University of Illinois Extension

Tornadoes – Really Rapidly Rising Air

Have you every seen or experienced a tornado? The word tornado comes from the Spanish word tronada, or thunderstorm. Tornadoes are rapidly rotating air that is rising. Winds in a tornado may contain wind speeds of 100 to over 300 miles per hour. Most are at the low end of this speed. Tornadoes move across the ground at 20 to 40 miles per hour, and most last less than 30 minutes. The width of a tornado is about the size of a football field, but in some cases it can be almost a mile wide. Most tornadoes are found with big thunderstorms known as supercells.

Watch this computer simulation of tornado formation, developed by the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Lou Wicker at the National Severe Storms Lab.


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