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What is a Tornado?

A tornado is a strong, turbulent column of air, moving fast and keeping


in contact with the earth’s surface and a vertically formed cloud
carrying dense water vapors, called the cumulonimbus cloud.
Commonly, the tornadoes are shaped like a funnel, but the shape and
structure can vary according to the climatic conditions. The bottom
end of the vortex is surrounded by a cloud of dust and debris. A
tornado can occur anywhere on land expect Antarctica. Read more
about types and cause of tornadoes here.

Tornado speeds can vary from 110mph to 300mph in extreme cases.


They are, on an average, about 75m tall and can travel about a few
miles before depleting completely. Tornadoes also occasionally occur in
south-central and eastern Asia, northern and east-central South
America, Africa, North West and South East Europe, West and South
East Australia, and New Zealand. Most commonly, tornadoes are
observed to occur in the Tornado Alley, ranging from the states of
Texas to Iowa, in the United States.
The most common types of tornados are the single supercell F1 type.
The letter “F” is used to denote the Fujita Scale, depending on the
magnitude of the damage cause by the tornado. F0 being the least
amount of damage and F6 being the maximum. For the detection of
tornadoes, a Pulse-Doppler radar is used which collects data based on
the velocity and reflectivity of the air of the surroundings. Learn more
about facts related to tornadoes.

Formation of Tornadoes
Tornadoes are formed due to large super cells. Super cells are nothing
but a huge cluster of thunderstorm clouds. A simple explanation to its
formation is as follows: warm air rises up as it has a low vapor
pressure and cold air drops down because of its high vapor pressure.
Due to this, the warm air in the end forms a vortex and forms a funnel
cloud, otherwise known as a tornado. A characteristic green color
appears in the sky when a tornado is completely formed and ready for
destruction.

The formation of tornadoes is followed in a set pattern of simple steps.

Firstly, when the thunderstorm approaches, the wind direction speed


changes in the upper area of the atmosphere and causes an invisible
horizontal spinning effect in the lower region.

Secondly, the horizontal air is tilted to vertical because of the rising


hot air’s updraft. It eventually forms into a spiral with diameter
ranging from 2-6 miles of rotating air.

Thirdly, a rotating wall cloud originating from the center of the storm
(eye of the storm) is formed as the base cloud. This region is rain-free.
Just moments later, a tornado is formed and it starts revolving around
violently at high speeds and cause havoc in and around the
environment.

Lifetime of a Tornado
Every tornado has a definite lifetime. The down pouring rainfall drags a
rapidly descending region of air known as the rear flank downdraft. It
drags the super cell’s Meso cyclone (area of organized rotation) to the
ground with it.

Formation:
As the meso- cyclone approaches the ground, it begins to take in the
cool moist (condensation) air along with it. This makes the funnel to
appear. As the funnel descends, RFD also reaches the ground. This
creates a gust front, which can be very destructive, from the tornado.
The funnel cloud becomes a tornado within minutes of the RFD
reaching the ground.

Development:
The power source of a tornado is the warm, moist air which is in
abundance. It stays in this phase for about 1-2 hours and evidently,
this is the most destructive phase of the tornado. The RFD, now at this
point, is a cool flow of air and it wraps itself around the tornado cutting
off its source of warm air.

Termination:
The RFD wraps itself around the tornado completely now and the
vortex begins to weaken. Due to the choking, the tornado has now
dissipated. The storm has now been deflated but the winds can still
have high speeds. Sometimes, new tornadoes can generate from the
meso-cyclone of the previous one.

Most tornadoes spin in the cyclonic direction while some rotate in the
anti-cyclonic direction. Tornadoes are formed any time throughout the
year but a major number of tornadoes are formed during late April to
May. In the northern parts of USA, the peak session for tornadoes is
much later. This is because it takes longer to warm the northern parts
of the plains and hence the tornadoes form later.

Tornadoes are a work of creation and should always be stir-cleared


away as you never know how damaging the consequences can be.

What is a Tornado?
A tornado is a strong, turbulent column of air, moving fast and keeping
in contact with the earth’s surface and a vertically formed cloud
carrying dense water vapors, called the cumulonimbus cloud.
Commonly, the tornadoes are shaped like a funnel, but the shape and
structure can vary according to the climatic conditions. The bottom
end of the vortex is surrounded by a cloud of dust and debris.
Tornadoes are formed from the extremely large thunderstorms called
supercells.

