What is a tornado?

A tornado is a fast spinning column of air that touches the ground. They look like giant ice cream cones that travel downwards from the clouds.

Wind inside a tornado spins very fast and can blow away cars and entire houses! Tornadoes make loud rumbling and roaring sounds that can be heard from many miles away.

Post Image

Tornadoes mostly happen during strong thunderstorms. They usually only last a few minutes but they can cause terrible damage.


Different names for tornadoes

Tornadoes are also known as cyclones or twisters.

If the column of air from the clouds does not reach the ground, it is called a funnel.


What is the difference between a tornado and a hurricane?

Tornadoes are much smaller than hurricanes and are less intense. Tornadoes do not last as long or travel as far as hurricanes. The centre of a tornado is very dangerous but the centre of a hurricane is very calm. Tornadoes mainly form on land but hurricanes form at sea. Tornadoes cannot produce hurricanes but hurricanes can produce tornadoes.


What causes a tornado?

Scientists don’t know exactly what causes tornadoes. They seem to form when there is a change in wind direction and warm air mixes with cool air. This creates tubes of rotating air which move downwards from the clouds. As the tube of swirling wind sucks up more warm air below it, it gets longer and longer until it reaches the ground and becomes a tornado. 


Types of tornadoes

There are 3 main types of tornadoes:

Multiple-vortex tornado: a tornado with two or more columns of spinning air.

Waterspout: a tornado that forms over water

Landspout: a weak tornado that forms over land

Post Image


Did you know?

  • Almost 60 people are killed every year by tornadoes.
  • Dorothy from the 'Wizard of Oz' was carried away by a tornado.
  • Tornadoes have been seen on every continent in the world except Antarctica.
  • Most tornadoes travel a few miles before dying out.
  • The wind speed of a tornado can vary from 65 to 250 miles per hour.