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Tornadoes and their nature and consequences

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The word "tornado" comes from two Spanish words: "tronada" meaning thunderstorm, and "tornar" meaning turn. It denotes a tornado vortex of very high intensity that exists on the continent. Their power, is variable, sometimes causing considerable damage, killing and wounding in clouds of dust and noise which all witnesses remember with horror. So we can ask ourselves how to determine the existence of such a meteorological phenomenon. For this, we will first see what can cause the elements of a tornado. Then we will study the phenomena at the center of it. Finally, we will discuss the actions of man faced with such situations.

To understand the formation of tornadoes and their behavior, we must first discover the structure of the atmosphere, the influence of atmospheric pressure and the characteristics of a specific cloud: the cumulonimbus.The atmosphere is the gaseous layer that surrounds the Earth up to 800 km in altitude. Atmospheric air contains a mixture of gases, mainly, nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%).

The representation of the vertical structure is different depending on whether one considers the composition of the air, the degree of ionization or temperature variation. Thus, according to the variation in temperature, this structure is composed of four layers: the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere and thermosphere.

The troposphere is the lowest layer of the atmosphere that encompasses the Earth directly. Its thickness increases from 8 km to 16 km across the poles to the equator. At this altitude, turbulence develops and the various weather phenomena (clouds, winds, rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes) result.

A fundamental phenomenon in the atmosphere is the pressure. The air may well be a gas, yet it still weighs something. By definition, the atmospheric pressure at a given location is the weight of the column of air above it and extends to the top of the atmosphere. When raised, the height of the column decreases, as its weight and the pressure drops accordingly.

To get a general idea of atmospheric pressure, forecasters use isobars, that is to say, the lines interconnecting the same pressure points. It is the difference in pressure between two points that creates a force called pressure gradient force. Plus, when the wind is strong, the strength of the pressure gradient is high. On a map with isobars, they are close together and the strength of the pressure gradient is stronger and the wind is strong.

The wind comes from the high pressure and goes to the low pressure in order to fill the relative vacuum. The movement of air masses, ie wind, are more or less violent according to differences in pressure and are dependent on the Coriolis force.

This phenomenon occurs in the rotation of air masses of a tornado. This property results from the cross product between the angular velocity of reference (w) and the speed of air masses (v). Their mass (m) is also involved in the expression of the Coriolis force.

The Coriolis force deflects the motion to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and left in the Southern Hemisphere.

Tags: Coriolis force, atmospheric pressure, tornado

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