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High wind speeds – tornadoes and heavy explosions – meteorology

High wind speeds – tornadoes and heavy explosions – meteorology


It remains unclear which of the two phenomena led to the devastating storm at La Chaux-de-Fonds. But one thing is clear: Both eruptions and tornadoes have a high potential for damage.

Both phenomena can occur in connection with so-called supercell thunderstorms. These are groups of periodic thunderstorms consisting of several individual thunderstorm cells. Such a mass moved from France through the Jura shortly before noon on Monday. Later, in a weakened form, it moved east across the central plateau.


Hurricanes are characterized by strong rotation. The rotating column of air extends from the underside of a thundercloud down to the ground and is easily identifiable in most cases as a “cloud trunk”. Although a tornado often touches the ground for a short time, it can cause great destruction as wind speeds of over 500 km/h can be reached. In addition, the air pressure in the cloud tube is much lower than in the surrounding area. If a tornado passes over a building, it can literally be torn apart by the pressure difference.

Down blast

These cold clouds can occur against the backdrop of strong thunderstorms. They compensate for updrafts on the front of the thunderstorm cell and are associated with heavy precipitation. Autumn winds are accelerated by precipitation. If rain falls from a strong thunderstorm cell into dry air, some of it evaporates and additionally cools the air. Due to the high weight of the cold air, it falls to the ground like a waterfall, where it flows from all sides. The higher the precipitation and the greater the difference in temperature between the air in the thunderstorm and in the period leading up to the thunderstorm, the stronger the downdraft becomes.

Various damage patterns

In the absence of footage showing a tornado tube, it is often difficult to tell which phenomenon caused the damage. The damage pattern provides a clue. Due to the strong rotation, the trees and the like after the tornado are bent chaotically and point in different directions. After an explosion, they tend to point in one direction or out.