SEVERE WEATHER 101

SEVERE WEATHER 101

Tornado Information

Tornado Information

Be careful! Tornadoes can form and be in contact with the ground without a fully condensed funnel!

A condensation funnel is made up of water droplets and extends downward from the base of the thunderstorm. If it is in contact with the ground it is a tornado; otherwise it is a funnel cloud. Dust and debris beneath the condensation funnel confirm a tornado's presence.

The rear flank downdraft (RFD) is a downward rush of air on the back side of the storm that descends along with the tornado. The RFD looks like a “clear slot” or “bright slot” just to the rear (southwest) of the wall cloud. It can also look like curtains of rain wrapping around the cloud base circulation. The RFD causes gusty surface winds that occasionally have embedded downbursts. The rear flank downdraft is the motion in the storm that causes the hook echo feature on radar.

As the storm intensifies, the updraft draws in low-level air from several miles around. Some low-level air is pulled into the updraft from the rain area. This rain-cooled air is very humid; the moisture in the rain-cooled air quickly condenses below the rain-free base to form the wall cloud.

A wall cloud that may produce a tornado can exist for 10–20 minutes before a tornado appears, but not always. A wall cloud may also persistently rotate (often visibly), have strong surface winds flowing into it, and may have rapid vertical motion indicated by small cloud elements quickly rising into the rain-free base.

A wall cloud is an isolated cloud lowering attached to the rain-free base of the thunderstorm. The wall cloud is usually to the rear of the visible precipitation area.

The beaver's tail is a smooth, flat cloud band extending from the eastern edge of the rain-free base to the east or northeast. It usually skirts around the southern edge of the precipitation area. It also suggests the presence of rotation.

Inflow bands are ragged bands of low cumulus clouds extending from the main storm tower usually to the southeast or south. The presence of inflow bands suggests that the storm is gathering low-level air from several miles away. If the inflow bands have a spiraling nature to them, it suggests the presence of rotation.

What do storm spotters look for when trying to identify a tornado or a dangerous storm?

How do tornadoes form?

How is tornado strength rated?

A Tornado WARNING is issued by your local NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office meteorologists who watch the weather 24/7 over a designated area. This means a tornado has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar and there is a serious threat to life and property to those in the path of the tornado. A tornado warning indicates that you should ACT NOW to find safe shelter! A warning can cover parts of counties or several counties in the path of danger.

A Tornado WATCH is issued by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center meteorologists who watch the weather 24/7 across the entire U.S. for weather conditions that are favorable for tornadoes and severe weather. A watch can cover parts of a state or several states. Watch and prepare for severe weather and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio to know when warnings are issued.

When are tornadoes most likely?

Please remember, violent tornadoes do happen outside “Tornado Alley” every year.

However, the idea of a “tornado alley” can be misleading. The U.S. tornado threat shifts from the Southeast in the cooler months of the year, toward the southern and central Plains in May and June, and the northern Plains and Midwest during early summer. Tornadoes can occur and have been reported in all fifty states!

Where is Tornado Alley?

How many tornadoes occur in the U.S. each year?

Where do tornadoes occur?

What is a tornado?

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