How a Tornado Forms
There’s no denying that tornadoes are a destructive force; but how does something that destructive form? The UCAR Center for Science Education has a good explanation for what causes tornadoes to occur. We hope that knowing how these funnels of terror form might help in some way.
The first thing to note is that a tornado won’t form unless the circumstances are just right. As noted in the post on the UCAR site, “Air rising in thunderstorms can begin to spin when it's affected by winds blowing it in different directions. It starts to rise and is pushed to the side by wind. It rises a bit more and is jostled again by wind moving in another direction. Winds moving in different speeds and directions at different altitudes cause the rising air to start spinning.” They go on to say that this is most likely to happen in massive storms called supercells. However, it is important to note that not every instance of spinning air like this will result in a tornado. It is just that if there is a tornado, these are the factors that most likely will be the cause.
It is also important to note that spinning air near the ground is also necessary for a tornado to form. What that means is that Gusts of warmer and cooler air rise and fall as they blow. The right amount of air like this is what causes air near the ground to spin. If this continues the air will pick up speed as it is drawn inward. This is the air that will begin to move across the area it is in and can be tilted vertically. When that happens, that is when the gusts can be considered a tornado.
While this is a lot of information and some of it may seem scary, it’s important to know that not all thunderstorms will produce tornadoes. If a tornado does occur, just remember to follow any safety plan you have in place and stay calm!