What are the characteristics of a tornado?


Quick Answer

A tornado is a violently swirling column of air that is formed in severe thunderstorms and contains a hollow core. It is characterized by rotating air that often contains dust and debris and quickly spirals upward. The column���s bottom touches the ground, while the top extends five or more miles into the sky.

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What are the characteristics of a tornado?
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Full Answer

A tornado usually moves from southwest to northeast. The length of its path averages 4 miles but reaches up to 300 miles, and the width of this path averages 400 yards. Tornadoes travel at a speed of 25 to 40 miles per hour. It typically originates from dark, heavy clouds with a swirling funnel-shaped pendant that extends to the ground. Preceding the storm, precipitation, hail and a heavy downpour usually occur. Tornadoes are generally characterized by a roaring, rushing sound like the noise made by airplanes or trains speeding through a tunnel.

Most tornadoes in the United States occur from 4-6 p.m. in March and through July. Conditions necessary for tornado development include an unstable atmosphere with a strong thunderstorm, a lifting force and a vertical wind shear pattern that provides rotation. The clash of air masses is a major contributing factor in tornado formation. A tornado���s strong winds often destroy houses and buildings, uproot trees and cause loss of life.

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