FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — In order for a tornado to form, there needs to be wind shear, lift, instability and moisture.
Wind shear is the change in wind direction and speed with height.
Lift is a trigger such as a warm front, cold front or an area of low pressure.
Instability is when there is warm, humid air at the surface and cold, dry air aloft.
The warm, humid air rises like a hot air balloon.
Moisture is needed to sustain or fuel the storm.
When there is wind shear, wind at the surface is weaker than the wind in the clouds.
The higher, faster moving air begins to spin and roll over the slower moving air creating a horizontal column of air.
Strong updrafts help the storm to grow.
The more instability, the bigger the storm grows and the more powerful the updrafts can become.
The strong updraft will tilt the cylinder vertically creating what is known as a vortex.
This is visible as a rotating wall cloud.
Downdrafts of dry, cool air help to bring the column of air downward which is usually visible as a funnel cloud.
Once the funnel cloud reaches the ground, it is then a tornado.
The tornado can be on the ground for as little as a few seconds or for hours.
On average, a tornado is on the ground for about five minutes.
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