Q:

In simple terms, how is a tornado created?

A:

Quick Answer

Most tornadoes are created as a result of thunderstorms that form at the meeting point between humid air from the Gulf of Mexico and dry, cooler air from Canada. At that point, instability occurs in the atmosphere, and altering wind directions and a boost in speed makes for a spinning in the lower part of the atmosphere. When rising air makes the rotation vertical, creating a circle that can be as wide as 6 miles, the stage is set for tornadoes to start forming.

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Full Answer

Not every thunderstorm turns into a tornado, fortunately. There has to be enough moisture at the lower levels of the atmosphere for the storm to be strong, and a triggering event, such as a cold front or other confluence of winds, is also necessary to hold that moist air. After the air starts rising and finds saturation, it keeps going to make a thunderstorm cloud. As the air goes up, if it cools dramatically, instability begins to increase. If the winds are moving in a clockwise direction, tornadoes are more likely.

If one notices a funnel cloud starting to form, it is the beginning of a tornado. Seeking shelter is definitely the best course of action if there is a tornado warning.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What causes a tornado to form?

    A:

    According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, tornadoes form when warm air creates a rotating updraft in a powerful thunderstorm. When winds blow in sharply different directions or at different speeds in these storms, they can set up a rotation that feeds on itself, creating a condition called a mesocyclone. When this construct rotates and touches the ground, it becomes a tornado.

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  • Q:

    How are tornadoes and hurricanes alike?

    A:

    The only significant similarity between tornadoes and hurricanes is that they both produce high-speed winds. Tornadoes form as the result of lingering strong vertical wind velocity and vertical temperature changes. Hurricanes form as the result of extended periods of weak vertical wind velocity and relatively low changes in atmospheric temperature.

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    Why do we have tornadoes?

    A:

    Tornadoes are formed when warm air combines into storm clouds causing an updraft that mixes with a burst of colder air, which leads to rotation within the cloud. The down draft of cooler air causes the tornado to form, pulling more warm air from the ground. As the updraft strengthens, it mixes to create a spot of low pressure that pulls at the cloud's vortex and forms a funnel cloud.

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  • Q:

    How fast is a tornado?

    A:

    Tornadoes have wind gusts of 65 miles per hour to over 200 miles per hour. Tornadoes are classified by strength and estimated wind speed, according to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which assigns a rating of between EF0 and EF5.

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