A tornado is a violent, rotating column of air which is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. Tornado Alley is a colloquial term for the area of the United States where tornadoes are most frequent. Pictured above is one of the better images yet recorded of a waterspout, a type of tornado that occurs over water. The outbreak of tornadoes that ravaged the southern US last week was the largest in US recorded history, the National Weather Service has said. The most intense of all atmospheric phenomena, tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes but are typically in the form of a visible condensation funnel, whose narrow end touches the earth and is often encircled by a cloud of debris and dust. Waterspouts have similar characteristics to tornadoes, characterized by a spiraling funnel-shaped wind current that form over bodies of water, connecting to large cumulus and thunderstorm clouds. The event resulted in many tornadoes across Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee with at least eight fatalities.
An F5 or EF5 tornado, the strongest category, rips buildings off their foundations and can deform large skyscrapers. The similar TORRO scale ranges from a T0 for extremely weak tornadoes to T11 for the most powerful known tornadoes. Other tornado-like phenomena which exist in nature include the gustnado, dust devil, fire whirls, and steam devil.
The November 17, 2013 tornado outbreak was the deadliest tornado outbreak during the month of November on record in the U.S.


As the monster tornado approached, Terimy Miller put her three sons in a closet in their Moore, Oklahoma, house.
However, the vast majority of tornadoes in the world occur in the Tornado Alley region of the United States, although they can occur nearly anywhere in North America. Waterspouts can be as dangerous as tornadoes and can feature wind speeds over 200 kilometers per hour. Tornado outbreak sequences tend to dominate the tornado statistics for a year and often cause a spike in tornado numbers for the entire year. Yet even with improvements to severe weather prediction, no one can say with certainty what a tornado will do. Here are 12 cool facts about tornadoes to keep you from getting bored as you crouch in a dank, dark cellar hiding from the most violent storm on the planet.
Tornadoes can be detected before or as they occur through the use of Pulse-Doppler radar by recognizing patterns in velocity and reflectivity data, such as hook echoes, as well as by the efforts of storm spotters. A monstrous tornado that ripped through Oklahoma Monday May 20 piling cars on top of one another, demolishing an elementary school and killing several adults and children, may owe its power and deadliness partly to a convergence of jets of air, say meteorologists. The Fujita scale rates tornadoes by damage caused, and has been replaced in some countries by the updated Enhanced Fujita Scale.
The tornadoes and the storm system that spawned them killed at least 350 people in Alabama and six other states. A tornado outbreak sequence (or extended tornado outbreak) is a period of continuous or near continuous high tornado activity consisting of a series of tornado outbreaks over multiple days where there are very little or no days with a lack of tornado outbreaks.


Major tornado outbreak sequences occurred in the United States in May 1917, 1930, 1949, and 2003. The three-day period from 25-28 April saw 362 tornadoes strike, including some 312 in a single 24-hour period. Waterspouts are generally classified as non-supercellular tornadoes that develop over bodies of water.
Tornadoes are most common here because it is the region where warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico meets cold, dry air from the Rocky Mountains and Canada, creating intense, tornado-producing thunderstorms known as supercells. What you see of a tornado is moisture in the air, as well as lots of dust and the debris the tornado has picked up along the way. Tornadoes tend to be blank canvasses, taking on the characteristics of the landscape they’re carving up. When a tornado plows through a farmer’s field in Oklahoma, for example, the red topsoil turns the funnel red and you can smell the rich aroma of freshly tilled earth.
This latter group, dubbed “yahoo chasers” by their scientific counterparts, has become more common in the age of YouTube, to a point that things get crowded when springtime storms break out in the heart of Tornado Alley.
The massive, terrifying sort Hollywood loves is of the supercell variety, meaning it derives its overwhelming energy from a larger storm system.Non-supercell tornadoes, on the other hand – like landspouts and waterspouts – are generally harmless.



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