(BigCountryHomepage.com) – The beginning of the week started off with a bang, or really a rumble, of thunder. Thanks to multiple upper-level disturbances, the Big Country finally got some much-needed rain.

Along with the rain, we also saw a handful of strong and even severe thunderstorms. Reports of hail the size of quarters to golf balls were received from across the Big Country and Heartland Tuesday. One storm was strong enough to warrant a Tornado Warning.

In this experiment on Kayleigh’s Weather Workshop, we are going to make our own tornado in a bottle.  

What are tornadoes?

A tornado is a violent, rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. As the winds rotate, they begin to pick up speed. 

Tornadoes are capable of destroying large buildings and homes, uprooting trees, and throwing cars and other smaller objects countless yards.  

Tornadoes are classified and ranked by the speed of their winds. More specifically, the max speed of a three-second gust. This is done using the Enhanced Fujita Scale listed below.  

EF Rating 3 Second Gust
065-85 mph
186-110 mph
2111-135 mph
3136-165 mph
4166-200 mph
5Over 200 mph
EF Scale Rating with maximum wind gusts

Something to remember about these winds on the EF scale is that they’re based on wind estimates, not measurements. These “estimates” are measured based on damage.

The National Weather Service is the only federal agency with the authority to provide an official tornado EF Scale rating. The service will assign an EF Scale category based on the highest estimated speed that occurred in the damage path. The NWS uses appropriate Damage Indicator (DI) of the 28 used in rating the damage, using the Degree of Damage (DoD), used by the scale. They go around the path of destruction and observe multiple DI and determine a final EF rating.   

How do tornadoes form?

Tornadoes are typically seen in a thunderstorm, or a more specific kind of thunderstorm called a ‘supercell.’ 

A supercell is a long-lived thunderstorm which has the greatest tendency to produce tornadoes. In order for a tornado to materialize, you need warm, moist air to meet cool, dry air. When those two air masses meet, they create instability in the atmosphere. Next, you need something called wind shear, which means the wind increases as well as turn with height.  

When the warm and cold air masses meet, like we have discovered in previous Weather Workshop experiments, the warm air gets lifted over the colder air. This is what forms our supercell. These two air masses continue to interact, and as the warm, moist air gets pushed over the colder, drier air you begin to form a horizontal vortex. Eventually, this horizonal column of air lifts up vertically thanks to the updraft in the supercell. This broad area of rotation within the thunderstorm is where we see tornadoes form.

A lot of the time, they start as a funnel cloud, which is a rotating cone-shaped column of air extending down from the base of the thunderstorm, but is not touching the ground yet. Once this cloud makes contact with the ground, it is called a tornado.

What you do:

Fill one of the two-liter bottles 2/3 full of water.

If you have food coloring or glitter that you want to add, do so now.

Take the tornado tube and twist it on the first bottle. Then, attach the second bottle to the tornado tube. If you do not have the tornado tube, you can use duct tape.

If using duct tape, place the mouth of the second bottle on top of the bottle holding the water. Then, take a piece of duct tape and attach the two bottles together and make the seal as tight as possible.

Place your hand on the tornado tube, or where you have taped the bottles together, and give the bottles a swirl.

Then, quickly turn the bottles so the bottle with the water is on top.

Additional swirling may be needed to encourage the tornado to form.

Come back for our next Weather Workshop on June 9. We stream to KTAB and KRBC‘s Facebook pages live at 4:30 p.m. every other Thursday!

If you have any weather questions or experiments you want to see, send Meteorologist Kayleigh Thomas an email by clicking here. See you soon!