Can You Breathe Inside A Tornado?

Can You Breathe Inside A Tornado?

Tornados are destructive forces of nature with their 310mph swirling winds that pick up and hurl nearly everything in their path. Such is their awesome power that you wouldn’t want to be caught inside it!

But can you breathe inside a tornado? Yes, of course, you can! But you will find it difficult to breathe. You may or may not survive the experience, too, depending on whether you were hit by the debris or not.

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Keep on reading to know the reasons for the difficulty in breathing inside a tornado. We will also briefly talk about keeping yourself safe while inside it. 

Changes Happening Inside A Tornado

Inside a tornado, the air temperature is significantly colder than the air temperature outside of it. Scientists have measured the difference to be between 15°C and 20°C (27°F and 36°F).

It is because the wind in a tornado is continuously being pulled toward the center of the vortex. Such a funneling action makes the surrounding air colder. 

There is another way of looking at this particular change, too. A tornado has air pockets, which are localized pockets of air with lower pressure levels than the surrounding atmosphere.

As these air pockets are being funneled from the tornado’s edge toward the center of the vortex, they expand.

The greater the expansion of the air pockets, the colder the temperature gets. But it isn’t just the temperature that changes during the expansion.

The air inside a tornado also becomes thinner. As with the temperature, the greater the air pockets’ expansion, the thinner the air becomes.

Breathing While Inside A Tornado

Researchers theorize that the air density inside a tornado is 20% lower than the air density at high altitudes! Think about it: Being inside a tornado is akin to being at the summit of an 8,000-meter mountain. At this height, mountaineers need special gear to be able to breathe well.

For perspective, Mt. Everest’s summit is at 8,850 meters above sea level. You will have difficulty breathing without a portable oxygen apparatus.

But when you are caught inside a tornado, you didn’t have time to grab a bottle of oxygen and breathing apparatus! You have to breathe on your own lung power, and it will likely be insufficient. You may even pass out soon due to the lack of oxygen reaching your lungs, heart, and brain. 

It is with the assumption that you didn’t pass out first from being hurled around! You will also be hit by flying debris, which can travel at 250mph or more. You can be seriously injured without knowing about it.

On the bright side, you can survive inside a tornado if you can find a suitable shelter. You may be able to hide inside a ditch, a culvert, or an underground shelter and escape unscathed. If it’s any consolation, a tornado passes through quickly, so your ordeal can last for just under a minute.


Unlike many natural disasters, it is actually possible to survive to be in the direct path of a tornado. But you have to seek safe shelter as soon as possible lest you find yourself in the eye of the storm, literally.