Satellite image courtesy of NOAA
Springtime may bring the promise of April showers and May flowers. But it also brings the possibility of extreme weather, including violent thunder-storms and tornadoes.
Most countries experience tornadoes, but they occur more frequently in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains, than anywhere else on Earth. On average, almost 1000 tornadoes touch down in the U.S. each year, leaving in their wake destruction and sometimes death.
How Tornadoes Form
Thunderstorms form when warm, moist air collides with an eastward moving cold front. These storms often produce strong winds, damaging hail, and even tornadoes. A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. A tornado’s characteristic funnel shape is visible because of water droplets, dust, and other debris that are caught up in the swirling air.
Measuring the Force of a Tornado
The force of a tornado is measured using the Fujita Scale, which ranks tornadoes based on the level of damage caused by the storm. The scale ranges from F-0 for a storm that causes light damage to F-5 for a storm that leaves incredible damage.
Mapping Tornado Frequency in the U.S.
a) Distribute to students copies of the handout. Have student examine the data in the handout to identify which states average the highest number of tornadoes each year.
b) Next, distribute blank U.S. maps. Have students construct choropleth maps showing the frequency of tornadoes by state in the U.S.
c) Explain to students that areas with a high occurrence of tornadoes have been given the nicknames of “Tornado Alley” and “Dixie Alley.” Have them refer to their maps to locate these two regions that experience many tornadoes each year.
Extending the Activity
Divide the class into three groups and assign each group one of the following research topics. When students have completed their research, have each group report back to the class.
i. Structure of a tornado
ii. Fujita Scale
iii. Tornado Alley/Dixie Alley
National Geographic Bee Competitions
The state competition of the National Geographic Bee was held on March 27 in each state and the District of Columbia. Fifty-one state champs as well as champions from the United States Territories and Department of Defense schools will travel to National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. for the national championship on May 11 to 13. View the list of state Bee champions.
The national championship preliminary rounds will take place on Monday, May 11, in Washington, D.C. The national championship final rounds, featuring the top ten finalists and moderated by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, will be held on Wednesday, May 13, at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. National Geographic Channel will air the final round of the National Geographic Bee Championship at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Friday, May 15, and on Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD. It will also air on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.
Gain a Global Perspective
The 2014 National Geographic Bee finalists gush about geography.
How to Help
Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.
Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!
Simply memorizing terms and place locations can be tedious and even boring. One solution is to make the task fun with an atlas-based scavenger game.
The movement of people, goods, or ideas from one place to another is a process known as diffusion, which plays an important role in shaping the characteristics of where we live.
Springtime brings the possibility of extreme weather, including violent thunderstorms and tornadoes.