What is a tornado?

A tornado is a dangerous type of storm.

Tornados are rotating columns of wind that usually stem from thunderstorms and touch down on the ground. (When it doesn't touch all the way down on the ground, it's known instead as a "funnel cloud.")

The winds in a tornado are very strong they can reach up to 300 miles per hour! Tornados can cause a lot of damage to whatever comes in their path. Imagine, for example, the way that a quickly spinning top might knock paperclips or pencils out of its way on a desk.

If it's likely that a tornado will form, meteorologists (weathermen) will usually issue a tornado watch, and if one has been spotted on the ground, they will issue a tornado warning. This can help people nearby have a few minutes to find a safe place to take shelter until the storm passes. If you're ever in a situation where a tornado might hit, just follow the safety instructions of the grown-ups you're with! The good news is that most tornadoes don't last longer than about ten minutes.

by Mya Kagan (Whyzz writer)


Tornado in a Jar

If you'd like to get a better idea of what a tornado can look like, you can make a funnel that looks like one in a jar at home! Fill a jar about three-quarters full with water. Add a teaspoon of liquid soap, a teaspoon of vinegar, and (if you want) some glitter to represent dirt in the tornado's funnel!Put the lid on your jar and shake it up. Once everything is mixed together, start swirling the jar around until a tornado-like funnel forms inside! Even though the "tornado" in your jar is made from water and not air, it can still help you to visual the shape and swirl of this type of storm!

Further Information

Sometimes a tornado forms over water instead of land. When this happens, it's referred to as a "waterspout." Some waterspouts move onto land, and then will turn into tornadoes.