Why tornadoes and hurricanes lift up cars, cows, etc.

Here’s a video I made for my nieces and any other young adults on why it is that tornadoes and hurricanes lift stuff up. It’s all centrifugal forces — the same forces that generate the low pressure zone at the center of hurricanes. The explanation is from Albert Einstein, who goes on show why it is that rivers don’t run straight; before you read any more of it, I’d suggest you first watch the video here. It’s from my Facebook page, so it should be visible.

If can’t see, you may have to friend me on Facebook, but until then the video shows a glass coffee cup with some coffee grounds and water in it. Originally, the grounds are at the bottom of the cup showing that they are heavier than the water. When I swirl the water in the cup, you’ll see that the grounds are lifted up into a heap in the center with some flowing all around in a circle — to the top surface and then to the walls of the cup. This is the same path followed by light things (papers for example) in a tornado. Cows, houses and cars that are caught up in real tornadoes get sucked in and lifted up too, but they never get to the top to be thrown outward.

The explanation for the lifting is that the upper layers of liquid swirl faster than the lower layers. As a result there is a low pressure zone above the middle of the swirl. The water (or air) moves upward into this lower pressure area and drags along with it cows, cars, houses and the like (Here’s another post on the subject of where the swirl comes from). The reason the swirl is faster above the bottom of the cup is that the cup bottom adds drag to the flow (the very bottom isn’t swirling at all). The faster rotating, upper flows have a reasonable amount of centrifugal force and thus a lower pressure in the middle of the swirl, and a higher pressure further out. The non-rotating bottom has a more uniform pressure that’s relatively higher in the middle, and relatively lower on the outside. As a result there is a secondary flow where air moves down around the outside of the flow and up in the middle. You can see this secondary flow in the video by following the lighter grounds.

Robert. E. Buxbaum. Weather is not exactly climate, but in my opinion both are cyclic and chaotic. I find there is little evidence that we can stop climate change, and suspect there is no advantage to wanting the earth colder. There was a tornado drought in 2013, and a hurricane draught too. You may not have heard of either because it’s hard to report on the storms that didn’t happen.

2 thoughts on “Why tornadoes and hurricanes lift up cars, cows, etc.

  1. Pingback: American education how do we succeed? | REB Research Blog

  2. Pingback: What causes the swirl of tornadoes and hurricanes | REB Research Blog

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