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Name: Kassey
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Question:
I want to know if a tornado can be on the ground and change directions to the opposite direction it started off going? If it is going NE can it change and go SW, while on the ground?


Replies:
Kassey,

A tornado may be located at the center of a thunderstorm or it may form towards the outside of the storm.

In the first case the track of the storm will be the same as the thunderstorm and therefore fairly straight; some movement to one side or the other of the general direction of the storm is common. Generally these tornados are the largest and most destructive.

However, in the second case, the tornado moves around the edge of the thunderstorm as the thunderstorm rotates and can form spirals (as seen from damage patterns on the ground); therefore the tornado can change direction during its lifetime, sometimes making several loops, depending on how long it lasts and exactly where it's located under the thunderstorm. So, it could be traveling to the NE and then later to the SW, although it is still being carried forward with the thunderstorm that produced it.

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


The trajectory of a tornado is very unpredictable. They are very non-equilibrium conditions of the atmosphere. They can go left/right, forward/backward, up/down in all combinations.

Vince Calder


You may want to make an analogy of a tornado with a spinning top on a smooth, hard surface. The path is not always predictable.

Steve Sample


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