Geography KS3 / GCSE: Inside a tornado

Richard Hammond explores the properties of a tornado that has been created in laboratory conditions.

He learns about how tornadoes cause damage – it's the speed of the spinning within the tornado, rather than the speed and direction of the whole tornado.

The main cause of damage in a tornado is from the debris carried by the phenomena. Richard visits a tornado wind tunnel at the WindEE Research Institute in order to demonstrate how the speed of rotation can be modelled within loose scientific conditions.

He considers the effects of tornadoes before demonstrating how the speed of a tornado alters through a cross-section, tackling the misconception that tornadoes 'suck up' everything in their path.

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 3

This short film provides discussion points around experiment design and measurement. How can modelling a tornado inside a laboratory help people living in the real world?

For example, it’s very difficult to measure the velocity of a tornado in the real world due to the debris being carried. Compare the speed of the lab tornado with the Beaufort Scale – what damage would be done? How could Richard have designed the experiment to be more effective with more accurate and reliable results?

You could stop the clip after the segment with the ping-pong balls and discuss how to make the experiment better - what material could be used? What properties would that material have?

Key Stage 4

This short film could be a good introduction or revision of the forces involved in a tornado such a Coriolis. Students can be asked how they would work out the velocity within a tornado – what data would they need?

Curriculum Notes

This short film could be used to teach geography and physics at KS3 and KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 5 in Scotland.

At GCSE it appears in AQA, OCR A, EDEXCEL, EDUQAS, WJEC and CCEA, in SQA at National 5.

More from Richard Hammond's Wild Weather

How can you cool a drink using the sun?
How does a thermal form?
How does hail form?
How to see thunder
How to use wind to forecast the weather
What is the difference between rain and drizzle?
What is wind?
Why does water fall as rain?