The Most Popular Type of Tornado: A Ranking of Varieties

Choose the type you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Feb 16, 2024 06:41
Welcome to StrawPoll, the ultimate place for settling debates and satisfying curiosities! Today, we're delving into the whirlwind world of tornadoes and putting the power in your hands to determine the most popular type of tornado. With thousands of votes already cast, it's time for you to join the ranks and make your opinion count! From the awe-inspiring F5 tornadoes touching down with unparalleled force to the more modest, yet still captivating, F1 twisters, which type will emerge as the reigning champion? Cast your vote now, or if you think we've missed a whirlwind worthy of contention, suggest an option and let the battle of the tornadoes continue. Join us on this exhilarating ride and let's see which tornado will swirl its way to the top!

What Is the Most Popular Type of Tornado?

  1. 1
    These are the most common and deadliest type of tornadoes, formed from supercell thunderstorms. They can last for several hours and cause significant damage.
    A Supercell tornado is a type of tornado that forms from a severe thunderstorm called a supercell. It is the most common and powerful type of tornado, characterized by its long-lasting and rotating updraft. Supercell tornadoes are known for their destructive force and significant damage potential.
    • Formation: Formed from a rotating updraft in a supercell thunderstorm
    • Rotation: Capable of producing intense rotation and sustained vortices
    • Duration: Can last for several minutes to over an hour
    • Size: Can range from a few meters to more than two kilometers in width
    • Wind Speed: Capable of producing wind speeds over 300 miles per hour (483 kilometers per hour)
  2. 2
    These tornadoes have multiple smaller whirls rotating around a central axis, causing more concentrated damage.
    Multiple vortex tornadoes are a type of tornado where two or more small, intense vortices, called subvortices, orbit the center of a larger parent vortex. These subvortices are responsible for the distinct appearance of multiple funnel clouds within the larger tornado. The subvortices can display various motions, including rotating around each other or merging together.
    • Formation: Formed due to wind shear and turbulent wind conditions present within a supercell thunderstorm.
    • Appearance: Characterized by the presence of multiple funnel clouds within a larger tornado.
    • Size: Can vary in size, with the parent vortex typically larger in diameter compared to the subvortices.
    • Intensity: Can exhibit highly variable intensity, ranging from weak to violent.
    • Duration: May last for a few minutes to several hours, depending on the lifespan of the parent supercell thunderstorm.
  3. 3

    Landspout tornadoes

    Ted Fujita
    These are weaker tornadoes that form from the ground up, without the presence of a rotating thunderstorm. They are more common in drier areas.
    Landspout tornadoes are a relatively weak tornado type that forms from the ground up, typically associated with non-supercell thunderstorms. They are often characterized by a narrow, rope-like appearance and a weak rotating column of air. Landspouts usually have shorter lifespans and smaller diameters compared to other tornado types.
    • Formation: Forms from the ground up
    • Creator: Ted Fujita
    • Associated with: Non-supercell thunderstorms
    • Appearance: Narrow and rope-like
    • Strength: Relatively weak
  4. 4
    Waterspout tornadoes
    Julian Kupfer · CC BY 2.5
    These tornadoes form over water bodies and move towards land, usually causing minimal damage.
    Waterspout tornadoes are a unique type of tornado that forms over water bodies such as oceans, lakes, or rivers. They appear as rotating columns of water vapor, usually connected to a cumuliform cloud above. Waterspout tornadoes are visually stunning phenomena and can vary in size from small and weak to large and powerful.
    • Formation: They form when cool and unstable air moves over warm water, causing the air to rise and create a rotating updraft.
    • Location: Waterspout tornadoes mainly occur over bodies of water, near coastlines or on large lakes.
    • Duration: They typically last for a few minutes to an hour, but some can persist for a longer time.
    • Size: They range in size from just a few meters to several hundreds of meters in diameter.
    • Strength: While most waterspouts are relatively weak with wind speeds below 75 mph (120 km/h), some can become strong and cause significant damage.
  5. 5
    These are short-lived tornado-like whirls that form along the gust front of a thunderstorm. They are usually weak and do not cause significant damage.
    Gustnadoes are a type of tornado that form along the gust fronts of severe thunderstorms. They are generally weaker and shorter-lived than traditional tornadoes, but can still cause localized damage and create a visual spectacle. Gustnadoes often appear like a spinning dust cloud or debris whirlwind, and can be mistaken for a tornado due to their similar appearance. They typically form in the vicinity of a strong downburst, when cold air rapidly descends from a thunderstorm and spreads in all directions along the ground, generating localized rotation. Although gustnadoes are not as intense as large-scale tornadoes, they can still produce strong winds and pose a threat to people and property.
    • Rotation: Localized and weaker than tornadoes
    • Duration: Shorter-lived compared to traditional tornadoes
    • Origin: Form along gust fronts of severe thunderstorms
    • Appearance: Spinning dust cloud or debris whirlwind
    • Strength: Weaker compared to tornadoes, but can still cause damage
  6. 6
    These tornadoes are narrow and thin, resembling a rope. They are usually weak and short-lived.
    Rope tornadoes are a type of tornado that appear as thin and slender funnel clouds. They have a rope-like appearance and are often described as looking like a twisted rope or a long, slender rope hanging down from the cloud base.
    • Shape: Thin and slender funnel cloud
    • Appearance: Twisted rope or a long, slender rope hanging down
    • Formation: Develop from mature tornadoes
    • Wind Speed: Can reach speeds of 100-200 miles per hour (160-320 km/h)
    • Width: Often less than 50 feet (15 meters)
  7. 7
    These tornadoes form from the same supercell storm as the main tornado but are located a short distance away. They are usually weaker than the main tornado.
    Satellite tornadoes are a type of tornado that forms near the primary tornado and rotates around it. They are commonly referred to as 'child' tornadoes. These tornadoes take on a circular shape and have a lot in common with the parent tornado. They are smaller in size and typically weaker in intensity compared to the main or 'parent' tornado. Satellite tornadoes usually occur within the same supercell thunderstorm system that produces the primary tornado. They form due to the variations in wind patterns within the storm, causing multiple areas of rotation to develop. Satellite tornadoes often exhibit a similar path and direction of movement as the parent tornado.
    • Size: Smaller than the parent tornado
    • Intensity: Weaker than the parent tornado
    • Formation: Occurs within the same supercell thunderstorm system as the parent tornado
    • Rotation: Rotates around the parent tornado
    • Movement: Often follows a similar path and direction as the parent tornado
  8. 8
    These tornadoes rotate in the opposite direction of typical tornadoes and are rarer. They are usually weaker and shorter-lived.
    Anticyclonic tornadoes are a rare type of tornado that rotate in the opposite direction of the typical tornado. Instead of a counterclockwise rotation (in the Northern Hemisphere), anticyclonic tornadoes rotate in a clockwise direction (or cyclonically). They are also known as clockwise tornadoes.
    • Rotation Direction: Clockwise
    • Formation: Occurs within specific atmospheric conditions
    • Frequency: Relatively rare compared to typical tornadoes
    • Size: Varies, ranging from small to large
    • Damage Potential: Varies, dependent on the specific anticyclonic tornado
  9. 9

