Tornado Science Project

For many people in Texas or Oklahoma years ago, it was a routine matter to drop everything and run into the root cellar. This was, located apart from the house and many steps down into the ground. They’d stay there with only a candle or a kerosene lamp, until the tornado passed. It would save their lives. Back in the 1800s and even into the 1970s, tornados menaced not only property, but took lives as well. One eyewitness saw a hundred yard wide funnel make a house “tremble as if a giant fist was shaking it. After a few seconds,’ the structure was ripped apart and its occupants hurled into the air.’ Ten of the 18 people died; nine of the 10 were children.”

What is a tornado exactly? Despite, or because of their power, their precise causes are not known. More and more is knowledge is being collected, as the science of meteorology grows.

It’s not the size of a tornado that determines its destruction, necessarily. If the vortex of a tornado rises above a velocity of 112 miles per hour and reaches the ground then the funnel becomes a tornado. The winds can reach over 300 miles mph, however. When warm winds in a moist environment rise upwards they occasionally start to swirl due to the change in pressure.

The low pressure center acts like a vacuum cleaner when it pulls in the nearby winds. Since the center is cooler than the surrounding air, all the air that enters condenses. The ensuing process of convection gives further velocity to the tornado. If there is a blanket of cold air in the higher strata of the atmosphere, the funnel doesn’t usually touch ground.

Since the creation back in 1971 of the Fujita Scale, the science of classification and prediction of tornados has lessened their devastation. People can take precautions. In 1925, 695 people died from a tornado in the Missouri, Illinois and Indiana area. Three hundred and seventeen people died in Natchez, Mississippi on May 7, 1840. Meteorologists would like to think that it is due to their science that no single tornado has killed more than 50 people since 1971.

Approximately one thousand tornados are reported in the United States each year.

However, the weather is still amiss in ways that people do not comprehend. As a scientific experiment, imagine yourself in the following five situations. What would you do if a tornado was seen?

1. Skyscraper in New York City

2. Mobile home park in Kansas, USA

3. Restaurant in the Florida Keys

4. Volkswagen on Highway 40

5. Home

Afterwards, check out the formation of a funnel with this easy project.

Step 1. Take two clear two liter soda bottles.

Step 2. Fill one half full with water.

Step 3. Measure sixteen ounces of vegetable oil.

Step 4. Add a few drops of red food coloring.

Step 5. Mix all fluids together into first bottle.

Step 6. Duct tape second bottle to first bottle at mouth of both bottles. Do a good job here, so they don’t leak.

Step 7. Turn bottle upside down.

Step 8. Observe the funnel as the solution leaves the top bottle and drains into the bottom bottle.