Temperatures and air pressure plummet at the centre of tornadoes.

Temperatures and air pressure plummet at the centre of tornadoes.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Greg Johnson

Tornado research advances technology of vortex tubes

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Tornadoes have been reported to spawn strange climatic changes and Canadian researchers have found out why. The findings will help engineers improve the operation of refrigeration vortex tubes used for cooling cutting tools, electronic components, gas samples and heat seals. They will also help understand tornadoes and waterspouts.

Georgios Vatistas, a professor of engineering at Concordia University in Montreal led the research with recent Concordia master’s students Badwal Gurpreet Sing and Rahul Rampal. Vatistas has been studying vortices for decades.

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Big drop in temperature, air pressure

Vatistas looked into the cases of two violent tornadoes. One was in 1955 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where three radio broadcasters reported the temperature dropped drastically as the funnel passed overhead and they found it difficult to breathe.

Using a new approach, the team was able to find out why. “As air pockets move from the outer periphery of the vortex toward its centre, the pockets expand, thereby bringing the temperature and density down,” said Vatistas.

He is happy that years of research will help scientists understand violent atmospheric votices like tornadoes and waterpouts, and improve refrigeration vortex tubes.

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