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Why do tornadoes usually occur over flat land?


The weather conditions that are right for thunderstorms to develop usually occur over flat land, particularly in the plains states east of the Rocky Mountains. These conditions include a combination of strong heating of the ground by solar radiation, existence of horizontal and/or vertical wind shear (differences in speed and direction of the wind horizontally or at different altitudes, which can result from a frontal system, jet stream, etc.), horizontal differences in dew point, etc. Tornadoes usually develop from vortices that occur in a thunderstorm. Vortices are normally produced by vertical and/or horizontal wind shear.

David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory

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