Breakdown: How tornadoes form in the atmosphere

How tornadoes form in the atmosphere

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Spring time is here across the Mid-South. As we move deeper into the new season, more and more storm systems roll across the region. Some of those storms can produce tornadoes, but do you know how a tornado forms in our atmosphere?

In this episode of The Breakdown, we show you the processes in the atmosphere that help create the strong phenomena.

Considered one of the most violent and powerful types of weather, tornadoes consist of a very fast rotating column of air that usually forms a funnel shape.

Tornadoes form from very tall thunderstorm clouds called cumulonimbus. Here’s the process that brings upon the formation of the violent weather event:

  • As the wind blows one direction at the surface, it blows the opposite direction in the upper levels of the atmosphere. This will cause the air to swirl horizontally in the atmosphere.
  • Rising air from the ground then pushes upward on the swirling air and then “tips” it upright.
  • The funnel of swirling air, now vertical, begins to suck up more warm air from the ground causing the funnel to grow longer and stretch towards the ground.

Once the funnel touches the ground, then and only then it is considered a tornado.

Understanding the environment that needs to be in place for a tornado to form is important when forecasting severe weather in the Mid-South.

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