Tornadoes are some of the most destructive forces of nature.
They seem like titans – monstrous storms large enough to connect the clouds to the ground, where they can wreak immense havoc.
But how tall are these titanic storms?
The size of tornadoes
Tornadoes can greatly vary in size.
In terms of width, the smallest tornadoes can be less than 10 yards wide while the largest tornadoes can be more than one mile wide, according to the National Weather Service.
As far as height goes, tornadoes can grow on average between 1,640 and 4,921 feet (500 and 1,500 meters) tall. According to the FOX Forecast Center, this range includes the visible portion of the funnel from the ground up to the storm cloud to which the funnel connects.
To understand how tall tornadoes can grow, here are some manmade and natural landmarks for comparison.
Tornado height vs. heights of manmade landmarks in US
With an average height ranging from 1,640 to 4,921 feet, tornadoes easily tower over most man-made structures. For example, the Statue of Liberty rises just over 300 feet tall, a fraction of the average height of a tornado.
The Washington Monument at 555 feet tall, the Space Needle at 605 feet, the Gateway Arch at 630 feet and the Hoover Dam at 726 feet are also much shorter than the average tornado.
Some of the only structures that can come close to a tornado’s height would still fall on the lower end of the average tornado height range.
The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, in Chicago, stands at 1,450 feet. Meanwhile, New York City’s One World Trade Center, the tallest structure in the nation, stands at 1,776 feet.
Tornado height vs. heights of natural landmarks in US
Where manmade structures fall short, Mother Nature more than rises to the occasion.
The same goes for the iconic East and West Mitten Buttes in Arizona at over 6,000 feet each and the Mesa Arch in Utah at an elevation of 6,140 feet. North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak in the Appalachian Mountains, rises well over 6,000 feet as well.
Not to be outdone, the Grand Canyon in Arizona can also dwarf many tornadoes. With an average depth of 4,000 feet, the Grand Canyon could hide at least two smaller tornadoes stacked on top of each other.
These are just a few of the smaller natural landmarks in the nation that easily dwarf tornadoes.
Tornado height vs. heights of manmade landmarks worldwide
The U.S. averages about 1,333 tornadoes every year. As shown here, the average tornado pales in comparison to many of the nation’s natural landmarks while towering over most manmade structures in the country.
The same is true for manmade structures around the world.
On the shorter end, Big Ben in the United Kingdom stands at 320 feet tall and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt stands at 481 feet – well below the average tornado height of 1,640 to 4,921 feet.
Approaching the lower end of the range is the Eiffel Tower in France, which stands at 1,083 feet tall.
However, the largest manmade structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, reaches an average tornado height at 2,717 feet tall.
The storms that spawn tornadoes
While tornadoes may seem large, they make up one of the smallest components of a thunderstorm.
Tornadoes form the bottom or tail-end portion of supercells, the least common but perhaps the most violent type of thunderstorms. According to the FOX Forecast Center, supercells can grow tens of thousands of feet tall.