Joplin, Missouri, Tornado Strong but Not Surprising?
Warm seas in Gulf of Mexico may have fueled deadly twister.
Tornadoes can spin into being when warm, moist air masses and cold, dry air masses collide, forming storms. The warm air ascends through the colder layers, and given the right wind conditions, the updraft may begin spinning, creating a so-called mesocyclone.
The mesocyclone can eventually form a stormy funnel cloud, which becomes a tornado when it touches down. But a continuous supply of warm air is needed to keep the tornado going—which is where the Gulf of Mexico comes in.
Flowing north into the United States' Tornado Alley region—between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains—the Gulf's warm, moist air is generally a major factor in tornado formation each spring, said Masters, meteorological director for the Weather Underground website.
Making matters worse this spring, surface