Q:

Why do tornadoes happen?

A:

Quick Answer

Tornadoes happen when warm, moist air masses and cold, dry air masses collide to cause large thunderstorms. Not all thunderstorms produce tornadoes, and scientists are not certain which factors are directly responsible for their formation. They do know that in many cases, horizontal spinning movements in the air can be lifted vertically. Once vertical, its base may span up to three miles from one side to the other.

Know More
Why do tornadoes happen?
Credit: Gene Rhoden/Weatherpix Photolibrary Getty Images

Full Answer

While tornadoes are theoretically possible in any thunderstorm, they are far more common in the United States and Canada than any other country. They are especially common in a narrow slice of land called Tornado Alley. Tornado alley includes part of Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, South Dakota and Oklahoma. The reason that so many tornadoes occur in this area is that the Gulf of Mexico and Canadian tundra are found at each end. The Gulf of Mexico provides a constant source of warm, wet air, while the air flowing in from Canada is almost always cold and dry. The two air masses often collide over Tornado Alley, causing the frequent tornadoes.

Tornadoes are one of the most destructive forces in nature, and they can cause widespread damage and casualties. Tornadoes are ranked via a scale called the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Some tornadoes have had winds that exceeded 300 miles per hour.

Learn more about Storms

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are the dangers of tornadoes?

    A:

    The dangers of tornadoes include flying debris that can destroy property and injure people, and violent winds that lift vehicles and rip off roofs. The primary danger of tornadoes is the flying debris, as this often destroys and injures more than what the winds pick up.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do tornadoes affect people?

    A:

    Tornadoes injure and kill people, destroy property, take a heavy financial toll, disrupt communication and create severe anxiety. The number of deaths due to tornadoes varies significantly from year to year. For example, according to NOAA, in 2008, 126 people died, but in the following year, only 21 lives were lost. Tornadoes killed 553 people in 2011, but just 70 in 2012.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What are tornadoes made of?

    A:

    A tornado is essentially a violently rotating column of air moving at speeds up to 300 miles per hour. It is also likely to contain objects it has come in contact with on the ground, though the objects are rarely intact.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How are tornadoes predicted?

    A:

    According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the conditions that can spawn a tornado occur so suddenly that accurately predicting a tornado more than a few minutes ahead of time is extremely difficult. The National Weather Service issues tornado watches when conditions are conducive to tornado formation in order to keep citizens alert and listening to weather broadcasts for storm warnings.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore