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Picture of a May 11, 1991, tornado in Cimarron County, Oklahoma
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Greg Stumpf

Tornadoes

Tornadoes form from severe thunderstorms. They have a very high energy density which means that they affect a small area but are very destructive to that area. They also don't last very long which makes it hard to learn about them. Since they're hard to study, they're also hard to forecast. People know even less about tornadoes, which is why there are a lot of different myths that aren't true.

Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world. About 75% of them happen in the United States, most in an area know as Tornado Alley. There are also some other interesting facts about tornadoes.

People who are interested in tornadoes sometimes become trained tornado spotters for their community. Others chase tornadoes, either to research these incredible storms, or to photograph them. After a tornado touches down, scientists try and figure out how strong it was by using the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Scale.
Last modified August 1, 2008 by Vanessa Pearce.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA