Violently rotating column of air in contact with both the Earth's surface and a cumulonimbus cloud
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. It is often referred to as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology to name a weather system with a low-pressure area in the center around which, from an observer looking down toward the surface of the Earth, winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are often visible in the form of a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 180 km/h (110 mph), are about 80 m across, and travel several kilometers before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 480 km/h (300 mph), are more than 3 km in diameter, and stay on the ground for more than 100 km.
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