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Tornado, Definition, Structure, Formation, Significance, Diagram


A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that collides with the Earth’s surface, a Cumulonimbus Clouds, or, on rare occasions, the base of a cumulus cloud.

Tornadoes are funnel-shaped storms with very low pressure at the centre. They are the smallest but most violent and disastrous of all the storms. Tornadoes generally occur in middle latitudes. Steep pressure gradients result in fast movement of air towards the centre. The inward-coming air is caught in the vortex of the storm and is rapidly uplifted. As it ascends, the air cools and forms Thunderstorms.

Tornadoes can completely demolish well-built structures, uproot trees, and launch objects through the air like devastating missiles. This article will explain tornadoes, which will help you prepare for the UPSC Civil Service exam’s Geography syllabus.

Read More: Types of Winds

What is Tornado?

Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that collide with the Earth’s surface, cumulonimbus clouds, or, in rare cases, the base of cumulus clouds. It’s also referred to as a twister, whirlwind, or cyclone. Tornadoes can be seen as a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it.

Tornadoes typically have wind speeds of less than 110 miles per hour (180 kilometres per hour), are about 250 feet (80 metres) in diameter, and travel a few miles (several kilometres) before dissipating.

Tornadoes can reach wind speeds of over 300 miles per hour (480 km/h), have diameters of more than two miles (3 km), and can last for dozens of miles on the ground (more than 100 km)

The tornado is Wind spirals down like an elephant’s trunk from violent thunderstorms, with very low pressure at the centre, wreaking havoc along the way. Tornadoes are most common in the tropics.

Tornadoes are most common in the mid-latitudes of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres in the spring and summer when thunderstorms are present. These storms convert potential and heat energy into kinetic energy, allowing the agitated atmosphere to settle back down.

Read More: List of Major Local Winds

Tornadoes Structure

Separate airflow areas exist in tornadoes with fully developed airflow. As shown in the diagram, the primary axis of circulation is located within the core region, a roughly cylindrical area of lower air pressure bounded by the maximum tangential winds. If a visible funnel cloud forms within the core region, it will be visible. The condensation funnel is the cloud’s column of water droplets. If the weather is extremely dry, a tornado may not have a condensation funnel. Air near the ground, known as the inflow boundary layer, converges from all directions into a tornado’s “corner region” in response to the reduced pressure in the central core.

When the wind enters the core region and begins its upward spiral, it “turns the corner” from mostly horizontal to vertical flow, giving this region its name. The neighbourhood around the corner is extremely dangerous. The exploding inflow propels material ripped from the surface aloft, resulting in a dust swirl or debris fountain. Normally, the turbulent airflow inflow boundary layer that feeds the corner region is a few tens of metres deep. A weakly spinning outer layer above the boundary layer surrounds the core.

Read More: Types of Clouds

Tornadoes Diagram

The tornado’s three-dimensional structure is funnel-shaped, which means that when the tornado forms, a funnel-shaped cloud column similar to a trunk twists downwards from the convective clouds.


Tornadoes Formation

Tornadoes are frequently formed by the combination of shear, lift, instability, and moisture.

Wind shear is the most important factor in tornado formation. Wind shear causes winds to roll into a horizontal column at times. The column of air becomes vertical when air is moved from the ground to the atmosphere in a vigorous updraft.

A storm would normally occur at that point in this scenario. When a storm intensifies, it frequently transforms into a supercell thunderstorm. These supercell thunderstorms are distinct, isolated cells that are not part of a storm line. Supercell storms are storms that rotate and spin. The storm cloud may produce a tornado when the vertical, spinning column of air and the supercell thunderstorm combine. Tornadoes are more common in the spring and less common in the winter. In the spring and fall, stronger winds, wind shear, and atmospheric instability are present, so activity increases. Tornado occurrence is strongly dependent on the time of day due to solar heating. Tornadoes are the most dangerous in the United States. At any given time, approximately 1,800 thunderstorms are active around the world.

Read More: Equatorial Climate Region

Tornadoes Distribution

Polar regions are uncommon, as are latitudes greater than 50° N and 50° S.Temperate and tropical climates are more prone to thunderstorms. Tornadoes have been reported on every continent except Antarctica. Tornadoes are the most dangerous in the United States. Canada has the world’s second-highest number of tornadoes. Bangladesh has the highest tornado risk on the Indian subcontinent. At any given time, approximately 1,800 thunderstorms are active around the world.

Tornadoes Distribution
Tornadoes Distribution

Read More: Rainfall

Tornadoes Significance

  • Tornadoes provide a lot of nitrogen to the soil as well as water to the plants.
  • A tornado is the most efficient way to transfer air from one section of the atmosphere to another in terms of size and time.
  • Tornadoes, with their massive movement, aid in seed pollination.
  • It also destroys old-growth trees, which provide habitat for wildlife in the area.
  • Tornadoes are well-known for uprooting large trees and transporting them to a new location.

Read More: Precipitation

Tornado and Cyclone Difference

Cyclone Tornado
A cyclone is a large circulating air mass with a central vortex. A tornado is a revolving column of air that forms a funnel shape as it approaches land.
Cyclones are most common near oceans and coastlines. Tornadoes are most common on the mainland.
The Saffir-Simpson wind scale and the Beauford scale are used to determine the intensity of a cyclone. The enhanced Fujita scale is used to determine the intensity of a tornado.
Cyclones could be several hundred miles in length. Tornadoes can be up to 12 miles wide, but they can be much larger.
Cyclones can last for several weeks. Tornadoes last only minutes to hours.
Cyclone frequency varies according to the type of cyclone. Tornadoes can occur several hundred times per year.
A cyclone produces rain in the form of precipitation. A tornado can produce rain, sleet, or hail as precipitation.

Despite their differences, cyclones and tornadoes are both extremely powerful storms. When looking at different storms, especially those with revolving winds, it can be difficult to tell them apart — the main difference between a tornado and a cyclone is where and why it forms. A cyclone forms over water, whereas a tornado forms over land.

Individuals are at risk of being struck by flying and falling debris during tornadoes and cyclones due to extremely high winds and waves. The devastation caused by tornadoes and cyclones raises serious safety concerns. Although there is little you can do to prevent tornadoes, you can take precautions to protect your health and safety.

Read More: Humidity

Tornado UPSC

Tornadoes and cyclones occur in India. Tornadoes, unlike cyclones, occur on a relatively infrequent basis. Tornadoes of moderate strength strike the country’s northwestern and north-eastern regions, causing significant damage to people and property. Cyclones form in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, while weak tornadoes occur in the country’s northwestern and northeastern regions.

Other Indian Geography Topics

Seasons of India Mountains of India
Mangrove Forests in India Important Mountain Passes in India
Monsoon in India
Indus River System
Climate of India
Rivers of India
Tributaries of Ganga
National Parks in India
Important Dams in India
Wildlife Sanctuaries of India
Tiger Reserves in India
Northern Plains of India
Physiography of India
Important Lakes of India
Wetlands in India
Biodiversity in India
Natural Vegetation in India Earthquakes in India
Types of Soil in India
Ramsar Sites in India
Brahmaputra River System
Hydropower Plants in India
Nuclear Power Plants in India
Major Ports in India
Biosphere Reserves in India
Waterfalls in India

Other Fundamental Geography Topics

Solar System Types of Clouds
Structure of the Atmosphere Himalayan Ranges
Component of Environment
El Nino and La Nina
Coral Reef
Continental Drift Theory
Endogenic and Exogenic Forces
Indian Ocean Region
Pacific Ocean
Indian Ocean Dipole
Air Pollution
Environmental Impact Assessment
Tropical Cyclone
Western Disturbances
Types of Rocks

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What is a tornado?

Tornadoes are violent thunderstorms connected by fast-moving air vortices.

How is a tornado formed?

When changes in wind speed and direction create a horizontal spinning effect within a storm cell, a tornado forms.

What exactly is the distinction between a cyclone and a tornado?

Tornadoes and cyclones are both severe weather systems capable of wreaking havoc.

Is tornado common in America?

Since 1990, the United States has had the most tornadoes of any country on the planet, with more than 1,000 reported each year. The country's topography, which features a large central core with relatively flat terrain, contributes to the high number of twisters.

Where do tornadoes mostly occur in America?

According to 2021 data, the states with the highest tornado risk are Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi, but tornadoes can and do occur throughout the country.


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