Tornadoes can be very destructive in nature with their speed ranging


from 110mph to 300mph and can last to about 1-2 hours or 4 hours,
in extreme cases, and can be as tall as 75 feet. Tornadoes also
occasionally occur in south-central and eastern Asia, northern and
east-central South America, Africa, North West and South East Europe,
West and South East Australia, and New Zealand. Most commonly,
tornadoes are observed to occur in the Tornado Alley, ranging from
the states of Texas to Iowa, in the United States. Except Antarctica,
tornadoes can occur anywhere.
Types of Tornadoes
There are various types of tornadoes and they can characterized
according to the level of damage they can cause. Fujita or Enhanced
Fujita(EF) scale scale is a reference scale to characterize the tornado
according to the magnitude of the destruction. EF0 being the least
destructive and EF6 being the most extreme.

There are different types of tornadoes which are observed all over the
world. Some of them are:

 Multiple Vortex Tornado


In such cases, there are two or more spinning columns of air around a
common center. These vortices often create small areas of heavier
damage along the main tornado path. The vortices themselves rotate
in the peripheral region of the eye of the tornado.
 Waterspout Tornado
It is tornado that is formed over a water body, usually an ocean or
sea.They are similar to the mesocyclonic thunderstorm tornadoes but
are formed over a water body. A waterspout is not a destructive
tornado as it spans itself over less than 2 km. Tornadoes of these type
cause damage that tends to be EF2 or less.

 Landspout Tornado
These are similar to waterspout tornadoes in terms of relative
weakness, short lifespan, and a small, smooth condensation funnel
which often does not reach the surface. There is no rotating updraft –
the spinning motion originates near the ground. They are usually
weaker than normal tornadoes but can create winds which can cause
serious damage.

 Dust-Devil Tornado
They are similar to the normal tornadoes, of vertically rotating column
of air. But they occur under clean skies and are very weak. They form
when a strong hot updraft is formed near the ground on a hot day. A
Dust-Devil tornado occurs when the sun heats dry land surfaces
forming a twisting column of air. These types of tornadoes are
commonly known as willy willy in Australia.

 Gustnado Tornado
This type of tornado has a gust like vertical updraft of air. They are not
connected with a cloud base. They are formed when cold dry updraft
of air mixes with the moist cool air which is stationary resulting in a
rolling effect. A Gustnado is short-lived and lasts from few seconds to
minutes.

Causes of Tornadoes
Tornadoes are cause by the thunderstorms being extremely large,
unstable and with wind shear in the lower region of the atmosphere.
Instability refers to the hot and humid conditions in the lower
atmosphere and cooler conditions in the upper atmosphere. Due to the
variation in the vapor pressure of hot and cool air, the hot air rises
above and the cool air drops below. Wind shear refers to the changing
of wind direction and wind speed increasing with height.
The formation of tornadoes is followed in a set pattern of simple steps.
Firstly, when the thunderstorm approaches, the wind direction, speed
changes in the upper area of the atmosphere and causes an invisible
horizontal spinning effect in the lower region. Secondly, the horizontal
air is tilted to vertical because of the rising hot air’s updraft. It
eventually forms into a spiral with diameter ranging from 2-6 miles of
rotating air. Thirdly, a rotating wall cloud originating from the center of
the storm (eye of the storm) is formed as the base cloud. This region
is rain-free. Just moments later, a tornado is formed and it starts
revolving around violently at high speeds and cause havoc.

Even weak tornadoes can occur when the wind shear conditions are
strong, but the atmosphere is not very unstable as both instability and
wind shear are necessary for tornado formation. For instance, in
California in the winter when a strong low pressure system comes
along. Similarly, weak tornadoes can occur when the air-mass is very
unstable, but has little wind shear.

Tornadoes are very dangerous and if you are around one, you should
probably take cover and wait. Tornadoes are very exciting to watch
too, but always be safe while watching a tornado as everybody cant be
a storm chaser with all lucky stars!

Tornado Facts
There are a number of facts about tornadoes. The biggest, the
meanest, the longest and of all different kinds. This marvelous yet
destructive beauty of nature can be a site to look at but a chilly
experience to feel. Many people are so crazy with tornadoes that they
want to see it with their own eyes but none of them have been alive to
tell the tale. A tornado is nothing but a giant funnel that is a
fascinating sight to watch. A violent tornado, however, can leave a
mass trail of destruction behind.

Below are 30 facts on Tornadoes


Fact 1: A tornado is a strong, turbulent column of fast moving air,
keeping in contact with the earth’s surface. It is thus like a vertically
formed cloud carrying dense water vapors, called the cumulonimbus
cloud. The bottom end of the vortex is surrounded by a cloud of dust
and debris.
Fact 2: Tornadoes are formed from the extremely large thunderstorms
called super cells.

