National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Western Heat Wave Continues; Watching the Gulf of Mexico

A dangerous heat wave will continue to bring record temperatures to much of the West through this week. A tropical disturbance in the southwest Gulf of Mexico will likely form into a tropical depression late this week over the central or northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Heavy rain could begin to impact portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Friday. Read More >

Slide 14

The Reality of a Tornadic Circulation in the Real Atmosphere

The reality of a tornadic circulation in the real atmosphere (which just happens to be where people live!), is that the wind has a very strong horizontal component. In fact, in most cases, the strongest horizontal *and* vertical components of the wind can be found not far above the surface. In addition, in almost ALL tornadoes, the very strong wind extends outside the diameter of the visible funnel – and in many cases, a considerable distance outside the visible funnel. It also needs to be emphasized (and this will come as no surprise to those who are well educated about tornadoes) that not ALL tornadoes exhibit a visible funnel cloud! Many tornadoes have been filmed where there is no visible condensation funnel connecting the cloud base to the ground. The only evidence that the tornado circulation exists at ground level in these cases is usually a dirt or debris cloud at the surface underneath a funnel cloud aloft, giving the illusion that the tornado is not ‘on the ground.’

Explicit illustration of this idea can be seen by looking once again at the KFOR-TV video image captures displayed on the right of Slide 9. Notice the incredible amount of flying debris - some of it being huge pieces of buildings - that would take very intense wind speeds to take airborne. This is despite the fact that the edge of the visible condensation funnel has not yet moved into the frame of reference. These intense winds are occurring OUTSIDE the visible condensation funnel of the tornado!

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