what does isolated tornado mean

What does isolated tornado mean? There are three major categories of tornadoes; multiple vortex tornadoes, waterspouts, and landspouts.

These three can be further broken down into various sub-categories of tornadoes depending on their different characteristics.

Isolated tornadoes can be categorized under landspouts and waterspouts.

When a tornado does not form within a violent thunderstorm, it is an isolated tornado. Isolated tornadoes tend to occur in the winter and are especially dangerous because people aren’t vigilant about the threat of tornadoes during that time of year.

Understanding Isolated Tornadoes

A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground.

It is typically in contact with both surfaces. The two names refer to the spinning and twisting nature of the rapidly swirling air within the tornado.

Tornadoes spin because the air currents inside them move in a direction opposite to their movement. Isolated tornadoes, in particular, are among nature’s most active and powerful forces.

Note: Scientists refer to tornadoes by many names, depending on the atmospheric phenomenon they are trying to describe. 

The two names for a tornado are twisters and cyclones.

Cumulus Clouds, Cumulonimbus Clouds and Tornadoes

tornado cumulus clouds

One of the exciting facts about isolated tornadoes is that they connect the ground to clouds in the sky.

They relate or touch, cumulonimbus (or thunderhead) clouds and cumulus clouds.

Cumulonimbus and cumulus clouds are types of clouds that are typically associated with rainstorms or storms.

This explains why isolated tornadoes can occur on all continents, except Antarctica, because of the rarity of cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds in that continent.

Tornado Alley, a nickname for the region of the United States that extends from Texas to Iowa and is especially prone to tornadoes, is so named because of its unusual frequency of tornadoes.

Supercells and Isolated Tornadoes

A supercell is a thunderstorm with a horizontal rotating column of air inside.

A supercell is also called a mesocyclone and is often thousands of feet above the ground, but it can grow to a few miles wide.

A mesocyclone is a massive swirl of air and rain inside a thunderstorm.

A supercell storm cloud must rapidly produce heavy rainfall to create an isolated tornado.

The rain then pulls down the surrounding air, further pulling the mesocyclone (the low, rotating center of a supercell storm) towards the ground.

Note: A supercell's name is based on the storm's relative size and shape, making it look like a giant cell.

Invisible Isolated Tornadoes

Seeing an isolated tornado is a rare event because the extreme weather conditions that give rise to them are so unlikely.

But people who live in tornado-prone areas can learn to recognize the signs of a nearby twister even when they can’t see it.

Not all tornadoes have visible funnels, though. However, some isolated tornadoes are not visible because of the dust, and water vapor picked up by the swirling air.

The swirling dust and water vapor in isolated tornadoes give them their characteristic appearance, but that same dust and moisture can block the view of a tornado’s funnel.

So what does an isolated tornado look like?

Condensation of water vapor, which occurs as a result of the swirling action, makes tornadoes visible.

Since tornadoes form from low-pressure systems, all tornadoes generally become visible before reaching land.

Note: It's advisable to listen to weather reports and follow other tornado early warning signs.

Isolated Tornado Wind Speed

speed isolated tornado

Isolated tornadoes, which often rank as the most destructive of the all-natural phenomenon, have wind speeds that can exceed 150 kilometers per hour.

In fact, some isolated tornadoes have had wind speeds in excess of 300 kilometers per hour.

By comparison, hurricane-force winds (69-117 kilometers per hour) can cause extensive damage to structures and human-made objects.

Note: Generally, the higher the wind speed, the more likely an isolated tornado will cause damage. 

Isolated tornadoes ranked high on one scale are also ranked high on other rankings.

Fujita Scale, Enhanced Fujita Scale and Isolated Tornadoes

Scientists rate isolated tornadoes from F0 to F5, depending on the destruction caused.

Because many tornado facts are revealed only after the storm has passed, scientists evaluate the damage and assign a rating.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale is an updated version of the original Fujita scale from tornado researcher Tetsuya Theodore Fujita.

It is used to estimate the strength of tornadoes by assessing damage to affected structures.

The highest rating on both scales is F5 or EF5, which means a tornado with this magnitude can rip a house right off its foundation.

Note: F0 on the Fujita Scale represents a minor level of destruction, while F5 signifies extreme destruction.

TORRO Scale and Isolated Tornadoes

torro and isolated tornado

The TORRO scale (T-scale) was developed by the Tornado and Storm Research Organization (TORRO) in the United Kingdom to measure tornadoes and waterspouts.

TORRO classified tornadoes on a scale from T1 to T11.

Unlike the Fujita scale, which measures tornado intensity based on the damage caused, the TORRO scale classifies tornadoes based on their wind speeds.

The differences of opinion regarding which scale is best to have to do with the different gradations of tornadoes.

While some people argue that one ranking is better than another, one thing we know for sure: we wouldn’t want to be in the path of any tornado that ranks highly on either scale.

The Sound

Part of understanding what does isolated tornado means is also to understand what an isolated tornado sounds like.

Isolated tornadoes are capable of producing infrasound, which is a sound that is below 20 hertz.

The majority of the time, when people hear a tornado, they only hear a whooshing sound or thundering.

However, in events such as “supersounds” and “mystery booms“, many people have reported hearing other sounds such as an explosion, railroad car, or loud low rumbling.

A Case of Yellowstone Isolated Tornado

On the afternoon of June 21st, 1987, a tornado touched down at the base of a mountain in Yellowstone National Park and moved through the forests up and down its 10,000-foot height.

It’s also believed that the low pressure in an isolated tornado causes buildings to “explode” as the isolated tornado passes overhead.

However, most structural damages was caused by solid and rapid winds traveling at very high speeds of more than 200mph and debris slamming into buildings.

Dangers of Isolated Tornadoes

dangers isolated tornado

Are isolated tornadoes dangerous? The short answer is a resounding YES.

Isolated tornadoes are giant, destructive funnel-shaped storms that travel across the land at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour or more.

They can move objects weighing up to several tons and suck up cars and even houses in the air.

If you can’t find adequate shelter, the next best thing to do is to evacuate people from an isolated tornado’s path.

However, isolated tornadoes form quickly and are difficult to predict.

This makes it hard to know how far you need to flee from the tornado’s path to ensure your safety. People have been injured or killed as a result of tornadoes.

When a powerful, isolated tornado hits a building or house, the effects can be devastating.

Though it was only built of wood, the Whittington house was virtually destroyed.

The roof and many walls were ripped off and carried away by the ferocity of the cyclone.

Read Next: Do Tornadoes Happen in Europe?

Final Thought

Tornadoes are named differently depending on the shape they take.

Therefore, understanding what does isolated tornado mean requires that you know tornado shapes, among other characteristics.

For example, rope isolated tornadoes, which are narrow but extremely fast linear vortices, travel at speeds of around 60 miles per hour and can feature winds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

Some short and round tornadoes, but not all, are called stovepipe tornadoes.

Other significant tornadoes can take on a large V-shape and are referred to as wedge tornadoes.

When a tornado loses strength, it starts to appear wispy and more twisted, and these tornadoes are known as rope tornadoes.