Twister: What is the Shape of a Tornado? (page 2)

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Author: Janice VanCleave

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  1. Swift upper-level winds often make the top part of a tornado move forward faster than the lower part. That, in addition to friction that occurs where the bottom of the funnel touches the ground, makes the lower part appear to drag behind. The funnel looks like a long, trailing rope or a snake dangling and wiggling from the sky. Demonstrate the difference in the forward movement of the top and bottom parts of the funnel. Hold one end of a string about 1 yard (1 m) long and pull it through the air. Repeat this movement, allowing the free end to touch the ground as you pull the top forward. Have a helper take photographs. Display photos of the string next to photos of tornadoes tilted at similar angles.
  2. Tornadoes often perform freakish tricks. On June 23, 1944, a tornado passed over the West Fork River in West Virginia and drained it completely for a few minutes. Tornadoes are usually very destructive, yet fragile objects such as eggs and mirrors have been carried several miles by these violently whirling winds and lowered unharmed to the ground. Diagrams illustrating this and other odd events involving tornadoes can be used as part of a display.

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More tornadoes form on the flat central plains region east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States than anywhere else on the earth. Find out more about the formation of tornadoes. What weather conditions spawn tornadoes? Why do so many tornadoes form in the central plains region of the United States? Do tornadoes occur only in the United States?

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