How Do Tornadoes Form?

Tornadoes are a very destructive occurrence in nature that destroy everything in their path. Understanding how this force of nature develops can actually be beneficial to you if you are ever in the midst of one.

There are several factors that all work together in the creation and development of a tornado such as abundant low-level moisture, instability in the atmosphere, or a trigger such as a cold-front or converging wind streams. In favorable areas for tornadoes to occur, the air rises and becomes saturated in moisture, and if the atmosphere is unstable, this will produce a thunderstorm cloud.

Tornadoes usually occur where all atmospheric winds are strong and rotating clockwise. Supercell thunderstorms typically cause tornadoes as they are a long-lived, constant updraft of air. These very damaging tornadoes mostly happen in the central plains of the United States. Geographic characteristics and the many different moisture and wind levels combining are what make this area very prone for supercell tornadic activity. The moist air from the Gulf of Mexico meets the dry air from the Rocky Mountains combine and develop supercell thunderstorms, which sometimes create supercell tornadoes.

While scientists aren’t 100% positive of a detailed timeline of the development of tornadoes, they do have the above general idea. If you are ever in a severe thunderstorm that has potential to create a tornado, follow the below instructions:

1) Get to the lowest level of your house. If you have a basement, seek shelter in this area of your house. If you do not have a basement, get to the most center part of your house. Whether you are in a lower level or the center of your home, make sure you are away from any windows. Bring a pillow or helmet to cover your head.

2) Grab a battery-operated radio. This way you can keep tabs on any weather updates or anything you may need to know about the storm, and you can still be tuned in even if the electricity goes out.

3) Bring a flashlight so that you can see if the electricity goes out.

4) Always make sure you and your family have a plan if there is a storm. Talk about what you would do and where in your home you will go if you are ever in a thunderstorm that has the potential to create a tornado or produce high winds that could possibly put you in danger. This way, you won’t waste any time trying to figure out where to go.

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