Weather is a constant and mysterious phenomenon. Depending on where we are located, the weather is a steady stream of reliable rain, sun, and snow, or it is an ever-changing assault of meteorological events. Regardless of how we experience weather, we know of the powers it can possess. And the finest example of nature’s power is arguably harnessed within the infamous weather phenomenon; tornadoes.
What is a Tornado?
When we think of the common tornado, often The Wizard of Oz comes into mind. Movies like Twister depict, well, exactly that. A twister. But the truth is that tornadoes can come in many sizes and shapes. They can be long, winding twisters or they can be wide and wedge-shaped. And they can be anywhere in between.
A tornado, in definition, is a swiftly rotating column of air extending from the Cumulonimbus cloud to the ground. Often joining a tornado is hail, rain, lightning, and a change in air pressure. A tornado’s wind speeds can range from 65(mph) to over 300(mph).
To categorize the wind speeds different tornados produce-and the damage that consequently follows-scientists have developed a rating system called the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Or EF for short.
How Often do They Occur, and Why?
In the United States, we experience about 1,000 tornadoes in a year. Given this number, the US is the world’s biggest tornado playpen. Canada comes in second, maxing out at about 100 tornadoes in a year.
Obviously, 100 to 1,000 is quite a large jump when it comes to these rapid wind beasts. But why is that jump there? What makes the US so special? It all comes down to where the US is positioned on the planet.
In order for a tornado to form, most of the time there must be a thunderstorm. Within the thunderstorm, a rotating updraft meets a rotating downdraft.
Usually, this occurs in a Supercell, though not all super-cells produce tornadoes. In order for a tornado to take form, there must be a consistent merging of the rotating winds, and gusts occurring on the ground beneath the storm. These gusts are caused by warm air rising upwards, and cooler air sinking down.
The combination of rotating air and multi-tempered gusts is the perfect recipe for a tornado. However, even when conditions are just perfect for a tornado, sometimes no vortex is produced. Such is the unpredictable tale of a tornado.
The Untouchable Mysteries.
While scientists have come a long way in the fields of meteorology, there is still another long trek to go. Unfortunately, as scientists come closer and closer to figuring out exactly how a tornado works, there is no way to stand within a tornado and observe with our own sight.
And furthermore, it still eludes us exactly which super-cells will produce tornadoes, and which ones won’t. To be able to stand safely and truly absorb and observe the full power of a raging tornado is a dream for many, myself included.
Technology has also come a long way, allowing for storm chasers to drive cars built to withstand high wind speeds. However, with the elusive EF5 tornadoes, there is no telling exactly how safe one really is.
From the first recorded EF5(or equivalent)to the most recently recorded EF5, I will cover them here. So if you too are a weather fanatic as I am, bearing a fascination with tornadoes, stay tuned.