Can You Get More Than 11 Right on This Storm Quiz?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Jessica Moore/Cultura/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Your blue-sky picnic seemed like a perfect moment. But seemingly out of nowhere, a hulking black supercell surged into view, blocking the sun and sending your family and friends running for cover. Our planet’s weather is a finicky thing, and storms are common in many regions. In this lightning-slashed quiz, do you really know much about Earth’s storms?

Thunderstorms are among the most common types of storms. Every minute of every day, thunderstorms are active all around the planet, bringing with them rain, winds, lightning, and all of the potential challenges, like tornadoes, flooding, property destruction and death. Do you know anything about how thunderstorms form?

But thunderstorms are child’s play compared to hurricanes and typhoons. These gargantuan storms don’t just wreck barns and villages, they can wipe out entire coastal regions.

There are a lot of other storm-related phenomena, too, from gustnadoes to straight-line winds and more. Hold onto your hat for this storm quiz!

They're often predictable. Where do hurricanes always form?

Hurricanes begin over ocean waters. They develop thanks to warm, moist air that begins to rotate … and may turn into a monstrous storm.


These storms vary a lot. What's the most powerful hurricane category?

Category 5 hurricanes are extremely large and dangerous. These storms have sustained winds of nearly 160 mph, making them some of the most destructive storms on Earth.


What kind of air do thunderstorms need to develop?

Thunderstorms are predictable in some ways. One of those ways? They need warm, moist air to form, which is why in the U.S. these storms are common in summertime.


It can sweep away entire towns. During what type of event is "storm surge" a real problem?

Hurricanes are known for their winds, but also for their storm surge. They are a lot like tsunamis, a wall of water that rushes inland, sweeping away structures and people with ease.


Thunderstorms form tall cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds might be how tall?

Cumulonimbus clouds grow like mushrooms in the sky during major thunderstorms. The tallest may exceed well over 10 miles in height.


The recipe has to be just right. In order for hurricanes to form, ocean waters must be at least what temperature?

Hurricanes like warm weather. Ocean surface temperatures must be at least 79 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point these cyclones may begin to form.


A supercell is a type of what?

Extremely powerful thunderstorms are called supercells. These massive storms have a distinctive rotation to them, and they can unleash destructive fury upon the land.


It's a name game. A hurricane is a tropical storm that originates in which area?

Tropical cyclones that form in the Atlantic are called hurricanes. Many hurricanes have come ashore in America in recent years, from the upper East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico.


Run for your lives! What are "black blizzards"?

Black blizzards were common during the Dust Bowl years. It means fierce winds are blowing clouds of dirt across the landscape.


They can be life-threatening. What's a hallmark of "ground blizzards"?

In wintertime, high winds can hurl snow from the ground at high speeds, creating low visibility. In cold temperatures​, these ground blizzards can disorient and kill the unprepared.


The "Tri-State Tornado" scoured the U.S. in 1925. How many people died?

In 1925, the "Tri-State Tornado" whirled through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, at a distance of more than 300 miles. About 695 people died and more than 2,000 were hurt.


When would you be most likely to witness a "gustnado"?

They're relatively rare, but thunderstorms may produce gustnados, whipping vortexes that can ​cause serious harm. The worst ones may have the force of an EF-1 tornado.


How will we survive? At any given moment, there about how many thunderstorms active on our planet?

Thunderstorms are common, and persistent. At any given time there are about 2,000 of them pummelling the Earth.


Why do hurricanes always form near the equator?

The Earth's spin causes the so-called Corioles force, which is weakest at the equator. There, the forces of hurricanes can gather unabated, creating giant storms that travel long distances.


They aren't always harmless. "Dust devils" are most like what?

Dust devils are a bit like small tornadoes, but they can happen on storm-free, sunny days. And although most are just a nuisance, they can sometimes be frightening … and deadly.


Don't trifle with it. The Fujita scale measures what, exactly?

