Weather Facts

How do tornadoes dissipate?

The details are still debated by tornado scientists. We do know tornadoes need a source of instability (heat, moisture, etc.) and a larger-scale property of rotation (vorticity) to keep going. There are a lot of processes around a thunderstorm which can possibly rob the area around a tornado of either instability or vorticity. One is relatively cold outflow -- the flow of wind out of the precipitation area of a shower or thunderstorm. Many tornadoes have been observed to go away soon after being hit by outflow. For decades, storm observers have documented the death of numerous tornadoes when their parent circulations ( mesocyclones) weaken after they become wrapped in outflow air -- either from the same thunderstorm or a different one. The irony is that some kinds of thunderstorm outflow may help to cause tornadoes, while other forms of outflow may kill tornadoes.