- CRITTER TALK
With extreme weather, emergency disaster’s happen all the time, so you need survival food when the weather turns ugly. By taking special precautions, you’ll be much more likely to stay safe.
Most tornadoes form from thunderstorms. You need warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cool, dry air from Canada. When these two air masses meet, they create instability in the atmosphere. A change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed with increasing height creates an invisible, horizontal spinning effect in the lower atmosphere. Rising air within the updraft tilts the rotating air from horizontal to vertical. An area of rotation, 2-6 miles wide, now extends through much of the storm. Most strong and violent tornadoes form within this area of strong rotation.
Tornado Formation Tornado Formation Tornado Formation
A funnel cloud is a rotating cone-shaped column of air extending downward from the base of a thunderstorm, but not touching the ground. When it reaches the ground it is called a tornado.
It is not fully understood about how exactly tornadoes form, grow and die. Tornado researchers are still trying to solve the tornado puzzle, but for every piece that seems to fit they often uncover new pieces that need to be studied.
A supercell thunderstorm is a long-lived thunderstorm whose updrafts and downdrafts are in near balance. These storms have the greatest tendency to produce tornadoes that stay on the ground for long periods of time. Supercell thunderstorms can produce violent tornadoes with winds exceeding 200 mph.
A mesocyclone is a rotating vortex of air within a supercell thunderstorm. Mesocyclones do not always produce tornadoes.
A wall cloud is an abrupt lowering of a rain-free cumulonimbus base into a low-hanging accessory cloud. A wall cloud is usually situated in the southwest portion of the storm. A rotating wall cloud usually develops before tornadoes or funnel clouds.
A waterspout is just a weak tornado that forms over water. They are most common along the Gulf Coast. Waterspouts can sometimes move inland, becoming tornadoes causing damage and injuries.
Hail is created when small water droplets are caught in the updraft of a thunderstorm. These water droplets are lifted higher and higher into the sky until they freeze into ice. Once they become heavy, they will start to fall. If the smaller hailstones get caught in the updraft again, they will get more water on them and get lifted higher in the sky and get bigger. Once they get lifted again, they freeze and fall. This happens over and over again until the hailstone is too heavy and then falls to the ground.
According to the National Weather Service, the largest hailstone is 8 inches in diameter and weights approximately 2 pounds. It fell in Vivian, South Dakota on July 23, 2010.
A gustnado is a short-lived, relatively weak whirlwind that forms along a gust front. A gust front is the surge of very gusty winds at the leading edge of a thunderstorm’s outflow of air. Gustnadoes are not tornadoes. They do not connect with any cloud-base rotation. But because gustnadoes often have a spinning dust cloud at ground level, they are sometimes wrongly reported as tornadoes. Gustnadoes can do minor damage.
A landspout is a very weak tornado that is not associated with a wall cloud or a mesocyclone. It is the land equivalent of a waterspout.
Tornadoes can happen at any time of the year and at any time of the day. In the southern states, peak tornado season is from March through May. Peak times for tornadoes in the northern states are during the summer. A few southern states have a second peak time for tornado outbreaks in the fall. Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The geography of the central part of the United States, known as the Great Plains, is suited to bring all of the ingredients together to forms tornadoes. More than 500 tornadoes typically occur in this area every year and is why it is commonly known as “Tornado Alley”. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana all make up Tornado Alley.
TORNADO WATCH – Tornadoes are possible in your area. Stay tuned to the radio or television news.
TORNADO WARNING – A tornado is either on the ground or has been detected by Doppler radar. Seek shelter immediately!
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Primer from Weather Whiz Kids.