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Gallery 3

Tornado

An artificially created vortex of water vapour.
An artificially created vortex of water vapour.

Create air vortices shaped like a tornado funnel.

How it works

Watch a tornado vortex of water vapour spin into the air.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Stand in a circle around the Tornado exhibit with your arms outstretched to try and create a more complete vortex.
  • Is it easier to see a vortex at the base, or at the top of the tornado?
  • What conditions are required for the tornado vortex to form?

Background

Tornadoes and cyclones are both twisting masses of air but they form in different ways. Tornadoes form over land and last for minutes at a time. Cyclones form over warm ocean waters and last for days taking moisture and energy from the water. Tornadoes seem to be produced mostly during thunderstorms. When cool air moves over a layer of warm air, the warm, moist air rises rapidly as an up draft. As the up draft moves, it may rotate intensely enough to form a tornado vortex. The twisting vortex snakes up into a thunderstorm cloud and travels over land, with the storm cloud.

Finding the science in your world

Tornadoes range in size from tens of metres to one kilometre in diameter, so intense damage is normally restricted to a small area. This can leave one street of houses completely destroyed, while the next street remains intact. Tornadoes are measured on the Fujita F-scale, which estimates wind speed based on the extent and severity of tornado damage.

The United States of America is most affected by tornadoes, followed by Australia. About ten tornadoes a year occur in populated areas of Australia.