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“Tornadoes form below a class of severe thunderstorms known as supercells. Supercells feature intense upward moving columns of air that rotate, as the wind near the surface is drawn into those columns it begins to rotate and forms the tornado vortex. The damage attributed to tornadoes is caused by the strong winds in the vortex and flying debris.
“Oklahoma sits within an area of the United States commonly referred to as ‘tornado alley’ – this area is amongst the most frequent locations of tornado occurrence in the world. At this time of year, the warm and moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cool and dry air from above the Rocky Mountains come together to make tornado alley the perfect environment to spawn supercells and tornadoes.
“Preliminary reports of damage from the Oklahoma tornado suggest it was of EF-4 intensity, which is the second highest intensity rating. EF-4 tornadoes have wind gusts between about 265 and 320 kilometres per hour.”
Dr. Todd Lane, ARC Future Fellow, School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne