What Is A Tornado Made Of? (Ultimate Guide)

what is a tornado made of

Tornadoes are rapidly rotating columns of air that are formed from supercell thunderstorms. They are often violent, destructive, and most common in the US.

But what is a tornado made of?

In a nutshell, a tornado is made of water droplets, clouds, dust, dirt, and debris. They form when warm, humid air collides with cold dry air.

Let’s take a closer look…

What Is A Tornado Actually Made Of?

Tornadoes usually begin with a thunderstorm, but not just a normal thunderstorm. The type of storm that creates tornadoes is called a supercell thunderstorm.

These are incredibly large, rotating storms that can bring with them lightning, strong hail, flash floods, and strong winds.

Supercells form when the air becomes very unstable and wind speed and direction are different at different altitudes.

This condition is called wind shear and is common in the formation of most thunderstorms.

When wind at ground level is blowing in one direction, and wind higher up is blowing in a different direction it can cause a horizontal tube of air to form.

in a thunderstorm, warm air rises up within the storm, this is called an updraft.

An updraft can turn the horizontal tube of air into a vertical one, when this happens the whole storm begins rotating which creates the supercell.

Some supercells form a funnel cloud, and if that cloud extends to the ground, it’s called a tornado.

Tornadoes can have winds that are incredibly strong, sometimes over 200mph. Whilst the tornado is ripping through the landscape it can pick up all kinds of debris.

Debris is actually the biggest threat when a tornado strikes. Glass, wood and other objects the tornado picks up can become missiles as the storm increases.

A tornado is made from a column of air, as well as clouds and debris. The cloud is what makes the tornado visible and the debris is what makes them deadly.

Tornadoes are usually grey in color, which is from the dirt and debris that it picks up whilst forming.

Is A Tornado Made Of Wind?

Tornadoes need strong winds to be able to form, but they are made from air, debris, water particles, and cloud.

The stronger the winds, the more violent the tornado will usually become.

The Enhanced Fujita scale is a way to measure the strength of a tornado by looking at its wind speeds.

It gives tornadoes an “EF score” based on their wind speeds, allowing meteorologists and civilians to quickly understand how strong a tornado is.

Below are the wind speeds that the EF score uses to measure tornadoes;


Different Types Of Tornado

Not all tornadoes are made from the same ingredients, and some can have an added component that can make them even more deadly.

Fire Tornado

A fire tornado is a tornado or whirlwind that is induced by a fire and often contains flame or ash.

They are often started when wildfires occur and are made visible by the smoke.

When strong winds and updrafts are present in the event of a wildfire, sometimes a vortex forms and sucks in the smoke, ash, and fire.

Fire tornadoes can be incredibly destructive, and given that they have they contain smoke and fire they can burn everything in their path.

A fire tornado is two of nature’s scariest creations combined together. The good news is that most fire tornadoes usually only last a few minutes, and don’t rage for hours like some tornadoes.

Water Tornado

Water tornadoes, also known as waterspouts are intense columnar vortexes that form over a body of water.

These are essentially tornadoes that instead of connecting with the land, connect with water instead.

They are often weaker than their land counterparts, and usually last for a couple of minutes, although sometimes can grow to a huge size if conditions are right.

The added ingredient to this kind of tornado is water, and although regular tornadoes do have water particles, they don’t contain as much as a waterspout.

Snow Tornado

Another type of tornado is a snow tornado, also known as a snownado.

These are similar to the fire tornado and waterspout, only they contain snow instead.

Snow tornadoes can be found in areas that are usually covered in snow or going through a blizzard.

Final Thoughts

So, what is a tornado made of? Mostly water particles, clouds, dirt, and debris.

However, there are some other types of tornadoes that can contain smoke, fire, snow, and water too.

Tornadoes are strong, rotating columns of air that can become incredibly dangerous if their wind speeds are high enough.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you now know what tornadoes are made of.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to stick around to learn more about tornadoes.

Scroll to Top