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In the Eye of the Storm

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Mississippi and Alabama recently experienced a tornado on February 2nd. Within this past week, nearly a dozen of tornadoes have hit the south, according to the Weather Channel. A total of four tornadoes were confirmed in Birmingham, following their surveys of the areas damaged by the storms Tuesday night. Before the storms worked their way into Alabama, they left plenty of damage behind in several Mississippi towns Tuesday afternoon. Four tornadoes were confirmed by the NWS in Jackson.

While tornadoes in movies seem fun, and adventurous, a tornado is actually “a mobile, destructive vortex of violently rotating winds having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and advancing beneath a large storm system”. A tornado usually lasts less than 10 minutes, but has been recorded to last up to several hours. Signs of a tornado includes the sky turning a greenish color, heavy rain and/or hail proceeded by either fast or calm yet intense wind shifts.

The Fujita scale or F-Scale, is used to measure a tornado’s intensity. It was originally created by T. Fujita in 1971. The US practices this scale. While the Fujita scale is based upon wind speeds, it is usually used to measure the damage caused by a tornado. In 2007 the Fujita scale was replaced with the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The new and improved scale now takes into consideration the construction and quality of different types of buildings. Wikipedia says that “The wind speeds on the original scale were deemed by meteorologists and engineers as being too high, and engineering studies indicated that slower winds than initially estimated cause the respective degrees of damage. The old scale lists an F5 tornado as wind speeds of 261–318 mph (420–512 km/h), while the new scale lists an EF5 as a tornado with winds above 200 mph (322 km/h), found to be sufficient to cause the damage previously ascribed to the F5 range of wind speeds.” Tornadoes can cause extreme damage, especially when wind speeds exceeding 136 miles/hour.

Tornadoes typically develop after thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are characterized by the presence of lightning, and its acoustic effect on the Earth’s atmosphere, the said effect is recognizably known as thunder . Thunderstorms, however, can launch particle beams into space. For example, if the water is condensed in and subsequently precipitates from a cloud, the total energy of a thunderstorm can be calculated. “A typical thunderstorm, approximately 5×108 kg of water vapor are lifted, and the amount of energy released when this condenses is 1015 joules. This is on the same order of magnitude of energy released within a tropical cyclone, and more energy than that released during the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

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While tornadoes can become extremely dangerous, they can help to clear out old vegetation, allowing new plant growth. A tornado is the way the earth releases excess energy. All thunderstorms are dangerous, as they can be the beginning of a flash flood or tornado. However, thunderstorms are a natural occurrence.

 

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