Tornado Topics:
 What Are Tornadoes?

Skydiary: Tornadoes
A tornado isn't likely to take you to Munchkinland, as it did in "The Wizard of Oz," but a strong one can destroy buildings and create a damage path a mile wide. Its wind speeds can top 300 miles per hour.

Introduction to Tornadoes
A tornado is a vortex of air rising into a cloud. In their early and mature stages, all thunderstorms are characterized by rising air, called updrafts. These updrafts supply the warm, humid air that fuels thunderstorms. But, in some cases, the column of rising air becomes a vortex – a funnel cloud or tornado. In a few cases, the vortex becomes a strong tornado with wind whirling around at speeds close to 300 mph.

National Weather Service
Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes.

Weather Talk
A tornado is a localized, but extremely destructive whirlwind that descends from the base of a thunderstorm. The twisting vortex extends earthward as a projecting funnel of powerful winds that sucks up roofs, trees, farmland and forests. Unlike the gentle transport of Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz," these nasty storms can transform a residential area or main business street into a heap of rubble in just seconds.

Scholastic Tornadoes are generally formed in a thunderstorm. Thundershowers this violent require a complex mix of environmental conditions but usually include: a) very warm, humid air, b) very cool, dry air to the west and south, c) air to the west trying to replace the warm, moist air (a front moving in), c) upper level (high in the sky) conditions that first hold down warmer air from rising and then later, a complete reverse in conditions that let the warm air rise very fast and very far, and d) an upper level wind stream to move the air away from the rising column.

USA Today: Understanding Tornadoes
The tornado is nature's most violent wind. An average of 800 of these vortices spin up beneath thunderstorms year round in the USA and can generate wind speeds faster than 250 mph, at times devastating whole communities. The links below take you to detailed information about the structure, nature and detailed studies of the tornado.

Questions and Answers About Tornadoes
Tornadoes come from the energy released in a thunderstorm. As powerful as they are, tornadoes account for only a tiny fraction of the energy in a thunderstorm. What makes them dangerous is that their energy is concentrated in a small area, perhaps only a hundred yards across. Not all tornadoes are the same, of course, and science does not yet completely understand how part of a thunderstorm's energy sometimes gets focused into something as small as a tornado.

 How Are Tornadoes Measured?

The Fujita Scale
The Fujita Scale is used to rate the intensity of a tornado by examining the damage caused by the tornado after it has passed over a man-made structure.

 Tornado Alley

Tornado Alley: Breeding Ground for Tornadoes
The American Meteorology Society's Glossary of Weather and Climate defines Tornado Alley as: "The area of the United States in which tornadoes are most frequent. It encompasses the great lowland areas of the Mississippi, the Ohio, and lower Missouri River Valleys. Although no state is entirely free of tornadoes, they are most frequent in the Plains area between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachians."

Tornado Alley
Tornadoes have hit all fifty states of the United States, but the 30-year average number of tornadoes per year in Alaska is closer to zero than to one. In Oklahoma though the average jumps to 52. Although no state is immune for tornadoes, there is an area that suffers from more tornadoes than any other. This area is called Tornado Alley.

The Most Ferocious Storm
Tornadoes are most common in "Tornado Alley," shown on the map, particularly in spring and summer. They're also relatively common in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas.

 Tornadoes Past and Present

Historical Tornadoes

Historical Tornado Data Archive

 Storm Chasers

Storm Chasing
Storm chasers are people who try to get close to storms for the purposes of observation or science. A couple of chasers have been chasing storms since the 1940s and 1950s, an amazing feat when you consider how little data was available for them to figure out where the storms were. Now, many - but not all - storm chasers travel with laptop computers, anemometers (for measuring wind), portable weather stations and other equipment, as well as a variety of video and still cameras.

Storm Chasers Tornado Alley: Internet WebQuest
In the following WebQuest, you will use the power of teamwork and the abundant resources on the Internet to learn all about Tornadoes. Each person on your team will learn one piece of the puzzle and then you will come together to get a better understanding of the topic. Now, imagine you are in the middle of a tornado. You are a storm chaser. It is your job to gather information about the storm for the community. The information you gather helps prevent injury to people, loss of life, and property damage.

 Tornado Preparedness

Owlie's Skywarn's Weather Book
I'm the official mascot of the National Weather Service (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
I teach about the hazards of severe weather which include tornadoes, lightning, hurricanes, flash floods and winter storms.

NOAA's Coloring Book

Tornado Safety for Kids
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Tornadoes must always be taken seriously. Tornadoes can be very dangerous -- sometimes even deadly.

Student Activity Sheets               Support Pages for Student Activities