Research Paper on Severe Tornadoes and Thunderstorms

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Severe tornadoes and thunderstorms can be very dangerous. They can cause thousands of dollars in damage and even kill thousands of people. When there is a severe thunderstorm, it can create more violent and extreme weather, for example flash floods and lightning. Thunderstorms can also create tornadoes, which “are the most violent of all atmospheric storms” (Tornado Basics, 2018). Unfortunately for many decades, the United States has suffered because of the many weather disasters it has endured. From the many events that the United States has been through, it has helped people be better prepared for any further weather disasters that can occur in the near future. It is important to learn how tornadoes and thunderstorms occur before you can learn about the many historical events we have already experienced.

Meteorological Causes/Concepts Of Severe Tornadoes/Thunderstorms

Tornadoes are rotating clouds that have a funnel shape to them and they usually develop from thunderstorms. A known fact about tornadoes is that they form from supercell thunderstorms (Samson and Ahrens, Page 348). The stages that tornadoes go through are very similar to those of thunderstorms. The first stage called “the dust-whirl stage” is where dust from the ground is picked up by the air in a circular motion, while a funnel shaped cloud is heading down from the base of the thunderstorm. The next stage known as “the mature stage” is where the tornado can cause extreme damage since it has become more powerful (Samson and Ahrens, Page 336). No tornado is ever the same, so each one can cause a different amount of damage. The last stage known as “the decay stage” is where the tornado is stretched into the shape of a rope and eventually goes away (Samson and Ahrens, Page 337). The stages of a tornado are mainly seen in big tornadoes.

Thunderstorms are just storms that have lightning and thunder, and sometimes can also have heavy rain. The three things needed for a thunderstorm to happen are “unstable air, moisture, and a lifting mechanism” (Thunderstorms and Tornadoes, Page 3). All thunderstorms must go through three stages that are known as “the cumulus stage, the mature stage, and the dissipating stage” (Thunderstorms Basics). In the cumulus stage, the warm air turns into cooler air and condenses into a single cumulus cloud(s). In the next stage, the mature stage, clouds known as cumulonimbus clouds start to form and a downdraft is created, which causes a lot of precipitation to fall from the storm. Finally, in the dissipating stage, the downdrafts begin to take over the cloud and updrafts begin to weaken. Once this starts to happen, the cold air begins to take over the surface, prohibiting the warm air from reaching the storm, which causes it to die down (Samson and Ahrens, Page 301).

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Major Consequences Of Tornadoes/Thunderstorms

The “Great Tri-State Tornado” was an extremely deadly and monstrous tornado that happened in the United States (Startling Statistics). This deadly tornado happened on March 19, 1925 and it went through three neighboring states which were Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois. The tornado hit the ground at 1:00 pm near Ellington, Missouri and dispersed at around 4:00 pm close to Petersburg, Indiana. It averaged a speed of about 62 miles per hour (Startling Statistics). According to the Fujita Scale, the Tri-State Tornado was categorized as an EF5.

This deadly tornado traveled about 200 miles, and since this was before modern forecasting, the tornado took many people by surprise and left very little time for them to find shelter and let everybody else know. Over 20 communities were affected by the distance of about 13 counties. The state that suffered the most damage with this deadly tornado was Illinois. This tornado also broke a record with most killed by a single tornado, about 700 people were killed. An estimated total of 2,000 people were injured and nearly 15,000 homes were destroyed (Startling Statistics). A severe thunderstorm happened in Wisconsin on July 4, 1977, which was known as the “Independence Day 1977 Downbursts” (Independence Day). The first hit happened around 1:00 pm and it was 167 miles long and up to 18 miles wide. This was brought by the straight-line winds of the thunderstorm complex (Independence Day). In the County of Sawyer, the winds were surpassing 120 miles per hour causing a lot of damage such as trees being crushed, one fatal death, and about 10 injured.

In Price County, it was reported that winds were going about 100 miles per hour, causing 32 homes to be destroyed and most buildings were damaged. A total of 173,000 acres of forest were either severely damaged or completely demolished, and about 25 people were injured (Independence Day). In the County of Oneida around 3:00 pm, the wind continued to blow at about 120 miles per hour, where ten houses sustained damage. In comparison to the County of Price, 250,000 acres of forest had sustained damage, seven people were injured but there was fortunately no deaths. This event did not have many casualties, it just mainly caused a lot of damage to properties and trees, resulting in over $25 million of damage in a couple counties in Wisconsin (Independence Day).


Before modern forecasting, people used to rely on newspapers, telling each other from town to town, or by just looking at the sky and seeing how the weather looked like that day. Since they did not have a fast way to be warned about potential problems in their area, it was always for the most part too late when people would find out about a tornado or thunderstorm warning. Many people lost their homes and some people even lost their lives because of these weather events that they were not prepared for. The good things about things getting better and evolving over time especially technology, today there are many ways the government can detect and let people know information needed when tornadoes or thunderstorms are headed their way.

Nowadays, the way that the United States can predict potential dangerous weather phenomenons is through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) since they track that sort of information. The way they are able to achieve this is with the help of weather satellites, weather radars, storm spotters, ensemble forecasting, and ensemble forecasting (Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning). Usually when severe tornadoes or thunderstorms are predicted to occur, the SPC gives out a “Tornado or Severe Thunderstorm Watch” letting people know to watch out for them (Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning). Since tornadoes and thunderstorms are very common in certain parts of the United States, people have to prepare for them. One way to prepare is to have a secure and sturdy room to protect themselves and their family, or have an underground shelter, basement, or safe room to wait out the tornado or thunderstorm. Another useful idea that can help out is if you have an extra radio with batteries that way you can find out what is happening and when things get safer. It also would be very helpful to have an emergency kit that has all the necessary items to survive for a couple of days.


Severe tornadoes and thunderstorms are known to cause severe damage to properties and natural life, as well as kill thousands of people. This can be seen in historical weather events, such as the 1925 Tri-State Tornado and the Independence Day 1977 Downbursts. Although the technology back then was not enough to help predict and prevent damage caused by these phenomena, technology now is way more advanced and continues to evolve which allows for more modern devices to be used to predict this violent weather and help prevent more damage. Before your are able to predict and prevent these events from happening, one has to understand how these particular weather events happen in the atmosphere.

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