Inside the tornado swarms and supercells that ripped through Dallas


The  tornadoes that have devastated parts of Dallas and Fort Worth on Tuesday are vertical funnels of rapidly spinning air.

The giant tornadoes, believed in this case to be around 46-56,000 feet tall, have winds of up to 150 miles an hour.

They are the most violent of all atmospheric storms, and can cut a devastating pathway up to a mile wide and 50 miles (80 kilometers) long.

The giant tornadoes that tore through the Dallas area on Tuesday are around 46-56,000 feet tall and have winds of up to 150 miles an hour

The giant tornadoes that tore through the Dallas area on Tuesday are around 46-56,000 feet tall and have winds of up to 150 miles an hour

This graphic from the National Severe Storms Laboratory shows how a tornado works

This graphic from the National Severe Storms Laboratory shows how a tornado works and their scale

The most destructive twisters are formed from huge thunderstorms dubbed 'supercells'.

Occasionally, a single storm will produce more than one tornado, either simultaneously or in quick succession. Reports from Dallas reported multiple 'touchdowns' of twisters from two massive separate storms, with at least two separate tornadoes on the ground.

Multiple tornadoes produced by the same storm cell are referred to as a 'tornado family' or swarm.

If there is no break in activity, this is considered a tornado outbreak, and these can continue for several days, known as a tornado outbreak sequence.

A Tornado forms when changes in wind speed and direction create a horizontal spinning effect deep inside a storm cell. This effect is then tipped vertical by rising air moving up through the thunderclouds.

People, cars, and even buildings can be ripped into the air, and most injuries and deaths are caused by flying debris.

People, cars, and even buildings can be ripped into the air, and most injuries and deaths are caused by flying debris. The Dallas storms tossed around 18-wheeler trucks in seconds

People, cars, and even buildings can be ripped into the air, and most injuries and deaths are caused by flying debris. The Dallas storms tossed around 18-wheeler trucks in seconds

The easily recognisable 'twisters' are formed in thunderstorms and are often accompanied by hail, as they have been in Dallas.

Reports of the hail have varied from pea sized to baseball sized in the worst hit areas, with shocking TV footage of hailstorms smashing the back of a pickup truck.

Although they occur around the world, the United States is a major hotspot with an estimated thousand tornadoes every year, causing 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries per year.

The most notorious area is so-called  'Tornado Alley,' a region that includes eastern South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, and eastern Colorado.

Last year was a record breaking one for the tornado in the US.

However, the biggest ever 'Super Outbreak' occurred on April 3-4, 1974, when more than 148 tornadoes were confirmed and 330 people were killed.


 

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