Tornado Facts for Kids – What is a Tornado? -Cyclones – Torndoes for Kids – Extreme Weather for Kids

Tornado Facts for Kids - What is a Tornado? -Cyclones - Torndoes for Kids - Extreme Weather for Kids 7

What is a tornado?
A tornado is a rapidly spinning tube of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the earth’s surface. It touches both the ground and a cloud above. Tornadoes are also referred to as cyclones or twisters (

How do tornadoes form?
Most tornadoes form from thunderstorms. You need warm, moist air and cool, dry air. When these two air types meet, they create instability in the atmosphere.
A change in wind direction and speed at high altitudes causes the air to swirl horizontally. Rising air from the ground pushes up on the swirling air and tips it over. The funnel of swirling air begins to suck up more warm air from the ground. The funnel grows longer and stretches toward the ground. When the funnel touches the ground it becomes a tornado.

What do tornadoes look like?
Tornadoes can appear as a funnel shape, or in a thin rope-like shape. Some have a churning, smoky look to them, and others contain “multiple vortices”, which are small, individual tornadoes rotating around. Even others may be nearly invisible, with only swirling dust or debris at ground levels as the only indication of the tornado’s presence (

How do tornadoes stop?
It is not fully understood about how exactly tornadoes form, grow and die. Tornado researchers are still trying to solve the tornado puzzle.

What is a supercell thunderstorm?
A supercell thunderstorm is a long-lived thunderstorm whose updrafts and downdrafts are in near balance. These storms usually produce tornadoes that stay on the ground for long time. Supercell thunderstorms can produce violent tornadoes with winds exceeding 200 mph.

What is a waterspout?
A waterspout is just a weak tornado that forms over water. They are most common along the Gulf Coast. Waterspouts can sometimes move inland, becoming tornadoes causing damage and injuries.

What is a landspout?
A landspout is a very weak tornado. It is the land equivalent of a waterspout.

What is a dust devil?
A dust devil generally forms in the hot sun during the late morning or early afternoon hours. These are mostly harmless whirlwinds and are triggered by light desert breezes that create a swirling plume of dust with speeds rarely over 70 mph. These differ from tornadoes in that they are not attached to a thunderstorm (or any cloud) and are usually very weak.

What is a Gustando?
A small tornado formed at a weather front by gusts of wind.

What is a multiple Vortex?
A tornado with more than one spinning tube of air.

How are tornadoes measured?
The Fujita Scale is a common way of measuring the strength of tornadoes.

How far can tornadoes travel?
Most tornadoes travel a few miles before exhausting themselves but extreme tornadoes can travel much further, sometimes over 100 miles (161kilometres).
The Tri-State Tornado that travelled through parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana in 1925 left a path of destruction over 219 miles (352 kilometres) long.

Where do tornadoes occur?
The USA averages around 1200 tornadoes every year, more than any other country. The majority of these tornadoes occur in a unique area nicknamed ‘Tornado Alley’. US States most often hit by tornadoes include Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Florida.

When are tornadoes most likely to occur?
Tornadoes can happen at any time of the year and at any time of the day. In the southern states, peak tornado season is from March through to May. Peak times for tornadoes in the northern states are during the summer. Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Where was the deadliest tornado?
In 1989 the deadliest tornado ever recorded in the world killed around 1300 people in Bangladesh.

What damage can tornadoes cause?
They can destroy large buildings, uproot trees and hurl vehicles hundreds of yards. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide to 50 miles long.

What should I do in a tornado?
BEFORE A TORNADO: Have a disaster plan. Prepare a kit with emergency food for your home. Have enough food and water for at least 3 days.

DURING A TORNADO: Go to a basement. If you do not have a basement, go to a room without windows on the lowest floor. If you can, get under a sturdy piece of furniture, like a table. Get out of cars. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car, leave it immediately. If you’re outside, go to a ditch or low lying area and lie flat in it.

IF YOU’RE AT SCHOOL DURING A TORNADO: Every school should have a disaster plan and have frequent drills. Crouch down on your knees and protect your head with your arms.

Interesting Tornado Facts
69% of all tornadoes are labeled “weak tornadoes” meaning they have a lifetime of 1-10+ minutes and winds less than 110 mph.

29% of all tornadoes are labeled “strong tornadoes” meaning they last 20 minutes or longer and winds reach 110-205 mph.

2% of all tornadoes are labeled “violent tornadoes” and can last over an hour.


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