Andre from May Elementary School in Rochelle asks “Where do tornadoes come from?” Andre, tornadoes come as a result of wind shear within the atmosphere. Wind shear is when the winds at the ground are moving at a right angle to the winds within the clouds. The closer you can get to that 90° right angle, the higher the shear! In the first picture you can see how this shear creates a “spiraling” of the wind within the cloud. Now, as the cloud continues to grow taller, the wind blowing upward into the cloud can tilt that spiral…forming a tornado.
A lot of people believe that valleys, cities, and mountains offer protection from tornadoes. Because a tornado is born from a cloud, this simply isn’t true. They can touch down anywhere in the United States (but mostly in Tornado Alley in spring). Great question! -ERIC
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This post was written by Eric Sorensen on October 23, 2007