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What is a tornado?

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Quick Answer

According to The Weather Channel, a tornado is "a violently rotating column of air that stretches from a cloud to the Earth's surface." The source also states that tornadoes are "the most destructive of all storm-scale atmospheric phenomena." Often forming from a thunderstorm, tornadoes also result from hurricanes.

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Full Answer

Wind velocity inside the tornado ranges from less than 100 miles per hour to more than 250 miles per hour. More than two-thirds of tornadoes are considered weak, with wind speeds slower than 115 miles per hour and lasting 10 minutes or less. About 29 percent of tornadoes are classified as strong, with wind speeds of 110 to 205 miles per hour and lasting up to 20 minutes or longer. Only 2 percent of tornadoes bear the label of violent. These are capable of lasting an hour or even longer and are responsible for 70 percent of all deaths due to tornadoes.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is an isolated tornado?

    A:

    An isolated tornado is a term used by meteorologists to warn the public that an occasional tornado is possible with approaching storms. When this term is used, forecasters do not expect a widespread outbreak of tornadoes to occur. A tornado watch may or not be issued when isolated tornadoes are mentioned.

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  • Q:

    What are the characteristics of a tornado?

    A:

    A tornado is a violently swirling column of air that is formed in severe thunderstorms and contains a hollow core. It is characterized by rotating air that often contains dust and debris and quickly spirals upward. The column’s bottom touches the ground, while the top extends five or more miles into the sky.

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  • Q:

    What does a tornado sound like?

    A:

    The sound a tornado makes depends on what it is hitting as well as its size, its intensity and its proximity to the listener. The most frequent sound reported is of a loud rumble akin to a train.

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  • Q:

    What causes a tornado?

    A:

    Strong warm updrafts carrying large amounts of moisture interacting with fast-moving cool, dry winds above cause tornadoes when the two air currents begin to swirl around each other and reorient toward the ground. The moist updraft is always of a type that forms large storm clouds as it ascends and the water vapor in it condenses.

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