"Tornado Simulation" WebApp Courtesy of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS). Copyright 2013 by Tom Whittaker at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
See this destructive force in action
Adjust the tornado's funnel width and core pressure difference in this simulation, then click the "go" button and observe the different types of wind damage tornadoes can produce.
What do these measurements mean?
Funnel width: The part of the tornado we can see is the funnel, which is the tube that extends from the cloud to the ground. The effects of the wind from the tornado are much bigger than just the funnel, though.
Pressure difference and rotating speed: The pressure diff refers to the air pressure at the center of the funnel compared to the surrounding air. Most tornadoes have a calm center with low air pressure. This low pressure area draws in higher pressure air and forms the vortex that leads to a tornado. A bigger difference in pressure makes a bigger tornado with faster winds. That's why increasing the difference in pressure also increases the wind speed in this simulation.
In this tornado simulator, the fastest wind speed is 220 miles per hour, but tornadoes' wind speeds can be as high as 300 miles per hour.
How do we measure tornadoes?
All tornadoes, and most other severe local windstorms, are assigned a single number from the Enhanced Fujita Scale according to the most intense damage caused by the storm.
- EF0 (weak): 65-85 mph, light damage.
- EF1 (weak): 86-110 mph, moderate damage.
- EF2 (strong): 111-135 mph, considerable damage.
- EF3 (strong): 136-165 mph, severe damage.
- EF4 (violent): 166-199 mph, devastating damage.
- EF5 (violent): 200-230 mph, (rare) incredible damage.