What do tornadoes look like indoors?

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What do tornadoes look like indoors? – Madison, 7, Noblesville, Indiana

Scientists really don’t know the answer to this question. There are no visual observations of a tornado’s interior, as these storms create very violent and dangerous conditions on the ground.


If we placed cameras in the path of a tornado, they would either be damaged by high winds and swirling debris, or so covered in mud and water that they wouldn’t produce any useful images. And of course, it’s not safe for humans to try to observe tornadoes up close. It is important to always seek shelter when tornado conditions develop.

We have some insight into the structure of tornado interiors from instruments called mobile Doppler radars. Scientists can drive these instruments to locations close to the tornado, but stop at a safe distance.

The radar sends energy towards the tornado, and when it hits the storm, some of the energy is sent back. Researchers can analyze this reflected energy to detect important features of the tornado. These include where there is and is not rain in the storm, where there is debris, how fast the winds are, and how these properties change as they move away from the center of the tornado towards its outer edges and upwards vertically through the storm cloud above. .

From these radar observations, we learned that tornadoes usually have an open area in their center, or at least an area free of rain and debris. This area also experiences intense vertical winds that are sometimes strong enough to suck road pavement.

This clear space is surrounded by a ring of heavy rain and debris that often moves outward, away from the center of the tornado. That’s because the winds spin incredibly fast and create a centrifugal force that pulls these objects away from the middle of the storm. Sometimes areas of heavy rain that are a little further from the tornado’s spiral inward toward the rotation area, such as the spiral bands that extend outward from a hurricane’s eye .

Some tornadoes have only one main funnel cloud. Others have several small funnels that revolve around each other. There are even tornadoes that don’t have a funnel cloud at all. As long as the winds spin in a tight circle from the thundercloud to the ground, it’s a tornado, even if the atmospheric conditions have not condensed the water vapor in the air into a visible funnel.

Scientists have also learned that many tornadoes don’t actually descend from the cloud to the ground. Rather, they form on the ground and grow rapidly upwards – often in less than a minute.

When this happens, your eyes may fool you if you observe a funnel cloud descending from the sky. There could already be tornado-force winds on the surface, even without this funnel cloud. So be careful – when it comes to tornadoes, looks can be deceiving.

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/what-do-tornadoes-look-like-on-the-inside-179357.

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