Hunt for the Supertwister
Natures Most Violent Storms

Hunt for the Supertwister
Natures Most Violent Storms
A supertwister is the most powerful tornado which can create enormously devastating damage; "supertwisters are fortunately rare".

Various types of tornadoes include the multiple vortex tornado, landspout and waterspout.

A tornado is an extremely violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in some rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud.

They are often referred to as a twister or a cyclone, although the word cyclone is used mostly in meteorology in a wider sense, to name any closed low pressure circulation.

Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, but are typically in the form of a visible condensation funnel, whose narrow end touches the earth and is often encircled by a cloud of debris and dust.

Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (177 km/h), are approximately 250 feet (80 m) across, and travel a few miles (several kilometers) before dissipating.

The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 mph (480 km/h), stretch more than two miles (3 km) across, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles (more than 100 km).

Various types of tornadoes include the multiple vortex tornado,
landspout and waterspout.

Waterspouts are characterized by a spiraling funnel-shaped wind current, connecting to a large cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud.

They are generally classified as non-supercellular tornadoes that develop over bodies of water.

These spiraling columns of air frequently develop in tropical areas close to the equator, and are less common at high latitudes. Other tornado-like phenomena that exist in nature include the gustnado, dust devil, fire whirls, and steam devil.

Tornadoes have been observed on every continent except Antarctica. However, the vast majority of tornadoes in the world occur in the Tornado Alley region of the United States, although they can occur nearly anywhere in North America.

Tornado Outbreak

The Super Outbreak is the largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period.

They also occasionally occur in south-central and eastern Asia, the Philippines, south east Asia, like Malaysia, northern and east-central South America, Southern Africa, northwestern and southeast Europe, western and southeastern Australia, and New Zealand. 

Tornadoes can be detected before or as they occur through the use of Pulse-Doppler radar by recognizing patterns in velocity and reflectivity data, such as hook echoes, as well as by the efforts of storm spotters.

There are several different scales for rating the strength of tornadoes. The Fujita scale rates tornadoes by damage caused, and has been replaced in some countries by the updated Enhanced Fujita Scale.

An F0 or EF0 tornado, the weakest category, damages trees, but not substantial structures.

An F5 or EF5 tornado, the strongest category, rips buildings off
their foundations and can deform large skyscrapers.

The similar TORRO scale ranges from a T0 for extremely weak tornadoes to T11 for the most powerful known tornadoes. Doppler radar data, photogrammetry, and ground swirl patterns (cycloidal marks) may also be analyzed to determine intensity and assign a rating.

In the United States, 80% of tornadoes are EF0 and EF1 (T0 through T3) tornadoes. The rate of occurrence drops off quickly with increasing strength—less than 1% are violent tornadoes (EF4, T8 or stronger).

Outside Tornado Alley, and North America in general, violent tornadoes are extremely rare.

This is apparently mostly due to the lesser number of tornadoes overall, as research shows that tornado intensity distributions are fairly similar worldwide. A few significant tornadoes occur annually in Europe, Asia, southern Africa, and southeastern South America, respectively.

Myths and Misconceptions of Tornadoes

Folklore often identifies a green sky with tornadoes, and though the phenomenon may be associated with severe weather, there is no evidence linking it specifically with tornadoes.

It is often thought that opening windows will lessen the damage caused by the tornado.

While there is a large drop in atmospheric pressure inside a strong tornado, it is unlikely that the pressure drop would be enough to cause the house to explode.

Some research indicates that opening windows may actually increase the severity of the tornado's damage. A violent tornado can destroy a house whether its windows are open or closed.

Another commonly held belief is that highway overpasses provide adequate shelter from tornadoes. On the contrary, a highway overpass is a dangerous place during a tornado.

In the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak of May 3, 1999, three highway overpasses were directly struck by tornadoes, and at all three locations there was a fatality, along with many life-threatening injuries. The small area under the overpasses is believed to cause a Venturi effect.

By comparison, during the same tornado outbreak, more than 2000 homes were completely destroyed, with another 7000 damaged, and yet only a few dozen people died in their homes.

An old belief is that the southwest corner of a basement provides the most protection during a tornado. The safest place is the side or corner of an underground room opposite the tornado's direction of approach (usually the northeast corner), or the central-most room on the lowest floor. Taking shelter in a basement, under a staircase, or under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a workbench further increases chances of survival.

Finally, there are areas which people believe to be protected from tornadoes, whether by being in a city, near a major river, hill, or mountain, or even protected by supernatural forces. Tornadoes have been known to cross major rivers, climb mountains, affect valleys, and have damaged several city centers.

As a general rule, no area is "safe" from tornadoes, though some areas are more susceptible than others.