Weather Wise Kids: Why Do Tornadoes Look Dark & Black?

Student Question:  Aleah Calvert of Metter

Well Aleah, tornadoes can destroy just about anything in their path.  They can destroy large buildings… uproot trees… and hurl vehicles hundreds of yards.

Many do look gray or black, but many also do not.

It all depends on where the tornado forms and the angle of the sun.

To begin with, you have to look at what the tornado is able to pick up.  When there’s little to no debris, it’s going to look light gray or even white.  But a tornado that moves slowly and picks up everything in its path will take in a lot of debris and dirt, and the tornado will get very dark.

Then you have tornadoes that form out in the Great Plains.  Some actually can turn orange or red because of the reddish tint of the soil.

A tornado that forms in a mountainous area can move over snow and all of a sudden appear brilliantly white.

Then there’s the lighting to consider.  If you look at a tornado and the sun is behind it, the tornado will look very dark.  But if you look at the same tornado with the sun instead at your back, the tornado will look light gray or even white.

Finally, if a tornado forms around sunset, the tornado may take on many colors and appear in hues of yellow, orange and even pink.

So Aleah, it all depends on what’s in the tornado and what’s around it.  Because…  no two tornadoes are ever the same.



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