What Causes Tornadoes?

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Tornadoes are one of the most destructive of the natural disasters. They usually come from powerful thunderstorms that appear as funnel-shaped clouds that rotate violently. These storms have wind speeds that can reach up to 300 miles an hour.Once a tornado touches the ground, it can cause severe destruction to everything in its path. They are capable of destroying houses, small and large buildings, uproot trees, and blow away vehicles. In the US alone, an average of 1,000 tornadoes are reported every year.

How Do Tornadoes Form?

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What Are Tornadoes?
What Are Tornadoes?

Usually, when talking about tornadoes, we often discuss the large ones that occur during powerful thunderstorms. They usually form from what we call as “cumulonimbus clouds”. But they need more than just a thunderstorm before they can form. There are still other conditions that must be met in order for it to form.

Below is the process of how a tornado forms:

  • The whole process starts inside a cumulonimbus cloud where a large thunderstorm starts to form.
  • The changes in wind speed and the wind direction at high altitudes causes the thunderstorm to start to swirl in a horizontal manner.
  • The ground-air which rises up pushes the swirling air up which causes the storm to tip over and take shape of a funnel.
  • This rotating funnel-shaped storm starts to increase its intensity as it continues to suck up warm air from the ground.
  • It will start to grow longer and try to reach the ground.
  • Once the funnel manages to make landfall, it is now called as a tornado.

Characteristics of a Tornado

What Are Tornadoes?
What Are Tornadoes?

Tornadoes are classified according to five different characteristics.

  • Shape – Most of the time, a tornado can take the shape of a narrow funnel that extends from the clouds down to the ground. A giant tornado, on the other hand, takes the shape of a wedge instead of a funnel because of their massive size.
  • Size – A tornado can come in different sizes. An average tornado usually measures 500 feet across. There are also some that can be as narrow as 10 feet or more than two miles wide.
  • Wind speed – A tornado can reach wind speeds of up to 300 miles per hour. An average tornado usually has wind speeds between 65-250 miles per hour.
  • Color – Depending on the environment, a tornado may appear in different colors. Some of them can appear nearly invisible, while there are some that may appear black, blue, green, gray, red, or white from a distance.
  • Rotation – In the northern hemisphere, they rotate counterclockwise while in the southern hemisphere, they rotate clockwise.

Types Of Tornadoes

What Are Tornadoes?
What Are Tornadoes?

There are five main types of tornadoes and they are the following:

  • Supercell – Supercells are large masses of thunderstorms. They are capable of spawning the largest and most powerful tornadoes.
  • Waterspout – Waterspouts are a rotating columnar vortex that forms over water only. They are mostly weak and they usually disappear after a couple of minutes or once they hit the ground.
  • Landspout – Landspouts are similar to waterspouts but they only form on land instead of water.
  • Gustnado – Gustnado is a small tornado that usually develops when there is a sudden gust of wind.
  • Multiple vortex – A type of tornado that has 2 or more vortices.

When Do Tornadoes Usually Occur?

What Are Tornadoes?
What Are Tornadoes?

Tornadoes can form all-year round once certain conditions are met. They do have a typical season where they are found to develop more often which is from March to August. They can develop any time of the day but they are more likely to occur between 3:00-9:00 p.m.

Final Thoughts

Tornadoes are destructive and just like the other natural disasters, they are unstoppable and unpredictable. This is why the authorities are doing their best to educate the public about the importance of tornado preparedness. If you think that you are living in an area that is prone to tornadoes, be sure to teach yourself about what you should do when a storm like this in your way.


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