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Name: Kelly Van N.
Status: educator
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2/26/2004


Question:
How does air pressure affect tornadoes?


Replies:
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


Kelly,

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


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