Scientists Have A New Theory About Tornado Formation

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Scientists made a revolutionary discovery regarding tornadoes. Until now it was believed that they form in the sky and then reach the Earth. However, it appears that this theory might be wrong, and in fact things go the other way around. Meteorologist Jana Houser from Ohio University studied tornadoes for years. A paper containing their findings is available online.

“Historically, the generally accepted hypothesis surrounding tornadogenesis in supercell thunderstorms is referred to as the ‘top-down’ hypothesis. According to this theory, strong rotation develops above the ground first, followed by progressively strengthening rotation at lower heights until the vertically rotating column intersects the ground, contracts, and forms a tornado. This paper provides evidence from a novel rapid-scanning mobile Doppler radar (RaXPol) that this hypothesis is likely incorrect,” begins the paper.

Capturing the birth of a tornado

It is not simple to catch the exact moment when a tornado is formed, as this happens very quickly, and the actual birth might be hidden by houses, trees and other things. However, Houser and her team managed to gather essential data about four tornadoes, which were born of supercell storms.

Two of them happened outside Galatia and Russell in Kansas, and two in El Reno Oklahoma. One of the El Reno tornadoes was the widest measured. More than that, out of those 4 tornadoes, none formed in the sky.

The combined photographic evidence and radar measurements. They soon noticed that a tornado funnel can be spotted on the ground before rotation reached higher altitudes. The same patterns appeared for all the tornadoes.

The big one in El Reno was a bit different, as it had rotation at different elevations at the same time. This indicates that there might be more than one mode of tornadogenesis, but it still proves that tornadoes don’t start in the sky.


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