What are Tornadoes?

If you look back just a few days ago I discussed what months are best to view tornadoes and it depends on where you are, but they are typically in the Spring and Summer months.

And now you might be wondering how a tornado forms.

Most tornadoes form from supercell thunderstorms. These thunderstorms can sometimes rotate in the atmosphere and a tornado can develop (this doesn’t happen with every single supercell).

You generally need warm moist air at the surface and much cooler air aloft. These different air masses or temperature differences don’t mix very well and this creates instability in the atmosphere. This air can rotate around another causing a funnel cloud to develop. From here, many atmospheric changes take place.

With changes in wind direction, wind speeds, rising and falling air (updrafts and downdrafts) this can create the perfect conditions for a tornado to develop and form. Of course, it is more complicated than this.

The truth is meteorologists don’t really fully understand how a tornado forms. We know the general idea as to why (as mentioned above) and lots of research is being looked at to figure out the exact reason.

Tornadoes are a unique feature and only last for a few minutes (for most tornadoes that form), but within that short amount of time they can flatten an entire town.

Last I read, with new research and developments, the latest thinking to see how a tornado forms is the use of drones. If the use of drones goes underway we will likely get a better understanding of tornadoes.

This also becomes a real life ‘Twister’ movie, but with drones.

Do have to mention the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning because not many people know the difference.

If you hear a tornado watch has been issued then this means there is some time to prepare for and if a tornado arrives. This means that atmospheric conditions are possible or favorable for tornadic activity.

A watch will almost include a wide area with many counties or even an entire state.

If a tornado warning has been issued this means that you need to seek shelter immediately. Find the lowest lying place in your home, or go to a basement, closet, or bathroom — a room without windows to have the best security. A warning means that rotation has been spotted or a tornado has been radar indicated and may arrive any minute. You generally only have a few minutes to head to a safe place when a warning has been issued.

A warning will likely only cover a small area or a few counties at most.

Photos are courtesy of NOAA.

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