How tornadoes form

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 1:48 PM CDT
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(KTTC) -- Tornadoes are one of the most violent and dangerous types of weather we experience in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa.

But, what is a tornado?

Well, let’s get a better understanding of the anatomy of a tornado and why they form in some thunderstorms but not all of them.

In order for a tornado to form, we need four main ingredients.

  • Shear
  • Lifting
  • Instability
  • Moisture

Shear is the change in wind speed and direction with height. This helps give a thunderstorm rotation.

A lifting mechanism can be a frontal boundary like a cold or warm front. It could even be a dry line. A tornado needs this for upward movement within a storm.

Instability can be viewed as how unstable the atmosphere is. If the atmosphere is unstable, air parcels can race high into the sky forming towering thunderstorm clouds.

The final piece is moisture. Thunderstorms need juice and energy to survive. Deep rich moisture can make thunderstorms stronger and last longer.

When all four of these ingredients come together, a tornado can form.

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