Fact 3: Tornadoes can be very destructive in nature with their speed


ranging from 110mph to 300mph.

Fact 4: Tornadoes can last to about 1-2 hours or 4 hours, in extreme


cases, and can be as tall as 75 feet.

Fact 5: Tornadoes also occasionally occur in south-central and eastern


Asia, northern and east-central South America, Africa, North West and
South East Europe, West and South East Australia, and New
Zealand. Most commonly, tornadoes are observed to occur in the
Tornado Alley, ranging from the states of Texas to Iowa, in the United
States. Except Antarctica, tornadoes can occur in any place.
Fact 6: The most destructive tornado recorded till date was the one
Bangladesh on April 26, 1989, which killed approximately 1300 people.

Fact 7: Bangladesh has had at least 19 tornadoes in its history killing


more than 100,000 people which is almost half of the total toll in the
rest of the world.

Fact 8: The most record-breaking tornado in history was the Tri-state


Tornado, which spiraled through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and
Indiana on March 18, 1925. It holds records for longest path length
(219 miles, 352 km), longest duration (about 3.5 hours), and fastest
forward speed for a significant tornado (73 mph, 117 km/h) anywhere
on Earth. It has been said that that tornado was an F5, which can be
extremely violent and destructive. The letter “F” is used to denote the
Fujita Scale, depending on the magnitude of the damage cause by the
tornado. F0 being the least amount of damage and F6 being the
maximum.

Fact 9: The effects causes by tornado can be devastating and the


damage caused can be one mile wide and 50 mile long.

Fact 10: The sky turns to a characteristic greenish color when a


tornado is on the rising. . For the detection of tornadoes, a Pulse-
Doppler radar is used which collects data based on the velocity and
reflectivity of the air of the surroundings. Effects like debris balls and
hook echoes are observed

Fact 11: Like anything else on this planet, everything that takes birth,
must die, even the tornadoes have a definite lifecycle. They last up to
1-2 hours. The down pouring rainfall drags a rapidly descending region
of air which is known as the rear flank downdraft (RFD). It drags the
super cell’s Meso cyclone (area of organized rotation) to the ground
with it. This RFD, when becomes cool, chokes the tornado, stopping its
power source of warm air and finally dissipates the vortex.

Fact 12: The tornadoes can be of different shapes and structures.


They can be either a multiple vortex tornado, or a watersoupt tornado
(tornadoes occurring over a water body). Their sizes differ too. Some
are rope like, thin and long, and others can be spiral and wide.

Fact 13: A tornado normally appears transparent until it picks dust


and mud from the ground.
Fact 14: There are many myths and misconceptions about tornadoes
too. Some believe that areas near rivers, lakes and mountains are safe
from tornadoes. But the fact is that tornadoes can occur almost
anywhere.

Fact 15: In the late 1980s, a tornado swept through Yellowstone


leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000-foot mountain. It
is also believed that the low pressure in a tornado causes buildings to
“explode” as the tornado passes overhead. But the fact remains that,
rapid winds traveling at a speed of more 200mph and the debris slams
into the buildings causing most structural damage.

Fact 16: Most tornadoes spin in the cyclonic direction while some
rotate in the anticyclonic direction.

Fact 17: Cyclonic is counterclockwise direction in the Northern


Hemisphere and clockwise in Southern Hemisphere. Similarly,
anticyclonic is a high pressure or ridge circulation in the Northern or
Southern Hemisphere.

Fact 18: Most tornadoes travel few miles before they exhaust
themselves.

Fact 19: Areas which are prone to tornadoes have basement shelters.

Fact 20: Tornadoes are the fastest winds on the earth and can be and
their rapid rotation often form a visible funnel of condensed water.
Fact 21: Tornadoes can be formed any time throughout the year but a
major number of tornadoes are formed during late April to May.

Fact 22: In the northern parts of USA, the peak session for tornadoes
is much later. This is because it takes longer to warm the northern
parts of the plains and hence the tornadoes form later.

Fact 23: Tornadoes can be detected through weather radar and give
advanced warning.

Fact 24: Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over a body of water.
Fact 25: The United States averages around 1200 tornadoes each
year.

Fact 26: During a tornado, basement and other underground areas


are safest place to hideout.

Fact 27: Tornadoes are a work of creation and should always be stir-
cleared away from as you never know how damaging the
consequences can be.

Fact 28: Tornadoes are sometimes called Twisters.

Fact 29: Only 2% of all tornadoes are labeled as “violent tornadoes”


that can last over an hour.

Fact 30: Do not open windows during severe storms as it allows dust
and debris to enter the house.