Inside of a Tornado

Inside of a Tornado

How does air turn into a tornado?


5 - 8


Earth Science, Meteorology, Geography, Physical Geography

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Idea for Use in the Classroom

Destructive tornadoes usually come from supercell thunderstorms. These storms often arise in areas where cold, dry air from the poles meets warm, humid air from the tropics. Using the Inside a Tornado infographic, have students write a story about how air particles interact to form a tornado.

Life of an Air Particle

After reading the infographic, have students write a story from the perspective of a particle of air. Have students start their stories before the storm and describe how the air moves and interacts during the formation of a tornado.

Questions students should consider before writing their story:

  • What is the weather like before the supercell?
  • What happens during the supercell thunderstorm?
  • What kinds of paths do the air particles follow?
  • What happens to other particles in the air? For example, do some water molecules freeze and turn into hail?

Tornado Categories

Have students use the Tornado Categories chart on the infographic to decide what category of tornado they fit into.

Questions the students should consider to determine Enhanced Fujita Scale:

  • What category is their particular tornado?
  • As an air particle, how do they affect trees, houses, and cars?

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Specialist, Content Production
Clint Parks
André Gabrielli, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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