Tornadoes have been a source of fear for humans since the beginning of time. Indeed, this strange and powerful natural phenomenon has the potential to wreak destruction on a massive scale – and to leave hundreds dead or injured. However, as an extraordinary manifestation of extreme weather, they are also a subject of fascination. Here are some truly mind-boggling facts about the largest tornadoes to have ever been seen.
20. Tornadoes emerge from massive thunderstorms
To create a scarily large tornado, the first thing that’s needed is a giant thunderstorm. The very largest thunderstorms actually have their own term – the supercell. Supercells are highly organized thunderstorms characterized by extreme rainfall, prolific lightening and gale-force winds. When the supercell sinks below the clouds it drags in colder air, creating the familiar tornado tower and sucking up air from the surface below it.
19. Tornadoes often give off an advance warning
Sometimes supercells will give a telltale signature which meteorologists can read on radar. This is called the “hook echo” and it’s distinctive enough that even non-scientists can see it on a clear radar printout. The hook is formed by powerful counter-clockwise winds which drive rain in a circle around the air that’s being sucked up from the ground. Although not all hook echoes forewarn of a dangerous tornado, they are certainly something to watch out for.