Q:

How long does it take a tornado to form and touch the ground?

A:

Quick Answer

Tornadoes can form extremely quickly under the right conditions, forming and touching the ground within minutes. It may take some time for the proper rotation to form high in the thunderstorm, but a funnel cloud can drop from the sky with very little warning.

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Full Answer

Because tornadoes can form so quickly, meteorologists issue watches whenever conditions are favorable for tornado formation. They also use Doppler radar systems to watch wind shear in particularly strong storms, looking for the sharply divergent winds that can presage a tornado's formation.

Tornadoes develop a distinctive radar signature as they form, creating a hook-shaped echo of clouds wrapping around the central vortex. The mere presence of a hook echo is often enough for the National Weather Service to issue a tornado warning.

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Related Questions

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    What are the main characteristics of a tornado?

    A:

    Tornadoes are narrow, circulating columns of air that originate from a supercell thunderstorm, from the cloud to the ground, and constantly become darker as they pick up dirt and debris from the ground. Tornadoes move at an average speed of 35 mph and have an average span of about 5 miles.

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    What happens during a tornado?

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    Tornadoes form out of thunderstorms, where moist air rises, cools and condenses into clouds that release heat and force cooler air back down. If the updrafts are strong enough, the feedback loop forms an air vortex that continues to shunt more moist air upwards and eventually forms a tornado.

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    How is a tornado formed?

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    Tornadoes are formed when hot air and cold air meet in a powerful storm, and the warm air begins spiralling upward, creating a funnel cloud. This funnel cloud forces objects on the ground and in the air around and upward, and can be strong enough to uproot trees, move cars and tear apart buildings. This extremely energetic air current is part of a special, very tall storm called a supercell.

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    What causes a tornado to form?

    A:

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