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Energy Density in Torndoes - Windows to the Universe

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Energy Density

A tornado is the most intense force in nature. That doesn't mean it's the most powerful. In fact, a thunderstorm can be 40,000 times more powerful than a tornado. Then why aren't thunderstorms as dangerous as tornadoes? The answer lies in each storm's energy density.

A tornado may not have nearly as much energy as a thunderstorm, but the energy in the tornado is concentrated into a much smaller area. Imagine you have a hose and are watering a yard. You can spray five gallons of water over the whole yard and not really notice it. If you were to spray a couple gallons in one small section, you would probably flood and possibly start to erode it. That's because the water was very concentrated, like the energy in a tornado.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF