When most of us hear “Tornado!,” we imagine a funnel-shaped cloud spinning down from the sky. But a recent study says that picture is wrong.

Scientists already know that tornadoes form in a thunderstorm. When warm and cold air collide, they create winds that can top 300 miles per hour and rip up buildings and trees.

But for years, experts thought that tornadoes formed in the sky and then traveled to the ground. A team of scientists who studied four tornadoes says the opposite is true.

“Our research shows that our eyes deceive us!” says Jana Houser, a scientist on the team. “Tornadoes really form close to the ground.”

More research is needed. But experts have a new place to look for forming tornadoes. They hope to someday spot them faster, speed up warnings, and give people more time to find shelter.