Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Air Pressure and Tornadoes
Name: Kelly Van N.
Status: educator
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2/26/2004

How does air pressure affect tornadoes?

Dear Kelly-

Tornadoes are spawned by strong thunderstorms. Thunderstorms usually form in areas of low pressure, where warm moist air at lower elevations converges to form areas or lines of thunderstorms. Tornadoes are not found in areas of high pressure, as the air is usually drier and does not converge at the lower levels.

Wendell Bechtold, meteorologist Forecaster, National Weather Service


Air pressure may not affect tornados so much as the tornado, and especially the vortex in the thunderstorm that causes the tornado, affects the pressure at the ground. The tornado vortex is a spinning column of air that is rapidly rising. Rising air in this mini-low pressure system creates an area of reduced pressure below the tornado. In a sense, it is a mini low pressure system with much greater rotational speed and a much smaller horizontal extent than a low pressure weather system.

David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory

Click here to return to the Weather Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory