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Updated: Dec 13, 2021

This weekend our hearts broke when we heard about the devastating string of powerful tornadoes that struck the U.S. Midwest, killed many people and caused so much damage.

What are tornadoes? How do they form? Why are they dangerous? And what does football have to do with it?

The Art in Science - News for curious kids will answer some of these questions.

So what is a tornado?

A tornado is a type of storm with very powerful rotating winds. A tornado, also called twister or cyclone, is a violent rotating column of air extending between the Earth’s surface and the base of a thunderstorm. A tornado wind speed can reach up to 300 miles/hour. A tornado can make a lot of damage : destroy building, uproot trees, make cars fly up in the air and more.

How does a tornado form?

The formation of a tornado is so complex, scientists have yet to understand it.

Tornadoes start during a thunderstorm. Not all thunderstorms will create a tornado. Most tornadoes start from a supercell. A supercell is a strong kind of rotating thunderstorm (called a mesocyclone). Supercells create the deadliest tornadoes. read more HERE.


To be called a tornado the funnel cloud has to touch the ground, otherwise they’re called a funnel.

Can we prepare for a tornado?

Meteorologist can not yet predict when and where a tornado will start but the NOAA Storm Prediction Center watch the weather 24 hours a day 7 days a week (meaning ALL the time). If a tornado is bring reported by spotters or by a radar a TORNADO WARNING will be issued. This means that if you are in that area you should ACT NOW.

What should you do?

  • Shelter - Move to a small room away from windows on the lowest floor like a basement

  • Cover your body

  • Follow the news for updates

Did you know?

  • The winds of a tornado are the strongest on earth.

  • Although tornadoes can happen anywhere on earth, the US has the most tornadoes every year (over 1,000 every year - WOW!!).

  • The most famous ones can be found in Tornado Alley which stretches from Texas to the Dakotas in the US.

  • Most tornadoes last less than 10 minutes


  • Tornado - a violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.

  • Supercell - a strong type of thunderstorm with rotating strong winds

  • Storm - violent weather with heavy rain adn wind. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes are types of storms.

  • Thunderstorm - a storm with lightning and thunder

  • Meteorologists - a scientist that studies the atmosphere to predict and understand earth's weather

  • Atmosphere - the layer of gas that surrounds Earth

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