Third graders from Winfield Street Elementary School were featured in this week’s Weather Wisdom. Victoria Andree asked, “how do tornadoes spin?”
Tornadoes are fast spinning columns of air that form within a thunderstorm. This turns into a funnel cloud, which will drop to the ground producing a tornado.
So, what causes the spinning?
When cold dry air mixes with warm humid air, this creates a lift in the atmosphere. Winds then come into play, something meteorologists refer to as wind shear- winds rotating and increasing speed with height. This can create a spinning horizontal column of air. A downdraft from a thunderstorm will cool that column of air down to the ground producing the tornado.
Most of the time, in the Northern Hemisphere, tornadoes will spin cyclonically, or counter-clockwise.