At least three people were killed and dozens injured when tornadoes tore through Minnesota in 2010 [File: AP]

When you think of tornadoes, you generally picture scenes from popular movies such as "The Wizard of Oz", "Twister" or "The Day after Tomorrow". 

This past weekend began what is annually known across the United States as "Tornado Season".  The season generally runs from late winter through mid summer, but a tornado can actually happen in any of the 12 months.

Tornadoes occur in many parts of the world as well, but no country experiences more tornadoes than the United States, with over 1300 in the course of the year, April through July being the months with the highest numbers.

The Central Plains and the Southeast are the most susceptible areas in the US to seeing tornadoes. Why here? Very simply put, it is where we see the strongest contrast of air masses. Cold dry air from Canada pushes south and collides with warm moist air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico. When these two air masses clash, then we see the atmosphere at its most unstable. This then begins the formation of severe thunderstorms and possibly the development of tornadoes.

Determining the specific location and time that a tornado will hit is still a difficult forecast to make. But the science has been advancing rapidly with the help of super computer forecast models and equipment such as Doppler radar. With any weather phenomenon that can cause such destruction as a tornado, the goal is to get the warnings out faster and to more people. 

Along with the US, other countries such as Canada, Bangladesh, Britain, Mexico, northern Argentina and southern Brazil are also enhancing their weather forecasts to make sure the population is warned if a tornado outbreak is imminent. 

Source: Al Jazeera