Term Paper: Atmospheric Phenomenon

Pages: 6 (1967 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Weather  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … tornadoes, including the basic background associated with tornadoes, and the specific example of the May 30, 1998 tornado that hit the tiny town of Spencer, North Dakota. Tornadoes differ from hurricanes because tornadoes form over land, while hurricanes form over water. Tornadoes differ from cyclones because they travel over a much smaller area than a cyclone. While tornadoes may tend to be localized, they can create massive amounts of structural damage and loss of human life. They are difficult to predict, and so far, no scientist or research group has been able to effectively create a tornado early warning system that might save lives and property damage.

How do tornadoes develop? Scientifically, tornadoes develop when certain atmospheric conditions are right. They develop as a result of a heavy cumulonimbus cloud mass present in the atmosphere, especially during the hot, humid weather of Midwestern U.S. summers. Atmospheric conditions that must occur for tornadoes to form include vast thermal instability, high humidity, and the meeting of warm, moist air at low levels with cooler, drier air above. When these conditions are just right, a funnel cloud with very low air pressure develops from the cloud mass and reaches to the ground. Inside this funnel, winds turn counter-clockwise violently and with great force. These conditions are ripe during the late spring and early summer months in many areas of the continental United States, and so tornadoes are a common threat to many large metropolitan areas in the Midwest. The actual word "tornado" comes from Spanish, and means loosely, "turn." Often people call tornadoes "twisters" or "cyclones," even though tornadoes are not technically cyclones. Their distinctive funnel cloud is usually wider and the top and narrower at the bottom. The wind speeds inside a tornado can be incredible and unreal. They have been clocked at as much as 318 miles per hour, but most average between 100 to150 mph. An average size tornado is usually about 300-400 yards wide, but some have been measured as wide as a mile or more. They "travel haphazardly along paths from several miles to fifty miles, most often in a southwest to northeast direction and are associated with very low barometric pressure readings and heavy rains" (Resnick 125). Often, they are created during thunderstorms, and can also be associated with heavy hail or sleet. Author Resnick continues, "Twisters tend to strike in pairs within a short period of time in nearby locations" (Resnick 126). The worst tornado on record in the United States happened on March 18, 1925. It hit a wide area in three states, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. It stayed on the ground over three hours, which is quite uncommon for most tornadoes, and it left nearly 700 people dead (Resnick 126). Tornadoes are rated on an "F-scale," named after Tetsuya Fujita, a Japanese scientist who worked with tornadoes and wind studies. An F-5 being the strongest and deadliest rating of a tornado. An F-3 averages winds up to 206 miles per hour. An F-4 has winds 207- to 260-miles per hour, and the most dangerous tornadoes, F-5, have winds 261? To 318-miles per hour (Rosenfeld 192).

Tornadoes have occurred on every continent except Antarctica, but they are most prevalent in the U.S., especially in the area known as "tornado alley," which stretches across the mid-section of the country between the southern plains states and the Gulf states, especially Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. However, tornadoes do hit many other areas of the country when the conditions are right, they are simply more prevalent in tornado alley than anywhere else in the country or the world. Author Jeffrey Rosenfeld notes that about one thousand tornadoes hit the United States in any given year (Rosefeld 4). While many of these tornadoes do not do significant damage to structures and people, many more do, and those are the storms that gain national media attention and notoriety. Another author states, "During a seventy-year-period, 1925-1995, as many as 4,944 people died from tornado disasters in the United States. From 1967-1996, death from tornadoes averaged 70 each year" (Resnick 125). Deaths and injuries are only a portion of the story, because tornadoes also cause millions of dollars in property damage every year.

Thousands of people have lived through tornadoes and describe the fierce winds and impossible destruction that occurs inside the tornado. Sometimes the tornado will skip and jump randomly, destroying several houses on a block, then sparing some, seemingly randomly. People have seen objects punctured straight through a tree trunk or building, leaving the tree or building still standing. Stories of miracle survivals in bathtubs and bathrooms abound, as do stories of cars, appliances, and household items found intact several miles away from where they were picked up by the tornado's winds. For example, "in Concord, Alabama, on April 10, 1998, tornado winds snatched a seven-month-old baby out of her mother's arms. The baby, though seriously hurt, lived" (Resnick 128). Tornadoes can be extremely destructive, and single storms have caused over $1 billion in damages to American cities and towns. Sadly, there is still no real, comprehensive way to surely predict tornadoes, and often residents only have a few minutes warning to get to shelter. Meteorology has improved over the last century, and will continue to do so. Today, meteorologists have tools that can track tornadoes quite effectively when they are on the ground. Author Resnick continues, "Meteorologists track weather systems with Doppler radar equipment and can tell people in the path of a tornado exactly where it is and where it is going, block by block, street by street as the twister approaches their homes" (Resnick 129). However, until a way is found to truly predict these serious storms before they touch ground, cities, towns, and Americans will all continue to suffer when tornadoes strike quickly and with deadly accuracy.

