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SciShow revisits Sharknado to discover the truth behind who would win in a battle between a tornado and a bomb. The answer... won't actually surprise you. But you might learn some interesting science along the way!

Hosted by: Hank Green
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Sources:
http://www.extremescience.com/tornadoes.htm
https://www.verticalmag.com/features/thunderstormstheunderestimateddanger/
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/150511-tornadoes-storms-midwest-weather-science/
https://earthscience.stackexchange.com/questions/2392/do-tornadoes-have-eyes
https://books.google.com/books?id=cwQJCICLPLwC&pg=PA229#v=onepage&q&f=false
http://geology.com/hurricanes/largest-hurricane/
https://www.weatherworksinc.com/sharknado-debunked
http://www.htshelicopters.com/aircraft/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4489157/
[♪♩INTRO] Somehow, there’s another Sharknado movie, and somehow we still have science to talk about… with Sharknado.

I promise it’s going to be good. So back in 2013, when this whole Sharknado phenomenon first started, we answered the obvious question with the obvious answer: No, a sharknado is not possible.

For, like, lots of reasons. But all the hype around Sharknado 5 — yes, five — got us thinking about the ending of that first movie again. Spoiler alert—ah, like you care—at the end of Sharknado, the main characters throw bombs from a helicopter to stop the carnivorous whirlwinds.

Which, as you might guess, also would not work. But the idea almost seems plausible, like, why not just blow up a tornado? A little bit of background for you first, in the original Sharknado, a hurricane over the Pacific Ocean creates a whole bunch of tornadoes -- waterspouts, technically -- filled with sharks.

And tornadoes are just swirling winds, right? So if you disrupt the winds and stop them from swirling, you should theoretically be able to kill the tornado. And what better way to disrupt a whole bunch of air than with the shock wave from a giant explosion?

Right? Well, this plan has some issues. And the first one comes long before our heroes even get off the ground.

The tornadoes in the movie are strong enough to lift sharks out of the water and sling them around Los Angeles like toothpicks. And there is unfortunately no way that you’d be able to hover a helicopter to throw bombs at a tornado if there’s a tornado that strong next to you. Helicopters usually aren’t even safe in normal thunderstorms, because there are unpredictable gusts of wind, and they need relatively stable air around their blades.

So the helicopter in the movie would be no match for the tornadoes it hovers near.

Sorry: the shark-nadoes. But even if we ignore the physics of how helicopters fly and say we’re going to drive a truck into the tornado with a bomb, the end of Sharknado still does not hold up to reality -- because of the physics of tornadoes themselves. Scientists still aren’t exactly sure why some storm systems produce tornadoes and others don’t, but they do know what kinds of conditions need to be present before one can form. Mainly, they need currents of rotating air. When you think of tornadoes, you probably just imagine that one funnel spinning around a vertical axis, but there are lots of other air currents involved, moving in other directions, too. As a tornado forms, columns of warm, wet air quickly rise off the ground, dragging swirling winds along with them. When that warm air gets above the clouds, it spreads out and pushes the cooler, dryer air out of its way and back toward the ground. And the process repeats. The winds speed up and pull together as more warm air rises and more cool air falls. Eventually, they form the sideways whirlwinds that we imagine when we think of a tornado. But those vertical winds don’t stop once the tornado gets spinning; they continue throughout the entire storm.

Even if a few bombs could stop the sideways winds on the outer layers of the sharknado, they’d still have to stop all those huge, vertical convection currents to keep the storm from roaring back to life. And a couple small explosions on the outside of a huge tornado or cyclone won’t really do anything to stop the warm air rising in the center. If anything, the heat from the explosions might make the center of the storm even warmer, which would make it stronger instead of weaker. But like, only barely. Because that brings us to the third problem with this scheme: It would take a lot of energy just to stop the outermost sideways winds. Some of the strongest hurricanes and tornadoes on record had wind speeds of about three hundred to four hundred kilometers per hour. And huge air masses moving at those kinds of speeds have a lot of energy -- way more energy than a bomb or two filled with propane. It would take thousands of the bombs they use in the movie to even compete with the energy in a powerful tornado. Using a couple bombs per tornado, like they do in the movie, it wouldn’t be a thing. And with the added extra weight of ten thousand extra bombs on board, I’m guessing the helicopter would have an awfully hard time getting off the ground in the first place.

However, the fact that a movie about shark-tornadoes gets its science wrong probably isn’t a huge surprise. What may be more of a surprise is how much we can talk about science through the lens of Sharknado. I’m happy to keep doing it. Looking forward to Sharknado 5, everybody. #notsponsored, we’re just excited. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! If, for some reason, you’d like to learn more about why sharknados definitely couldn’t happen, you can watch our episode from a few years ago. And for all the others kinds of science that we talk about, it’s not just sharknado here, you can go to youtube.com/scishow there’s more videos there.