What is a “rope tornado”?

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,

Can you explain what a rope tornado is? Is that what just hit Kentucky?

—Jack Hardekopf Aurora

Dear Jack,

It was not. What hit Kentucky was large, wide, long-track, powerful tornado. Rope tornadoes are the most common type of tornadoes, named after their distinctive rope-shaped appearance. While many rope tornadoes are weak, some can become quite intense as their circulation increases as the funnel narrows, like the ice-skater who spins faster as they clutch their bodies in, increasing their angular momentum. Rope tornadoes tend to be short-lived and keep their narrow and sinuous appearance when they make contact with the ground. Many larger tornadoes often dissipate into a rope-shaped funnel toward the end of their life-cycle.

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