Purdue University study of tornado formation indicates that twisters can develop in unexpected ways and at unexpected times and places, a discovery that presents a new twist to weather watchers across the country.
While people generally expect tornadoes to form from isolated storm cells in the evening in springtime, a survey of weather data led by Purdue researcher Robert "Jeff" Trapp has revealed that a significant number of tornadoes form under unexpected circumstances. Especially in the Midwest, many tornadoes form from "line-shaped" storms often associated with large weather fronts. Such tornadoes are more likely to form during winter months, late at night. These data were taken from a survey of 3,800 tornadoes that formed over the United States from 1998-2000. (Purdue University/Trapp laboratories)
Although tornadoes are often conceived of as arising from springtime storms that develop in early evenings out of isolated weather cells, a new study spearheaded by Purdues Robert "Jeff" Trapp indicates those conceptions often fail to hold, especially in the Midwest. Although far from the so-called "Tornado Alley," a region that falls generally in the plains of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, the Midwest still experiences a high number of the storms every year.
After examining data on more than 3,800 U.S. tornadoes, Trapps team has found that many twisters develop within the line-shaped storm fronts that often sweep across the country. The twist is that these are tornadoes that are more likely to form late at night and in colder months.
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