With the click of a light switch and the whoosh of a hair dryer, Bob Smerbeck can unleash a tornado on his living room anytime he likes.
And he does, often.
Smerbeck, an expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, built a model tornado machine to look at how vortexes form.
How does it compare to a real tornado? Smerbeck's tiny tornado has a vortex about an inch wide. Real tornadoes can grow to up to a mile wide.
In the model, the air coming out of the plastic tubes makes the vapor inside the model swirl into a vortex. This is a very simplified version of what happens with supercell (rotating) thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.
In order to get a thunderstorm to rotate, winds throughout different levels of the atmosphere need to vary in direction, or turn with height above the ground. In order to get a tornado to form, that rotation within the thunderstorm itself needs to extend down from the thunderstorm to the ground.
In the model, a fan on top of the machine pulling up the air makes a vortex (or what looks like the tornado). This mimics the updraft that pulls the air of a real thunderstorm upward. An updraft allows a tighter and faster rotation of the vortex, which forms the tornado.
Tornadoes are visible because moist air condenses into water droplets. Smerbeck's model uses a vaporizer to see the vortex.
Smerbeck built his model tornado by following along with a video series made by Tornado Project Director Tom Grazulis.
AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Heather Buchman also reported the story.
Snow will linger across parts of the northern Plains to the Upper Midwest as December begins.
After the brief shot of chilly air this past weekend, the month of December will start out mild across the Northeast.
December will begin with a roar across the Northwest as rounds of rain, mountain snow and even ice are in store this week.
Downpours will continue the threat for flooding across parts of southern India this week.
Rain will return across much of the eastern U.S. to begin the last month of 2015.
Tens of thousands will gather in rainy and mild conditions at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, for the 83rd annual Christmas tree lighting.
Eastern Maine (1964)
Down east blizzard 12-18" snow, accompanied by 60 mph winds; 8' drifts. Record snow from Detroit to Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh, PA 8.5" snow, most for date Akron-Canton, OH 24" snowstorm Dec. 1-2 - biggest snowstorm on record Detroit, MI Record 19.2" snow paralyzed city.
Ohio, Ontario (1996)
A line of severe thunder storms moved across the state. In Cleveland, OH there was a 60 mph wind gust. An 18-foot tractor trailer was blown over on I-77 in Richfield, OH. In Guelph, ON a wind gust lifted the roof of a gym, where a church group was playing basketball. Residents of one neighborhood saw a car spinning on its grill like a top.
Erie Canal (1831)
Coldest December ever closed Erie Canal.