Difference between revisions of "Tornado"

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Latest revision as of 19:45, 11 June 2019

A tornado is a fast-spinning column of air that contacts both the earth and clouds. The name tornado comes from the Spanish word that means "to have turned." They are also sometimes called twisters or cyclones, although a cyclone is actually a different weather phenomenon. A tornado can be about 80 meters across with wind speeds of up to 180 km/h. It usually travels several kilometers before dying out. Tornadoes can cause minimal or significant damage to trees and structures, depending on their intensity. There are two main rating scales used to classify the strength of tornadoes. The Fujita scale goes from 0 to 5, with 0 being the least damaging and 5 being the most damaging. The TORRO scale goes from 0 to 11, with 0 being extremely weak and 11 being incredibly strong.


A tornado usually (but not always) begins with a funnel cloud, a funnel-shaped cloud with high winds that has not yet touched down. In order for this phenomenon to be considered a tornado, it must contact the ground or water surface.

Tornadoes might take on different shapes. A stovepipe tornado is one that is long and thin, similar to the pipe that provides ventilation for old wood-burning stoves. A wedge tornado is much wider, like a wedge stuck into the ground. This type might look like just a bunch of dark clouds near the ground from a distance. As a tornado begins to die down, it might look like a rope, curling and twisting into different shapes. These are known as rope tornadoes.

Tornadoes might also have different colours. Those that from in dry areas can be almost invisible as well as those that pick up little or no debris. Tornadoes traveling over water might be white or blue. Slow-moving tornadoes that pick up a lot of debris will be darker. Those that move over the Great Plains might be look red, due to the reddish tint in the soil. Mountain tornadoes might be white because of the snow. Lighting conditions may also affect the colour of a tornado, for example with some being back-lit or tinted with sunset colours.

Tornadoes may be more or less visible, depending on the time of day, rainfall, air-borne dust, or lightning present.

Life Cycle[edit]

Tornadoes are usually born out of supercells. Supercells are a class of thunderstorm with a rotating center. As rainfall increases, it can increase the storm's area of descending air that then drags down the rotating center with it. As this rotating center, called a mesocyclone, lowers out of the cloud, the mixture of outgoing, downward cool air and incoming, upward warm air create the classic funnel of a tornado. While there is a constant supply of incoming warm air, the tornado spins and may cause damage to whatever is in its path. As it continues spinning, it eventually cuts off the air intake and begins to die out. It becomes thin and rope-like and can be blown around by the storm winds.


  • Multiple Vortex - two or more tornadoes rotate around their own axis as well as a common center
  • Waterspout - tornadoes that happen over water
  • Landspout - a "fair weather tornado" or one that is not associated with a mesocyclone


  • Gustnado - a small swirl that is not connected with a cloud base, typically occurring on the edges of a storm as the cold storm winds interact with warmer air
  • Dust Devil - a swirling column of air formed under clear skies
  • Fire Whirl - a small swirl that arises near intense sources of heat, such as forest fires
  • Steam Devil - when steam or smoke take on the spinning funnel formation


  • The Tri-State Tornado (Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana) of 1925 was an F5 (the most intense). It traveled for 3.5 hours over 352 km, reaching speeds of 117 km/h. It caused 695 deaths and is the third most costly tornado in history.
  • The deadliest tornado was the Daultipur-Salturia Tornado in Bangladesh in 1989, killing 1,300 people.
  • The 2011 Super Outbreak was the most concentrated tornado outbreak, with 360 confirmed tornadoes over the southeastern United States – 216 of them within a single 24-hour period.
  • The highest wind speed ever measured in a tornado, which is also the highest wind speed ever recorded on the planet, is 484 km/h. This was the Bridge Creek-Moore tornado in Oklahoma, which killed 36 people.
  • A 1915 Kansas tornado had such intense updrafts that debris was found hundreds of kilometers away. A sack of flour was found 180 km away and a cancelled check from the local bank was found in a field 491 km to the northeast!
  • Waterspouts and tornadoes are possible explanations for raining fish and other animals.


If you find yourself in a storm where a tornado is likely to break out, go to a basement or an interior first-floor room of a sturdy building. Many places have storm cellars, especially those in tornado-prone areas.