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What is Going on Inside a Tornado?

  1. Apr 16, 2006 #1
    My best guess is that a tornado is a column shaped pocket of gas with a low mass density. Usually such a pocket would collapse in on itself, but in this case it is held open by centripetal force.

    I'm just speculating about something I don't understand. Can anyone offer up a good explanation? What types of motion are involved? How well is all this understood?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2006 #2
  4. Apr 17, 2006 #3


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    Didn't you see Twister?? That is what a tornado looks like on the inside.
  5. Apr 17, 2006 #4
    I looked at the links but I'm still not to sure what's going on. Is air from the ground effectively draining upwards into the storm cloud?
  6. Apr 17, 2006 #5


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    Kinda, yeah.

    It's the same effect that causes water in the sink to swirl as it goes down the drain. However, whereas gravity is the engine driving the water down the drain, in the case of a tornado, it is air warmed over land that is the engine driving the air upwards.
  7. Apr 17, 2006 #6
    But in a sink the airy center of the vortex has no up or down motion. It's the water around it that moves. Judging from videos it appears that in a tornado the central portion flows upward and the air surrounding it is motionless. Is it merely the outside wall of the funnel cloud that moves upward?

    Also the vortex in a sink has two very distinct medias. Can one draw an analogous boundary in a tornado?
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