This area has been noted for high activity of one of the most unpredictable and destructive forces of mother nature in the United States of America, tornadoes, which are a highly destructive circular wind storm. This area is also notable flatter than a majority of the rest of the United States of America, as well as a higher temperature swing than the rest of the country. Both properties are a catalyst than help these destructive storms form. I will discuss what a tornado is, the five themes dealing with the area and these storms, the effects and effects and how the prediction of the storm has progressed since first being noticed.
Mother nature is another term we use when defining the weather systems of the planet we live on. Weather is the state of the atmosphere of the planet at a given time, which includes storms, temperature, earthquakes, tornadoes, and many other instantaneous events. This paper will focus attention to one of these events named tornadoes, a highly destructive weather events than can spawn anywhere on the planet.
They are usually only on the surface for a brief period but cause complete and utter destruction in its path. It is a narrow rotating column of air, usually forming a funnel, which one can easily see as the top area near the base of the cloud it is formed from is thicker than the bottom that is near or on the surface of the planetary landmass or water (‘Tornado Basics’).
These storms usually form in area that are flat and in area where there is a thunderstorm occurring but have been seen in other areas and at different times.
As I have already stated, these storms happen all over the planet, but the United States see most of these events, which in an average year is around 1200 tornadoes, while most areas see an average of about twenty (‘Tornado Basics’). As these violent storms approach many people claim to hear the wind first, sounding as if a freight train is passing by. This is caused by the roaring gusts of wind in a straight motion that has been tracked at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour.
Typically, they form during severe thunderstorms, where there are other weather forces spotted. For example, many have been seen after first noticing plenty of lightning, large piece of ice or hail, and are sometimes accompanied by flash flooding, which is when there is a high accumulation of water that will not drain. The strength of these storms is classified from the modern Enhanced Fujita or EF scale ranging from EF0, a very weak tornado, much like a dust devil, all the way up to an EF5, which is a storm that may last hours instead of minutes and follow a path of hundreds of miles, instead just a few miles (Hubbard). Generally, most of these storms last only five minutes, but even the smaller ones can cause a wake of destruction in its path, especially if formed over a metropolitan area.
It has also been seen that these storms tend to skip, usually the weaker ones, that is because the strong are not strong enough to maintain themselves and often deform and reform as they move along their path. The destructive forces also form usually flat areas where cold low-pressure air meets up with warm moist air (Brooks). Very few weather events are this unpredictable and destructive, I would say only earthquakes and volcanoes carry both same characteristics. This destructive force of nature is only a small part of what geography can tell us about these storms or where they commonly occur.
Geography’s must important understanding tool is the five themes of geography, which are location, place, human interaction or environment, movement, and region. First, let us look at location, which is the specific area, either relative or absolute, in relation to a map (Foresman & Strahler 4). One device that can help to acquire your location is a GPS or global positioning system. Almost everyone has one of these devices now thanks to smartphones. The area of the midwestern United States tornado alley, is most commonly referred to as the middle or inner portion of the United States between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. Tornadoes do not have a specific location until they are spotted, but are typically formed over flat land, water, and snow ([email protected]).
Moreover, the two main classification of tornadoes are tornadoes, which are located on landmasses and waterspouts, which are located on the water surface, but turn into tornadoes should they reach landfall ([email protected]). Place is just a classification that make the area distinguishable from other areas (Foresman & Strahler 4). Tornado Alley is an area of the United States that is much flatter than the rest of the country, also referred to as the great plains of the United States. Some research has even been done to see if part of this area is even flatter than a pancake, which was proven to be true (Fonstad, Pugatch, & Vogt).
High-temperature ranges are also noted in this area accompanied by high rainfall activity, both of which are some of the root cause for severe weather. Tornadoes are usually attracted to these areas, but they are also a prominent feature of another undiscussed weather event, a hurricane, which is another type circular storm, but these are predictable, and many citizens of an area are given days in not weeks of advance into preparation of its arrival ([email protected]).
The next theme is human interaction and environment, which help geographers understand how human build upon a relationship of the earth that allow them to adapt to the planet’s surroundings or alter it for their survival or pleasure (Foresman & Strahler 4). The great plains area of the United States uses the flatter feature to form massive agricultural field. The farms are usually quite large cause most of the landscape to be very rural. Since the tornadoes like this type of topography, its citizen has had to build cellars or basements below their homes, so should one pass in their vicinity, they may lose their homes and property, but their lives will remain ([email protected]). One classic example of this is from the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” (Zimmerman).
The movie shows that when a huge funnel cloud touched down, Dorothy’s family went into a storm cellar, but Dorothy did not. In contrast, her family remained, but the home lifted off the ground carrying her to a new world, over the rainbow. This is a fantasy of the storm awful destructive force, but still shows the damage that can be done. Some other interaction that humans utilize is to tape up their windows so that broken glasses does not scatter over the yard nor inside the home, should it remain. Another interaction is that people tend to open both a front and a back door to equalize the pressure as a storm passes by, but this has been recently proven by the media to be an ineffective tool of defense. Movement studies how people, goods, ideas, and weather travel across the planet (Foresman & Strahler 4).
In the Midwest, goods usually leave this area from the previously mentioned farms. People typically move into this area from the east to settle down into a simpler life. Tornadoes on the other hand usually move along the path of the storm that created it, but just as it has been unpredictable to warn of its arrival, it can also stray from its path if the right conditions keep it located within the storm cell ([email protected]). They can also skip areas as the begin to decompose and reform, and some rare occurrences they can become much stronger should two neighboring tornadoes approach each other and combine into a larger storm. Finally, geography studies the region, which in more detail, is how specific area or weather events are grouped (Foresman & Strahler 4).
