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There are so many weather patterns and different forces of nature that people explore them time and again. Tornado is one of the deadliest powers of nature and it is essential for people to understand how tornadoes are formed, how to predict their appearance, what are the possible repercussions of their activity and what measures should be taken to minimize their negative impact.
In order to gain some insight into the effect of tornadoes one has to get acquainted with common definition of the tornado. A tornado is a violent destructive whirling wind accompanied by a funnel-shaped cloud that progresses in a narrow path over the land (merriam-webster.com)
According to the observations, tornadoes are formed in violent thunderstorms with sufficient instability and wind shear in the lower atmosphere (weatherquestions.com). Instability here refers to the difference in humidity in upper and lower atmosphere: when lower atmosphere is warmer and upper one is cooler. When in this situation wind starts to change directions and its speed increases with height, then the upright tornado vortex starts to form. It is known that in the Northern Hemisphere the air around the cyclone spins in a counter-clockwise direction, and in the Southern Hemisphere – in clockwise direction, and due to the movement of air inside the cyclone starts to spin faster.
Tornadoes may become far too stronger when there is a rain: dry air in the middle atmosphere is cooled and air downdrafts that form tornado are getting stronger. To understand the importance of up- and downdrafts, one may simply look on the greater part of the tornado pictures: almost all of them are formed on the border between dark and bright clouds, that are considered to be the up- and downdraft of the storm.
Through the example of the territory of the United States it can clearly be seen how tornadoes are formed. Warm, wet winds from the Gulf of Mexico meet cold, dry Canadian winds. Cold winds move higher than warm winds but by physical laws warm air tries to get higher. Cold winds block warm air and it starts to rotate and as a result, with an assistance of supercell storms forms a tornado. That is why the Midwestern territory of the United States is a place called “tornado alley” as on the area between the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes majority of the US tornadoes are formed. Still, there are some territorial distinctions. For example, winters in California are marked with a strong low pressure that is perfect for formation of weak tornadoes.
Knowledge of the origin of tornadoes helps scientists to predict their behavior and place of their appearance. Using satellite images meteorologist scan the shape of clouds and thus find out the type of cloud system. That information helps them to predict if whether such cloud system is able to form a tornado. Another useful tool is a Doppler radar that is able to predict the formation of tornado within 30 minutes before the actual start and evaluate its strength. Tornadoes are rated according to the F0-F5 Fujita scales according to their speed and the size of the path. F0 is the least and F5 is the most destructive. For example, F5 tornado is able to lift frame houses and carry them for several miles.
Still, the more we investigate the nature of tornadoes, the more sinister they seem. There is always a possibility that new researches will raise new questions about the causes of these nature disasters. That is why no matter how hard we try to answer all tornado questions, they will be one of the most mysterious natural phenomenons.