Portraits of Natural Disasters: Thunderstorms, Cyclones and Twisters

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Twister Storm

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From thunder and lightning storms to twisters and cyclones, natural phenomenons both thrill, shock and devastate many countries across the world. We take a look at how they start.


Thunder and lightning

Starting as grey cloud which covers the sky, thunderstorms consist of loud clapping noises coming from the clouds as they bash together in the distance. Often with thunder comes lightning – and as light travels faster than sounds – usually you will see the whole sky illuminate before your very eyes before hearing the eerie claps of thunder.

The type of clouds involved in thunderstorms is the cumulonimbus, a tall and dense cloud which is usually present in adverse weather.

Thunderstorms occur when moist and warm air rises very quickly. The warm air cools as it rises, which results in the cumulonimbus clouds which can appear incredibly high up in the atmosphere. The droplets of water which have risen then form into ice and fall through the thick clouds. As they fall, they collide with similar droplets, which are larger in size, and create an even bigger mass of ice drops. During their descent, winds are formed which soon spreads and causes strong winds. This is a thunderstorm, and can be quite scary!



Tropical Cyclone
via NASA Earth Observatory

A devastating type of storm, a cyclone occurs when winds blow around an area of atmospheric pressure. In the Northern Hemisphere, they occur when winds spiral anticlockwise, and in the Southern Hemisphere they occur when winds turn clockwise.

Most of the notorious devastating cyclones have occurred over an area of low atmospheric pressure, such as in polar areas.

Tropical cyclones are equally devastating, but fall under another category. These occur over oceans where the water is warm (at least 26°c) and the water evaporates to form clouds. If the air pressure is low where the clouds form, it sucks the cloud inside itself and it begins to spin. At this stage, the cyclone can either lose momentum, or gain momentum and turn into a devastating natural disaster.


Eye of the storm

The eye of the storm is the central point of a tropical cyclone where the weather is, rather ironically, calm. The area is circular, which is where the name eye stems from, and it is surrounded by the eyewall, which is where the thunderstorm clouds occur in a ring. The eye of the storm is calm as the weather forms around it.

Natural disasters are undoubtedly fascinating, but in so many circumstances have been so devastating. Ensure you keep yourself safe in severe weather warning by keeping up-to-date on storm progress.

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