The tornado alley of the midwestern Unites States is a flat area of the country, as well as it being very humid with very warm summers and frigid winters. Tornadoes are typically attracted to these areas and are organized by strength of size and wind speed noted from the Enhanced Fujita scale ([email protected]). All the show the general principles of a tornado, but what about the reason and burden they produce.
These reasons are the effects of the tornado and the burdens are simply the affects. In other words, the effects are what cause the tornado to form and the affects are how humans react to the violent funnel systems. To get the tornado to form requires a perfect condition of three separate weather conditions. First, there needs to be a layer of warm humid air with strong winds (Zimmerman). Adversely, there also needs to be a layer of cold air with west or southwesterly winds (Zimmerman). Finally, there needs to be a layer of warm air between the layers of initial warm air below and the cold air above (Zimmerman).
All three of these must combine to form this perfect storm system (Zimmerman). Typically, this happens more in the afternoon hours as there is more warm air that has been heated by the sun all day long, but it can occur at any given time just like it can occur in any part of the world (Zimmerman). The consequences of the storms, or affects, explain how humans react to the destructive forces of nature. Many health hazards form from tornadoes crossing through the plains. Asbestos is the first risk, as many older structures were made with this before we knew what it caused (Fitzgerald). Unfortunately, as a tornado move through, it can rip these buildings apart, allowing the chemical to be introduced into the soil and the atmosphere. Through both of these it can affect the water supply.
Another health hazard is that household chemical can introduced to the soil after being thrown around by the tornado (Fitzgerald). Some of the products are cleaning supplies, automotive products, pesticides, and paint. Both of these risks usually require humans to boil their water before drinking it or at least drinking bottled water. As for the household chemicals, this can even affect the life of plants, as it can change the soil composition. It can also harm animals is they eat these plants and even getting eaten by other animal affect those higher it the food chain. Flash flooding is another risk of these storms as the run a path they can uproot trees and those trees along with other debris can clog drains and create temporary dams in nearby rivers (Fitzgerald). This cause the water to no longer recede and stay should rain continue to fall. As debris and tree dry out, if they are not properly disposed of can even cause fire to form should they receive a spark or even a lightning strike. Measures to detect these storms is a must if people want to avoid some of these risks.
The first report storm was reported in 1643, from a town in Massachusetts (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). It was mayor that spotted by a strong gust of wind that lifted his meeting house and caused a nearby tree to fall other a spectator killing him. Several years and many more tornadoes later, the United States Army created rules for predicting the storms, even banning the word tornado as to not cause a mass panic. About 40 years later in 1925, a massive tornado swept through Missouri (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”).
This storm was reported to be on the ground for three and a half hours and traveled 219 miles killing 695 people and injuring 2000. The word tornado was still banned, but it did not stop a reporter from naming this tornado the Tri-State Tornado (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). By 1942, an additional 132 tornadoes were reported killing 223 people, all of which in different areas of the young country (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). A couple years later weather observers began reporting on thunderstorms, hailstorms, lightning, and high winds all of which were favorable conditions for tornado producing systems, however the national public was still not aware this was happening (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”).
In 1948, a tornado struck Tinker Air Force base throwing even heavy military vehicles around like they were toys being thrown by a child having a temper tantrum (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). This tornado was also the first recorded F5 as the Enhanced Fujita scale was not implemented yet, only the Fujita Scale was available (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). Five days later another storm of similar strength passed though and this time they though a tornado would hit them (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). They were correct as another weaker storm passed through and most were prepared for it (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). Now 407 years after the first reported storm, the year, 1950, the states of Kansas and Oklahoma, both of which located in tornado alley, developed a system of watches and warnings that were allowed for the national public to hear (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”).
In 1955, the Severe Local Storm Center (SLSC) produced the first manual for meteorologists to predict tornadoes (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). Ten years later, the first true test of this system occurred with utter failure (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). A major storm developed in Indiana but unfortunately the public was not warned of its advance quick enough as many media stations could not communicate as well as they can today (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). Now in the year 1972, another branch of the military, the United States Airforce, produced a new set of rules for prediction including large hail and convective wind gusts (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). By 1990, doppler radar was finally created, which allow the National Weather Service to improve their warning to the public (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”).
This combined satellite imagery along the local radar to allow fractions of a second to see if a tornado was possible of occurring and they would be able to warn the public quickly (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). In 1999, new radar technology allows these warning and watch of up to half an hour before a severe storm may arrive (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). In fact, an EF5 was predicted in one state with a 39-minute warning (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). This storm, while it was strong, only killed 11 people due to the advanced warning allowing people to shelter into a safe place (‘History of Tornado Forecasting”). While these storms are unpredictable, there is much higher understanding in today’s world as well as high technological advancement, that can now at least give the public ample time to prepare and shelter for tornadoes.
Tornadoes are highly unpredictable funnel-shaped storms producing high gusts of wind and plenty of destruction. They are usually located in flat areas with very humid air but can occur anywhere. There is an area in the United States, that due to it being very flat and warm, produces a high amount of these storms yearly. As these storms move through they can also affect the water supply and biosystem of the planet. Technology, however, has improved in this past half a century allowing the public to not panic about the storm but finally prepare, though it is still a short warning. As we keep advancing our technology, maybe instead of improving these warnings, we might find a way to stop these storms or even prevent them from forming in the first place.