    Cone tornadoes

    Atmospheric conditions
    These tornadoes are shaped like a cone and are usually associated with strong thunderstorms.
    Cone tornadoes, also known as wedge tornadoes, are a popular type of tornado characterized by their wide, cone-shaped appearance. They are created by severe thunderstorms and are typically the most destructive and dangerous tornadoes. The creator of cone tornadoes is the combination of specific atmospheric conditions that lead to the formation of severe thunderstorms.
    • Shape: Wide, cone-shaped
    • Formation: Result of severe thunderstorms
    • Destructiveness: Most destructive and dangerous type of tornado
    • Appearance: Tall, dark funnel cloud with a broad base
    • Size: Can range from a few hundred meters to over a kilometer in width
  10. 10
    These tornadoes have a narrow, rope-like appearance that expands into a wider funnel shape. They are usually associated with strong thunderstorms.
    Elephant trunk tornadoes are a type of tornado characterized by a slender, elongated condensation funnel resembling an elephant's trunk. They are visually striking and can be quite destructive.
    • Shape: Slender and elongated, resembling an elephant's trunk
    • Formation: Result from a strong updraft within a supercell thunderstorm
    • Size: Can vary in width, typically ranging from 50 to 600 meters
    • Duration: Can last from a few minutes to several hours
    • Wind Speed: Can reach velocities of over 300 miles per hour (480 kilometers per hour)

Missing your favorite type?


About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular type of tornado. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or type is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 207 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each type once every 24 hours. The rank of each type is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most popular type of tornado

Tornadoes are one of the most powerful and destructive weather phenomena on Earth. They are characterized by a rapidly rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world, but they are most common in the United States, particularly in the central and southern regions. There are several types of tornadoes, but the most common is the supercell tornado. Supercell tornadoes are produced by supercell thunderstorms, which are large, rotating thunderstorms that can last for several hours. These tornadoes are typically the largest and most powerful, and can cause significant damage to buildings and infrastructure. Another type of tornado is the multiple vortex tornado. These tornadoes consist of multiple smaller vortices that rotate around a larger central vortex. Multiple vortex tornadoes can be especially dangerous because they can change direction quickly and cause damage in multiple areas. Finally, there are also non-supercell tornadoes, which are smaller and weaker than supercell tornadoes. These tornadoes are typically produced by smaller thunderstorms or other weather phenomena, such as landspouts or waterspouts. Overall, tornadoes are a fascinating and powerful force of nature. While they can be incredibly destructive, they are also a reminder of the incredible power of our planet's weather systems.

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