Compiled by Rob Thomas and John McDaris
Animations and films that illustrate or help students investigate how tornadoes form, current research about the science involved, and the effects of tornados of different strengths.
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| Tornado Formation
| Interactive Visualizations
May 22, 2011 Joplin, MO, Tornado
Joplin, MO, Tornadic Supercell
- McIDAS images of GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data showed the rapid development of the supercell thunderstorm that produced the deadly tornado at Joplin, Missouri (station identifier JLN) on 22 May 2011.
Before And After: A Bird's-Eye View Of Joplin
- Aerial before and after images of the area around Joplin High School just two days after a deadly tornado on May 22, 2011. NPR has also put together a collection of side-by-side Street Views
before and after the storm.
Devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri
- This amateur footage by four meteorology students shows the tornado from several perspectives and also its development over time. The end of the video shows some of the aftermath of the tornado's passing.
April 2011 Tornado Outbreaks
Witness to Dangerous Tornado
(April 27, 2011) - Chris England of Crimson Tide Productions filmed this tornado as it approached the campus of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. The tornado pictured is likely an EF4 or EF5 (Enhanced Fujita Tornado Damage Scale
(April 27, 2011) - This weather.com
video shows what appears to be a double tornado or double funnel as it moved through Cullman, Alabama. The video was shot by Dixon Thuston of Birmingham.
Tornado in Tuscaloosa, AL
(April 27, 2011) - This live weather coverage from CBS42 in Birmingham shows very clear images of the tornado that tore through the city of Tuscaloosa, AL.
Click and Interact: Tornado Outbreak Strikes the South
- This page from weather.com
features a clickable map outlining reports of tornadoes (red symbols) that have devastated parts of the South since Monday.
(April 27, 2011) - Video of the tornado in Tuscaloosa, AL taken by Clay Hasenfuss.
Tornado Damage Before and After: Tuscaloosa
- This picture, published on the jimmyjosh blog
shows the before and after at a point south of the University of Alabama looking north toward campus.
Record April: Severe Weather Scorecard - This set of pages from weather.com goes over each April 2011 severe weather event, with maps, notable tidbits, and links to articles, video and/or photo collections.
Catching a Tornado, National Geographic (more info) A series of three Flash-based movies captured from a meteorological probe placed in the path of an oncoming tornado, documenting the high wind speeds, the debris carried by the storm, and the motion of the funnel as it passes along the ground. The film features footage from six different on-board cameras, each facing in a different direction to give a 360° view of the storm. - Researchers put out ground-based probes to gather data about tornadoes. One of these proves receives an almost direct hit as a tornado passes over and manages to catch up-close video and data.
F4 Tuscaloosa, Alabama Tornado - December 16, 2000
- ABC 33/40 coverage of the December 16, 2000 Tuscaloosa F4 tornado captured live by the towercam in Tuscaloosa.
Train vs. Tornado
- This surveillance video shows what happens when a tornado and a train occupy the same piece of track. The page also contains the National Weather Service report on the tornado that caused the damage.
Tornado Simulation, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (more info) A Flash-based animation of an incredibly detailed tornado simulation, including both particles and ribbons to demonstrate wind motion and the tornado's activity. Moving particles are color coded as they rise and fall, and cone-shaped particles on the ground show the direction of the wind's pull at the Earth's surface. Visually stunning, and information rich, this animation was originally produced for use in an episode of the PBS series NOVA.
Tornado-forming supercell simulation, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (more info) A Flash-based animation of a simulation of a supercell thunderstorm that forms a tornado. This rendering is designed to show cloud movement as the storm forms, including the formation of the vortex and the subsequent updraft of the thunderstorm. This animation is another originally produced for use in an episode of the PBS series NOVA.
Examine an animation of a tornado, McDougal Littell (more info) A Flash-based computer simulation of the movement of air within the vortex of a tornado. The 3D tornado is color-coded by air pressure, and air motion can be seen as the tornado picks up marker particles and carries them through the vortex. Buildings can also be overlaid on the tornado in order to give a sense of the size of the simulated vortex.
Tornado Simulations, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (more info) MPEG simulations of tornados, including 3D models of both wind movement using particles, and 3D models of pressure changes and motion within the vortex. This series of four visualizations demonstrates these tornadic features using different rendering techniques and different particles moving within the storm.
Supercell Thunderstorm Simulations, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (more info) A series of three MPEG videos showing simulations of supercell thunderstorms and the funnel clouds and tornados that the thunderstorms generate. These visualizations demonstrate how clouds move throughout the life of a tornado, allowing the viewer to see how winds shift during the formation of a funnel cloud.
May Thunderstorm Simulations, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (more info) This series of MPEG videos shows simulations of thunderstorms based on data gathered in Oklahoma in May 1995. The simulations highlight vortices formed in the thunderstorm as red clouds, as these areas have a high likelihood of forming tornados. The simulation also shows wind speed and direction, and the motion of the storm.
Tornado/Microburst Simulator, Iowa State (more info) This Windows Media Video uses dry ice and particles to show the flow of air within the Iowa State Tornado Simulator, used for testing models as in a wind tunnel. The video offers a chance to see air motion within the funnel, and also observe how the vortex moves as the tornado speeds across the simulated ground.
Tornado Wind Patterns, Prentice Hall (more info) A Flash animation demonstrating how wind patterns lead to the formation of tornados. First, vertical wind shear leads to air spinning parallel to the ground. If an updraft then occurs, a thunderstorm forms and moves the spinning air into a vertical position, potentially creating a full-blown tornado.
Birth of a Tornado, MSNBC (more info) A Flash-based slide show that uses animation to show how winds combine to create the possibility of a tornado within a supercell storm. The feature explains how atmoshperic conditions increase the likelihood of tornados, and where tornados are most likely to form within a storm.
How Tornadoes Form, USA Today (more info) A Flash-based interactive using diagrams to explain, in simple terms, how and under what conditions tornados form. Also included are tips for tornado safety: indoors, outdoors, and, specifically, near overpasses.
Interactive Twister, The Why Files, University of Wisconsin (more info) This Java applet allows students to determine the size and core pressure difference of a tornado, and unleash it on trees, a trailer, a house, a car, and a cow to see its destructive effects. After the simulated storm, students are asked to asses the magnitude of the tornado using the F-scale, showing the relationship of size, core pressure difference, and the resulting damage.
Rate Tornado Damage, NOVA (more info) An interactive Flash animation that educates students about the Fujita scale for rating tornado wind speeds and the damage caused by tornados. After being presented with photographs of tornado damage, students are challenged to assign the tornado a rating on the F-scale. The interactive explains the different levels of the F-scale and provides instant feedback on whether or not the correct category was assigned to the tornado.
Animations of Severe Weather Annual Cycle, National Severe Storm Laboratory (more info) This collection of Java applets uses animated maps of the United States to illustrate the probability of severe weather for each week of an average year. The maps help to illustrate how the likelihood of tornados changes over the course of a year and how the chances of tornados vary by region. Maps are available to show the probability of any tornado, or the probability of only significant and violent tornados.
Time Series of Tornado Probability, National Severe Storm Laboratory ( This site may be offline. ) An interactive United States map that generates graphs illustrating the seasonal probabilities of tornados for locations across the US. The graphs illustrate the average likelihood of tornados over a 75-year period, along with the changing probability of tornados over 15-year periods from 1921 to 1995. By clicking the appropriate map region, graphs can be generated for specific locations within the US.
Storm Report Map (more info) This website overlays each day's storms as they occur on a Google Map, pinpointing the location where tornados occurred. The site has data since 5 May 2004, and any day since can be consulted. For particularly impressive sets of tornados, try 2 April 2006 or 12 November 2005.