TEMPEST is a database of historical weather extremes in the UK. Bring these stories to your classroom with our user guide.
This lesson investigates what tornadoes are, how they form and their occurrence in the UK using data from the TEMPEST database.
What is a tornado?
How do they form?
Where and when are they likely to happen?
What impact can a tornado have?
Which parts of the UK have experienced a tornado?
Why are they unusual events in the UK?
A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air stretching between the base of a storm cloud and the Earth's surface. Tornadoes can form if lots of conditions are just right. These conditions can vary slightly but require very unsettled weather conditions.
Tornadoes occur in lots of places around the world, most usually in the continent of North America. Central USA has a region named 'Tornado Alley', because of the frequency and intensity of tornadoes there. In this region, warm air from the Gulf of Mexico in spring and summer meets with cool air from Canada, leading to the build-up of powerful storms which can, if the right conditions are present, produce tornadoes.
The most violent tornadoes are usually found in the USA, Canada and Bangladesh, it is unusual to find them elsewhere. However, they have been known to happen in the UK and the Tempest data base has some documented evidence of where, and of the impacts caused.
World maps and atlases
Digital mapping software access
‘How do Tornadoes form?’ and ‘Where is Tornado Alley and why does it exist?’
NASA video clip USA weather system spawning tornadoes
Digimap for Schools
Next lesson: A year without summer
This is supported by AHRC.
This is supported by research at University of Nottingham.
This is supported by research at University of Liverpool.
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