What is a Tornado?

Most of us have seen storms in our lives. These create havoc in the environment, and may also have the potential to cause severe damage to life and property.

While storms are clearly a powerful natural calamity, there is something that is even more powerful than it. Let’s find out exactly what that is.


What is a Tornado?

Tornadoes are powerful, swirling and spinning winds that usually form beneath a storm cloud. A tornado is essentially a dark, funnel-shaped, cloud extending from the sky to the ground. Tornadoes are also referred to as whirlwinds, windstorms, twisters, cyclones or typhoons.

The shape formed by a tornado is sometimes informally known as an elephant trunk shape. A tornado can last for just a few seconds or for more than an hour. Tornadoes are usually weak but can have high speeds of 300km/hour. A tornado can even form within a cyclone.

Stages Of A Tornado

Despite its massive size, it takes various stages of formation before the tornado becomes active. Let’s take a look at the stages that lead to its formation and its path of action therefater.

Stormy Weather

The initial stage involves the formation of dark, violent, stormy clouds in areas where there is warm and moist air. This air rises from the land, and then meets the cool and dry air of the sky.

Spinning Air

When this risen warm air meets the cool, swirling air high in the clouds, it starts to spin. Gradually the air at the lower levels start spinning too.

Cloud Column

With every passing moment, more of the surrounding air gets pulled in and the tornado grows in size as well as increases in speed.  Sometimes it may also pull in some of the surrounding dirt and dust of the lower surfaces, closer to land.

Finally, it forms up a column of twisting clouds that strikes the ground.

Blown Away!

The strong, whirling winds simply suck up and destroy anything in their path. A tornado can tear up trees, buildings, and cars and carry them with the high speed cyclonic winds. As a result, the remains and debris may be found miles away from the place where the tornado had actually hit first.

Fun Facts

  • Around 1,000 tornadoes a year strike in the United States, mostly in an area called the Tornado Alley.
  • Tornadoes spin at speeds of up to 200 mph (320 kph).

Concept Of Whirling Water

When a whirling air mass passes over the surface of warm and shallow seas, it sucks up the water into the funnel of air and this is known as a waterspout.
A waterspout may have lower wind speeds than a tornado, but they can last far longer.

Related questions

  1.  What is a tornado?
  2. What the various stages of tornado formation?
  3. What is a waterspout?

Fill in the Blanks

  1. Whirling mass of air sucking in water is called ______.
  2. A tornado has the shape of a __________.
  3. Tornadoes can suck in any heavy object such as _______.
  4. _________ is the characteristic feature of a tornado.
  5. In USA, tornados frequently occur in an area called the

True Or False

  • Tornado is a slow-moving column of air: ______
  • Spinning in a tornado occurs at all air levels: ______
  • Tornadoes cause situations similar to cyclonic weather: ______
  • Waterspouts suck up dust: _______
  • Tornadoes are shaped like a tunnel : _______

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