For the amount of tornadoes that hit the United States every year, scientists still know very little about how they form and die out. The largest tornadoes are formed from a supercell thunderstorm.
A supercell thunderstorm needs the same ingredients as a regular thunderstorm which includes warm moist air near the ground and then cold dry air above. The warm air is more buoyant than the cool dry air above so it will rise up kind of like a hot air balloon. With the rising air, an updraft is created which begins a thunderstorm. If the updraft winds are strong enough and change directions, they will begin to rotate which creates a supercell thunderstorm.
Only about 30 percent of the supercell thunderstorm cases result in a tornado. This happens when air descends from the supercell thunderstorm and causes rotation near the ground. Scientists are still unsure of why some thunderstorms create a tornado and others don’t.
Some scientists theorize that the strong change in winds within the first kilometer of the atmosphere and higher humidity are key in the formation of the tornado. There also has to be a down draft in the exact right spot of the supercell thunderstorm. Reports have showed that tornado formation requires precise temperatures. The air needs to be cold but not too cold. It should only be a few degrees colder than the air that surrounds it.
It is believed that tornadoes die out when the air gets too cold and it can’t pull in new air. Scientists are unsure of a lot of the workings of a tornado mostly because they are very difficult to test. With winds in excess of 150 mph, you aren’t able to get very close.
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