A tornado is an incredibly destructive force of nature. They’ve been known to reach 2.5 miles wide and cause up to $2.9 billion dollars in damage. The tornado that struck Oklahoma back in May has shown us first hand the kind of death and devastation they can bring to a well-developed city or town.
They can strike any time, but usually occur during spring when the weather patterns transition from cool to warm weather. They strike most frequently in what’s known as the “Tornado Alley”. Tornado alley is an area within the United States that consists of Kansas, parts of Texas, parts of South Dakota, Colorado and Oklahoma.
One reader sent us an interestingly worded inquiry regarding the strength of tornadoes so we decided to follow-up and find out how powerful tornadoes actually are. We’re taking it a step further and exploring how energetic tornadoes are compared to the likes of hurricanes and severe thunderstorms, as well as how common they are relative to their strength. We’re going to explore these questions by presenting the answers in an infographic.
The actual destructive power of a tornado is wholly dependent on its size and the wind speed, as well as the length of its path. All of these factors must be included together when attempting to calculate how much energy is contained within a tornado.
Although the total energy of a tornado is quite low compared to a hurricane or severe thunderstorm, a tornado’s ferocity comes from the concentration of energy into a tiny, focused area. Because of their extreme, unrivaled energy density, tornadoes are the most powerful force in nature for their size. The energy density of a tornado is 6 times that of a hurricane.
Below we have included a video of the largest tornado in US history. It was taken on May 22nd, 2004 in Nebraska by Dave Crowly. As the video progresses, you can witness the tornado evolve and grow larger. It eventually grows to a staggering 2 miles in width. It’s a terrifying thing to behold.
We’ve also added a handy infographic which explores the comparative energy of different kinds of tornadoes by their ‘EF’ scale – the scale which is used to measure the power of a tornado. The infographic describes the different EF scales as well as includes some interesting facts to help visualize the amount of energy being produced.
- 75% of all tornadoes happen within the United States.
- Tornadoes aren’t always loud and roaring, in fact, some tornadoes can be quite quiet. A tornadoes volume is based on the environment where it is formed, and where it is traveling.
- Most tornadoes are slow, moving at less than 35 miles per hour and they usually only last only a few minutes.
- Tornadoes can form day or night, but most often occur between 3pm and 9pm.