Excel Tutorial: How To Make A Tornado Chart In Excel


If you work with data, chances are you've come across various types of charts and graphs. One type of chart that is gaining popularity for its ability to effectively visualize data is the tornado chart. This powerful tool allows you to compare the impact of different variables on a single outcome, making it ideal for sensitivity analysis and risk assessment. In this tutorial, we'll show you how to create a tornado chart in Excel and discuss the potential benefits of using this visualization technique.

Key Takeaways

  • Tornado charts are a powerful tool for visualizing the impact of different variables on a single outcome
  • They are ideal for sensitivity analysis and risk assessment
  • Selecting the right data and identifying primary and secondary variables is crucial for creating an effective tornado chart
  • Sorting the data in descending order and creating the tornado effect are key steps in the chart creation process
  • Accurate representation of data through effective visualization techniques is essential for making informed decisions

Understanding the data

Before creating a tornado chart in Excel, it is important to understand the data that will be used to construct the chart. This involves selecting the appropriate data and identifying the primary and secondary variables for the chart.

A. Select the data to be used in the tornado chart

Begin by selecting the relevant data that will be included in the tornado chart. This may involve data related to different variables or factors that you want to compare and analyze using the chart. Ensure that the data is organized and arranged appropriately within the Excel spreadsheet.

B. Identify the primary and secondary variables for the chart

Once the data has been selected, it is important to identify the primary and secondary variables that will be represented in the tornado chart. The primary variable typically represents the main focus of the comparison, while the secondary variable provides additional context or a point of reference for the primary variable. This distinction will help in determining how the data will be plotted in the tornado chart.

Creating the initial bar chart

When creating a tornado chart in Excel, the first step is to create the initial bar chart.

A. Insert a bar chart with the selected data

To begin, select the data for which you want to create the tornado chart. This could be a set of values representing the positive and negative impacts of different variables. Once the data is selected, go to the "Insert" tab on the Excel ribbon and select the "Bar Chart" option. Choose the appropriate bar chart style, such as clustered bar or stacked bar, based on your data set.

B. Adjust the chart layout and design to fit the tornado chart format

After inserting the bar chart, you will need to adjust the layout and design to transform it into a tornado chart. To do this, start by changing the orientation of the bars so that they are horizontal instead of vertical. Next, adjust the axis labels and titles to reflect the nature of the tornado chart, where the bars extend to both positive and negative values. You may also need to modify the color scheme and add data labels to make the chart easier to interpret.

Sorting the data

When creating a tornado chart in Excel, it is essential to sort the data in a specific way to achieve the characteristic shape of the chart.

A. Sort the data in descending order to create the tornado shape

Begin by arranging the data in descending order. This will place the highest values at the top of the chart, creating the visual impression of a tornado.

B. Ensure the primary variable is in the middle of the chart

Once the data is sorted, it is important to ensure that the primary variable is positioned in the middle of the chart. This helps to clearly visualize the impact of the variable on the surrounding factors.

Adding the tornado effect

To create a tornado chart in Excel, you will need to adjust the bar chart to achieve the desired effect. Follow the steps below to add the tornado effect to your chart:

A. Adjust the bar chart to create the tornado effect

  • Step 1: Create a bar chart - Start by creating a bar chart with the data you want to visualize.
  • Step 2: Reverse the order of the bars - To make the tornado effect, you will need to reverse the order of the bars in the chart. This can be done by right-clicking on the vertical axis and selecting Format Axis. Then, check the Categories in reverse order option.
  • Step 3: Adjust the axis labels - You may need to adjust the axis labels to ensure they are displayed correctly after reversing the order of the bars.

B. Customize the colors and labels to enhance the visualization

  • Step 1: Choose contrasting colors - Select colors for the bars that contrast well with each other to make the tornado effect more visually impactful.
  • Step 2: Add data labels - To provide more context to the reader, consider adding data labels to the chart to display the exact values of each bar.
  • Step 3: Customize the chart title and axis labels - Personalize the chart title and axis labels to make the chart more informative and visually appealing.

Finalizing the chart

After creating a tornado chart in Excel, it is important to finalize the chart to ensure it is clear and accurate for presentation.

A. Add a title and axis labels to the chart
  • Title: Begin by adding a descriptive title to the chart that clearly indicates what the chart represents. This will help viewers quickly understand the focus of the chart.
  • Axis labels: Ensure that the horizontal and vertical axes are properly labeled to provide context for the data being displayed. Clearly indicate which data points are represented on each axis.

B. Double-check the data and formatting for accuracy and clarity
  • Data accuracy: Review the data used to create the tornado chart and verify its accuracy. Any errors in the data could misrepresent the insights drawn from the chart.
  • Formatting: Take a close look at the formatting of the chart, including colors, fonts, and layout. Ensure that the chart is visually appealing and easy to read, with clear distinctions between data points.

By adding a title and axis labels, as well as double-checking the data and formatting, you can finalize your tornado chart in Excel to enhance its clarity and impact.


Creating a tornado chart in Excel involves a few key steps, including organizing your data, selecting the appropriate chart type, and customizing the design to effectively communicate your insights.

It is important to accurately represent data through effective visualization techniques, as it allows for better understanding and interpretation of the information presented. Tornado charts are a powerful tool for comparing the impact of variables on a specific outcome, and mastering this visualization can greatly enhance your data analysis skills.

By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you will be able to create impactful tornado charts in Excel and present your data in a clear and compelling manner.

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