NATURE’S MOST VIOLENT WIND Reading Questions and Answers

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A. Tornados have been observed in every continent on the planet with the exception of Antarctica. Hurricanes differ from tornadoes, in that the former develop in warm, tropical oceans whereas tornados develop on land and are more aggressive and potentially destructive. The majority of tornados are initiated by thunderstorms. Tornados are relatively common occurrences at differing magnitudes throughout the world. The geographical features of the U.S.A. lend themselves to high incidence of tornado activity. In that country, the highest proportion of tornados occur in the southern states in spring from March to May and in the northern states from late spring extending into summer. Generally, tornados travel from southwest to northeast, though neither time of year nor direction they will take is completely predictable.

B. Several factors cause the U.S.A. to experience a high incidence of tornado formation. While the continent reaches from arctic areas in the north to a tropical climate in the south there is no barrier protection from significant mountain ranges in the east or west; however, the Rocky Mountains in the middle latitudes of the country obstruct atmospheric flow’ and moisture. In addition, drier air from the southwest deserts and low level moisture from the Gulf of Mexico meet in the area, many collisions of w-arm and cool air occur and optimum conditions for tornado formation are created. Tornados in this central part of the U.SA. are so prolific that the area has been named Tornado Alley, the site of the highest number of powerful tornados in the country and throughout the world. In the USA alone, in an average year 1200 tornados occur causing 70 fatalities and 1500 injuries and in addition extensive damage to property and natural vegetation.

C. Connected between a cloud base above (usually cumulonimbus) and the earth below, a tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air; they can be as much as 20 kilometres in height. The majority are less than 75 metres in diameter reaching wind speeds of less than 177kms per hour and travel less than 10 kilometres before dissipating; however, some of the larger and rarer of this type of weather phenomenon may reach wind speeds of more than 480kms/hour traveling more than 100 kilometers before cessation. The inside of a tornado is made up of descending air and this is surrounded by a spiraling upward current which has the ability to carry with it and destroy even substantial obstacles such as tress, cars and houses in its path. Scientific research and eyewitness accounts indicate that most tornados also possess a calm centre in their core, surrounded by the layers of the downward and upward currents of air; this core has been likened to the peaceful central ‘eye’ at the centre of a tropical cyclone or hurricane.

D. A tornado itself is not necessarily visible; though the intense low pressure it causes often results in condensation of water vapour which forms into a noticeable condensation funnel. Colours of tornados are also dictated by the environment in which they form. The force of the swirling air causes them to pick up din as they travel across the landscape; those with minimal debris remaining grey or white turning darker blue the more they collect, while others in areas such the Great Plains in the USA turn red in colour due to the red soil they collect and carry with them. Background lighting in which a tornado presents itself also affects the naked eye’s ability to identify its form as it appears on the horizon. When viewing a tornado with the sun behind it, it will appear to be dark in colour; however, when viewed without the sun in the background, the same tornado appears to be grey or white. On the rare occasions that tornados occur after dark, they pose an increased level of danger as darkness can make them invisible and only radar warnings or possibly sound can warn those in their path that a tornado is on its way.

E. Tornados are classified into three levels of intensity; these being weak, strong and violent. 88% of tornados occurring in the USA are classified into the first category making them the most common; they account for less than 5% of fatalities resulting from tornado activity, generally reach wind speeds of less than 177kms/hour and have a duration of between 1 and 10 minutes before cessation. In contrast, ‘violent’ tornados exceed 330 kilometres per hour, can continue for over an hour and while they account for only 1% of incidence of tornados they result in approximately 70% of resultant deaths. The greatest devastation to date, inflicted on the USA by a violent tornado was on March 18th, 1925. The tornado was the longest, fastest and widest tornado known to have formed in North America and resulted in 695 deaths, an additional 2279 being injured. Now known as the Tri-state Tornado, it travelled over 350 kilometres affecting 13 counties in the three different states of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Around 11% of tornados are classified as ‘strong’ tornados. These tornados account for slightly more than 25% of tornado-related fatal accidents and reach mid-range speeds of between 177 and 330 kilometers per hour with an average duration of around 20 minutes.

F. Today in the USA, early warning systems, which cannot necessarily protect property in the path of a tornado, can allow people time to leave the area and therefore significantly reduce death tolls. However in countries such as Bangladesh, fatalities caused by tornado impact remain extremely high. The rural, central region of the country also experiences a high frequency of strong tornados and the danger is exacerbated due to its densely populated areas, lack of warning systems and vulnerability of building structures. Between 1967 and 1996 the Bangladesh Observer and Pakistan Observer reported 5,373 tornado related deaths: an average of 179.1 per year. The Manikganj Tornado which occurred in 1989 is thought to have caused as a many as 1300 deaths and is known as the deadliest tornado to have occurred anywhere in the world. Many projects delivered by organizations such as the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) have been established with the aim of minimising devastation and death rates caused by tornados in such areas.

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Questions 1 – 5

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write your answer in boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet.

1)    Hurricanes are described as
A.         more hostile than tornados and occurring in the sea.
B.         occurring on land and less harmful than tornados.
C.         less damaging than tornados and occurring in marine environments.
D.         only occurring in certain oceans with a fiercer effect than a tornado.

2)    Tornados in the USA
A.         occur only in spring and summer.
B.         continually travel from southwest to northeast.
C.         are less prevalent in winter.
D.         are experienced exclusively by the southern and northern states.

3)    Tornados are common in the USA because
A.         the Rocky Mountains inhibit cold air from the north and warm air from the south making contact.
B.         because warm, humid air which builds up meets cooler air without interference.
C.         of the high incidence of thunderstorms which are experienced in central USA.
D.         warm air from the tropics allows optimum conditions to develop.

4)    Tornados may be very light in colour if
A.         the observer stands with their back to the sun.
B.         they occur at night.
C.         they occur in the Great Plains of the USA.
D.         they pick up substantial dirt on their journey.

5)    Tornados in Bangladesh
A.         are of greater intensity than in USA.
B.         can now be effectively predicted,
C.         occur mainly in urban areas.
D.         cause extensive damage due to sociological factors.

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Questions 6- 10

Label the diagram below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer
Write your answers in boxes 6-10 on your answer sheet

Questions 11 – 15

Complete the table below.
Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS OR A NUMBER from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 11-15 on your answer sheet.

Incidencemake up 11)____________ of tornados in the USAmake up about 12)____________ of tornados in the USAmake up the smallest minority of tornados in the USA
Wind speedless than 177kms/hrbetween 177 and 330 kms/hrmore than 830 kms/hr
Lifespan1-10 minutes20 minutescan last for 13)______________
Impactcause less than 5% of tornado related deathscause just over 14)______________ of tornado related deathsThe most violent example in the USA was the 15)_______________.

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1)    C
2)    C
3)    B
4)    A
5)    D
6)    75 metres
7)    calmcentre
8)    descending air
9)    condensation funnel
10)    20 kms
11)    88%
12)    11%
13)    over an hour
14)    25%
15)    tri-state tornado


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