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Lab-made 'Microtornadoes' May Reveal Destructive Secrets Of Real-life Twisters

Date:
May 14, 2007
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
With meteorologists concerned about a possible worldwide intensification of tornado activity, scientists are proposing a new approach to studying formation of twisters, which pack Earth's most violent winds. It involves forming microtornadoes under millimeter-scale crystalline "igloos" according to a recent article.

Real-world tornadoes form in association with deep moist convection and other atmospheric conditions. As an analogue to that cloud, the image shows a nanocrystalline igloo grown from nanospheres in a water drop evaporating from a Petri dish. The circular patterns (arrow) consist of nanospheres arranged by microtornado vortexes.
Credit: Photos Courtesy of Andrei P. Sommer

With meteorologists concerned about a possible worldwide intensification of tornado activity, scientists in Germany are proposing a new approach to studying formation of twisters, which pack Earth's most violent winds. It involves forming microtornadoes under millimeter-scale crystalline "igloos," according to a report by Andrei P. Sommer scheduled for publication in the June 6 edition of ACS' Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal.

In the report, Sommer describes evaporating tiny drops of water laced with polystyrene nanospheres to form the transparent igloos. The drops consisted of 15-microliters of liquid -- 15 millionths of a liter -- and formed the translucent "igloos" after being deposited on a surface under an evaporation chamber. As the drops evaporated (taking 191 hours, a record for such experiments), Sommer observed patterns formed by swirling micro-vortexes that appeared similar to those formed by tornadoes under real-world conditions.

Because the conditions favoring the formation of the microtornadoes are identical to those forming real tornadoes, Sommer suggested that such igloos and microtornadoes could become an important new tool for meteorologists seeking to understand how certain atmospheric conditions spawn tornadoes.

"By simultaneously wetting the roof of such an igloo, if necessary, and injecting minimal amounts of water containing nanospheres into it, it should be possible to mimic basic processes in tornadoes experimentally and to explore the impact of relevant boundary conditions including terrain conditions and cloud cover stability," the report states.


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The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Lab-made 'Microtornadoes' May Reveal Destructive Secrets Of Real-life Twisters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070514092301.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2007, May 14). Lab-made 'Microtornadoes' May Reveal Destructive Secrets Of Real-life Twisters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070514092301.htm
American Chemical Society. "Lab-made 'Microtornadoes' May Reveal Destructive Secrets Of Real-life Twisters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070514092301.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

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