The favorite hobby of tornadoes: climbing hills

New research indicates that tornadoes prefer to go up hill and cause more damage at a higher altitude. The research results can be used to limit the damage that a tornado causes in the future.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas studied images of tornadoes that hit Alabama and Missouri in 2011. There appeared to be great similarities between the way the tornadoes behaved (in response to the landscape).

The tornadoes

The tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama killed 64 people and resulted in $ 2.2 billion in damage. The tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, killed 158 people and resulted in $ 2.8 billion in damage. The tornadoes enter the books as the two deadliest and most expensive natural disasters in the recent history of the United States.

The tornadoes, for example, seemed to prefer climbing rather than descending: as soon as they had the opportunity to move up, they did. The tornadoes also appeared to cause more damage if they climbed than if they dropped. And when a tornado struck in an area surrounded by hills, the tornadoes were inclined to "jump" over the valleys and there was actually damage on the hilltops only.

It appears that the results apply not only to the tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri, but to all tornadoes. And that makes the research particularly useful. "Information about the interaction between tornadoes and the environment is important," explains researcher Panneer Selvam. "It influences the decisions about where and how we are going to build and what buildings are most suitable for a certain place."

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