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The Fundamentals Of Tornadoes Essay

1707 words - 7 pages

The swiftness, beauty, and absolute daunting sight of tornadoes have haunted minds and pulled at the curiosity of many. As Mother Nature’s fiercest windstorms, tornadoes do not simply lift you up and transport you to the magical Land of Oz. Rather, they habitually throw you around like a rag doll leaving a disaster behind them. Interestingly enough, tornadoes are yet to be fully understood. We know what a tornado is and how it forms but why it forms under various circumstances and not others is still under scrutiny.
According to Ahrens (2009), a tornado is defined as, “A rapidly spinning column of air that blows around a small area of intense low pressure coming from the base of a thunderstorm to the earth’s surface” (p. 394). Tornadoes can form in one of two ways either through a supercell thunderstorm or through a nonsupercell thunderstorm (Ahrens, 2009). A supercell thunderstorm forms when the ground grows warmer in spring and summer and the air further above the ground is cold (Ahrens, 2009). Warm air near the surface rises, as it cools the water vapor it carries condenses forming cumulus clouds and eventually form into cumulonimbus clouds (Ahrens, 2009). Winds near the surface blow in one direction while the winds further up blow in another; the difference creates a horizontally rotating mass of air (Ahrens, 2009). Rising warm air pushes the horizontally rotating air upright therefore, creating a mesocyclone which usually extends 2-6 miles in width (Nation Severe Storms Laboratory [NSSL], 1992). These rotating updrafts define a supercell thunderstorm and set the stage for possible tornadoes (Ahrens, 2009).
Tornadoes generally occur in the aft portion of a supercell thunderstorm (Ahrens, 2009). This is said be caused when the rear-flank downdraft hits the ground and collides with the forward-flanking downdraft beneath the mesocyclone (Ahrens, 2009). When these two downdrafts interact the cool air moves around the center of the mesocyclone successfully preventing the warmer surrounding air from rising (Ahrens, 2009). The lower half of the updraft then rises slowly and begins to shrink horizontally and stretch vertically (Ahrens, 2009). As this process continues the air begins to spin faster and faster creating a tornado vortex. The air rushing upward and spinning around the low-pressure point of the vortex causes the air to expand, cool and often condense into a visible cloud, known as the funnel cloud (Ahrens, 2009). As the air beneath the funnel cloud is being sucked into the core of the funnel, the air rapidly cools and condenses making the funnel cloud extend to the earth’s surface (Ahrens, 2009). The tornado may appear nearly transparent, and can easily be mistaken for dust devils until dirt and debris are picked up (Ahrens, 2009). If one cannot see a tornado the likelihood of hearing it is great. The sound of these monstrous formations is best described as “a roar like a thousand freight trains” (Ahrens, 2009). They are said to be...

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