The National Weather Service (NWS) does have certain criteria that indicate certain weather patterns that spawn tornadoes. When these patterns occur, the NWS does issue "tornado watches," which can be upgraded to tornado warnings if the conditions persist or intensify. A warning tells people that a tornado may be imminent and they should take shelter immediately. Experts recommend that small, interior rooms are the best for shelter in the event of a tornado. Basements are good, but people should stay away from windows in any part of the house. Hiding under a heavy piece of furniture can also be a good idea. People are more educated about tornadoes than they were, and so they are better at protecting themselves when tornadoes strike. Many large cities have underground tornado shelters that help save many lives each year. Unfortunately, mobile homes are quite popular residences in many tornado prone areas, and mobile homes are especially vulnerable to the tornado's destructive powers. Author Resnick continues, "Since mobile homes and recreational vehicles are made of lightweight aluminum, often with extended sixty-foot sidewalls and lack of a solid foundation, they can readily be hurled hundreds of feet into the air resulting in huge damage and much greater loss of life than with more secure conventional dwellings" (Resnick 129). Destruction can be unbelievable and devastating. Many people do not understand the damage a tornado can do to a home, a street, a town, or a city. There have been many deadly storms in U.S. history. One notable example is the storm that hit the tiny town of Spencer, North Dakota on May 30, 1998.

Spencer was a tiny town of less than 400 hundred people. Less that a square-mile in diameter, the town's residents are farmers, growing a variety of soybeans, corn, and wheat. There is not much reason to visit the town unless you know someone who lives there. Most of the kids are leaving for more opportunities in the city, and many of the businesses have closed up and disappeared. On May 30, 1998, right about dinnertime, a monster tornado was bearing down on the tiny town, and residents had no idea it was on the way. Scientists estimate the tornado was one-mile wide with a 200-yard vortex, and winds of 240 miles per hour. The tornado lasted only 100 seconds, but it was enough to destroy the tiny town of Spencer. Only about twelve homes were left standing after the tornado ripped through town. In the tiny business district, nothing survived. All the churches were destroyed, and the only thing left at the bank was the vault, the walls were destroyed around it. Author Jeffrey Rosenfeld, who researched the tornado, writes, "A blank check from the bank fluttered to the ground 100 miles away, in Minnesota. The first emergency volunteers to arrive brought dogs to sniff the wreckage for survivors. Residents had never needed maps to get around their town before, but they toted them now to help rescuers locate where houses once stood" (Rosenfeld 179). Remarkably, only six people died, and there were incredible stories of survival throughout the town. Rosenfeld continues,

One couple hurried to their basement, but the… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

?
Which Option Should I Choose?

1.  Buy the full, 6-page paper:  $28.88

or

2.  Buy + remove from all search engines
(Google, Yahoo, Bing) for 30 days:  $38.88

or

3.  Access all 175,000+ papers:  $41.97/mo

(Already a member?  Click to download the paper!)

or

4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

Observation of Phenomenon Aurora Borealis and Mammatus Clouds Essay


Atmospheric Issues Global Warming Term Paper


Thorough Scientific Inquiry Into Extraterrestrial Life and Extrasolar Planets Term Paper


Global Air Circulation Patterns Thesis


El Nino Southern Oscillation (Enso) Research Paper


View 95 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Atmospheric Phenomenon.  (2005, April 25).  Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/atmospheric-phenomenon/6219818

MLA Format

"Atmospheric Phenomenon."  25 April 2005.  Web.  19 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/atmospheric-phenomenon/6219818>.

Chicago Format

"Atmospheric Phenomenon."  Essaytown.com.  April 25, 2005.  Accessed May 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/atmospheric-phenomenon/6219818.