditions seem consistent with a developing severe weather pattern, a watch can be issued. Watches can be changed and altered based on how the situation develops.

These alerts are based on specific criteria and reports received by the National Weather Service.

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  1. Tornadoes in the Southern hemisphere usually rotate in a clockwise direction.
  2. Tornadoes in the Northern hemisphere usually rotate in a counterclockwise direction.
  3. Tornado warnings have about a 70% false alarm rate.

  1. Weather Works Inc.
  2. National Weather Service
  3. TornadoFacts.net


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