The Fujita scale denotes the power of a specific tornado. F1 tornadoes are pretty weak; F5 tornadoes can lay waste even to fortified structures.


Run for your lives! What's a key trait of a haboob?

A haboob is a terrible dust storm that's carried along by a weather front. The dust might be so thick that it coats everything in its path.


They're no slouches. An average hurricane is about how wide?

There's a reason they are called "monster" storms. Average hurricanes can be 300 miles wide, with whipping winds and rampaging storm surge.


You'll not find them in North America. What is a sirocco?

Mediterranean nations often witness sirocco winds in the summertime. These ferocious winds originate in the Sahara and whip up awful dust that can cause health issues.


Thunderstorms often feature fast-rising columns of air. What are these columns called?

Updrafts are gusting columns of air that rush up through the atmosphere. Thunderstorms often feature powerful updrafts.


In particularly strong thunderstorms, updrafts are very fast. They might exceed what speed?

In the right conditions, updrafts scream through the atmosphere. They can routinely blast past 100 mph.


In 2011, a major tornado killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri. How wide was the funnel cloud on the ground?

The Joplin tornado ravaged this Missouri town. The enormously powerful funnel cloud was about 1 mile wide, tearing apart buildings as if they were made of straw.​


How can very strong updrafts affect the formation of hail?

Updrafts cycle hailstones up and down in the sky, often adding more and more heft. Some hailstones become bigger than baseballs and can destroy property.


A country is ripped apart. Which nation has had more tornado deaths than any other?

Bangladesh's location and weather make it very susceptible to tornados. The country has suffered -- at minimum -- 19 tornadoes that have each killed at least 100 people.


It's there that you'll find momentary calm. How wide is the eye of a hurricane?

Hurricane eyes are a surreally calm place amidst major destruction. The eye can be anywhere from 20 to 40 miles wide.


They aren't everywhere. Where are thunderstorms most likely to form?

Because warm, wet air is a necessary variable for thunderstorms, these storms most often form in the mid-latitudes. Air from the Gulf of Mexico often sparks severe thunderstroms on America's plains.


They spin differently. In the Southern Hemisphere, in which direction do hurricanes spin?

Because of the Coriolis force, hurricane spin in different directions depending on their location. In the Southern Hemisphere, they're clockwise; in the Northern Hemisphere, it's the other way around.


The 1925 Tri-State Tornado was the deadliest in U.S. history. How fast did it move on the ground?

Commence nightmares. Not only was the Tri-State Tornado huge and powerful, but it was also​ the fastest-moving F5 tornado ever, hitting speeds of 73 mph.


They're sporadic at best. What happens to the vast majority of thunderstorms?

The vast majority of thunderstorms are pretty harmless. They bloom and rain for about an hour, and then vanish in the skies above.


What was special about 1979's Typhoon Tip?

Typhoon Tip was more powerful than any hurricane ever recorded. Its high winds stretched for nearly 1,400 miles -- twice as big as the previous record (Typhoon Marge).


Get your history on! Where did the Great Storm of 1703 take place?

The Great Storm of 1703 was a huge cyclone that smashed into London. Thousands of structures were destroyed and perhaps 15,000 people perished.


Modern forecasters work very hard to determine it. How predictable is the path of a hurricane?

Even with all of our modern tools, hurricane paths remain hard to predict. Experienced forecasters frantically prepare civilians for a wide range of landfall areas.


What might you find in the area of a hurricane's eye wall?

The eye itself is calm. The eye wall? Not so much. This part of the hurricane can have crazy thick clouds and sheets of rain that cause tremendous flooding.


Not all of them are the same. Which of the following types of thunderstorms is most likely to cause destruction?

Supercells are the atomic bombs of thunderstorms. Their immense power can blossom in just minutes, spitting out lightning and tornadoes with terrific ferocity.


Supercells are massive and powerful storms. How long might they last?

Supercells can last for hours. They might drift across more than one state, triggering flooding, spawning tornadoes, and generally scaring people half to death.


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