Home | Menu | Poem | Jokes | Games | Biography | Omss বাংলা | Celibrity Video | Dictionary

World Population Day

Etymology And Definitions of Tornado

The word tornado is an altered form of the Spanish word tronada, which means "thunderstorm". This in turn was taken from the Latin tonare, meaning "to thunder". It most likely reached its present form through a combination of the Spanish tronada and tornar ("to turn"); however, this may be a folk etymology. A tornado is also commonly referred to as a "twister", and is also sometimes referred to by the old-fashioned colloquial term cyclone. The term "cyclone" is used as a synonym for "tornado" in the often-aired 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. The term "twister" is also used in that film, along with being the title of the 1996 tornado-related film Twister.


A tornado near Seymour, Texas

A tornado is "a violently rotating column of air, in contact with the ground, either pendant from a cumuliform cloud or underneath a cumuliform cloud, and often (but not always) visible as a funnel cloud". For a vortex to be classified as a tornado, it must be in contact with both the ground and the cloud base. Scientists have not yet created a complete definition of the word; for example, there is disagreement as to whether separate touchdowns of the same funnel constitute separate tornadoes. Tornado refers to the vortex of wind, not the condensation cloud.

Funnel cloud

This tornado has no funnel cloud; however, the rotating dust cloud indicates that strong winds are occurring at the surface, and thus it is a true tornado.

A tornado is not necessarily visible; however, the intense low pressure caused by the high wind speeds (as described by Bernoulli's principle) and rapid rotation (due to cyclostrophic balance) usually causes water vapor in the air to become visible as a funnel cloud or condensation funnel.

There is some disagreement over the definition of funnel cloud and condensation funnel. According to the Glossary of Meteorology, a funnel cloud is any rotating cloud pendant from a cumulus or cumulonimbus, and thus most tornadoes are included under this definition. Among many meteorologists, the funnel cloud term is strictly defined as a rotating cloud which is not associated with strong winds at the surface, and condensation funnel is a broad term for any rotating cloud below a cumuliform cloud.

Tornadoes often begin as funnel clouds with no associated strong winds at the surface, although not all evolve into a tornado. However, many tornadoes are preceded by a funnel cloud. Most tornadoes produce strong winds at the surface while the visible funnel is still above the ground, so it is difficult to discern the difference between a funnel cloud and a tornado from a distance.

Outbreaks and families

Occasionally, a single storm will produce more than one tornado, either simultaneously or in succession. Multiple tornadoes produced by the same storm cell are referred to as a "tornado family". Several tornadoes are sometimes spawned from the same large-scale storm system. If there is no break in activity, this is considered a tornado outbreak, although there are various definitions. A period of several successive days with tornado outbreaks in the same general area (spawned by multiple weather systems) is a tornado outbreak sequence, occasionally called an extended tornado outbreak.