Tornadoes: Unusual Facts!

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A Tornado heading towards a barn

Amazing Facts about Tornadoes

Tornadoes are one of the most destructive and awe-inspiring natural phenomena on Earth. These swirling columns of air are capable of inflicting massive damage and destruction in a matter of seconds. While we have learned much about tornadoes over the years, there are still many unusual facts and mysteries surrounding them. In this article, we will explore some of the most fascinating aspects of tornadoes, including their formation, behavior, and historical incidents.

Formation of Tornadoes:

Tornadoes are formed in thunderstorms, which are created when warm, moist air rises and cools, forming clouds. Thunderstorms are most common in warm, humid climates, such as the central United States. The formation of a tornado requires a specific set of conditions, including wind shear, instability, and moisture. Wind shear is the change in wind speed and direction with height, while instability refers to the tendency of air to rise rapidly. Moisture provides the fuel for the storm and can come from a variety of sources, including the Gulf of Mexico.

When these conditions are present, the thunderstorm can become organized and begin to rotate. The rotating column of air is known as a mesocyclone. If the mesocyclone becomes strong enough, it can produce a tornado. The tornado itself is a rotating column of air that extends from the base of the thunderstorm to the ground. The swirling winds within the tornado can reach speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, making them incredibly destructive.

Unusual Facts about Tornadoes:

  1. Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world, but they are most common in the United States. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States experiences an average of 1,200 tornadoes per year, more than any other country in the world.
  2. While tornadoes are most common in the spring and summer, they can occur at any time of year. In fact, the deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history occurred in March 1925.
  3. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day, but they are most common between 3:00 PM and 9:00 PM. This is because thunderstorms tend to be most intense during the late afternoon and early evening.
  4. Tornadoes can form in just a few minutes and can move at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. This means that people may only have a few minutes to take shelter once a tornado warning is issued.
  5. Tornadoes can range in size from just a few yards to more than a mile wide. The widest tornado ever recorded was 2.6 miles wide and occurred in El Reno, Oklahoma in 2013.
  6. Tornadoes can produce a variety of damage, including uprooted trees, destroyed buildings, and flipped cars. They can also hurl debris miles away from their point of origin.
  7. While tornadoes are destructive, they are also fascinating to scientists. Tornadoes provide an opportunity to study the behavior of rotating fluids, which has implications for understanding weather patterns and even the behavior of other rotating systems, such as galaxies.

Historical Incidents:

  1. The Tri-State Tornado of 1925 is the deadliest tornado in U.S. history. It swept through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, killing 695 people and injuring 2,027. The tornado was on the ground for 219 miles and traveled at speeds of up to 73 miles per hour.
  2. The Joplin, Missouri tornado of 2011 was one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history. The tornado killed 158 people and injured more than 1,000. It also caused an estimated $2.8 billion in damage.
  1. In 1974, a series of tornadoes struck 13 states in the central United States, killing 319 people and injuring over 5,000. This event, known as the “Super Outbreak,” produced 148 tornadoes and is still considered one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.
  2. The 1999 Bridge Creek-Moore tornado in Oklahoma is one of the most well-documented tornadoes in history. It was the first tornado to be studied by a mobile radar system, which allowed researchers to observe the tornado’s internal structure in detail. The tornado caused 36 fatalities and over $1 billion in damage.
  3. In 2013, a tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma for the second time in 14 years, causing widespread destruction and killing 24 people. The tornado was rated as an EF5, the highest rating on the Enhanced Fujita scale.

The Science of Tornado Formation:

While much is known about the conditions necessary for tornado formation, there is still much to be learned about the science behind these phenomena. One of the key challenges in understanding tornadoes is the difficulty in obtaining detailed data about their formation and behavior. Tornadoes are often short-lived and unpredictable, making it difficult to study them in detail.

One of the most promising avenues of research in tornado science is the use of advanced radar systems. Doppler radar, for example, can provide detailed information about the speed and direction of winds within a thunderstorm, which can help researchers identify areas of potential tornado formation. Mobile radar systems, such as those used during the Bridge Creek-Moore tornado, can be deployed to get up-close and detailed information about the internal structure of a tornado.

Another area of research is the use of computer models to simulate tornado formation and behavior. These models can help researchers better understand the complex interactions between air flow, wind shear, and moisture that lead to tornado formation. However, these models are still in the early stages of development and require more data to refine their accuracy.


Tornadoes are a fascinating and destructive force of nature that have captured the imagination of scientists and the public alike. While much is known about their formation and behavior, there are still many mysteries surrounding these phenomena. Advances in radar technology and computer modeling are providing new avenues for research into tornado science, but there is still much to be learned. As tornadoes continue to impact communities around the world, it is important to continue studying these phenomena in order to better understand and prepare for their destructive potential.

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