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A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Because wind is invisible, it is hard to see a tornado unless it forms a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust and debris. Tornadoes are the most violent of all atmospheric storms.
Tornadoes are the most violent storms on Earth, with wind velocities that can exceed 200 miles per hour. How do these terrifying cyclones form? Meteorologist James Spann sheds light on the lifespan of tornadoes as they go from supercell thunderstorms to terrible twisters before eventually dissolving back into thin air.
Tornadoes, nearly three-quarters of which occur within the U.S., are unpredictable and can cause massive damage. New tools and data are helping scientists learn more about when they might form and what paths they might take
Scientists place instruments inside a tornado to learn why one supercell produces tornadoes and another does not. Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Leigh Orf takes a different approach by growing storms that produce EF5 tornadoes in a supercomputer.
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Tornadoes, or twisters, as they are sometimes called, can develop during thunderstorms. A tornado is a column of strongly rotating winds that may be shaped like a funnel or a pillar.
A tornado and a twister are different names for the same type of weather event - a violently rotating column of air in contact with land or water.
Tornadoes range in diameter from metres to hundreds of metres - some are even wider than a kilometre - and can last from a few seconds up to half an hour or longer. They have an intense updraught near their centre, which is why they can lift heavy objects such as cars and trees as well as cause enormous damage.