VideoMay 12, 2010

Detecting Tornadoes

Detecting Tornadoes

  • Published: May 12th, 2010

Program Summary

While most people would do anything to stay away from tornadoes, some scientists seek out these storms. Scientists are assisted by a nationwide network of Doppler radars, which are powerful tools for monitoring severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. These radars allow scientists to visualize the winds within the storm, and by using those winds they provide forecasters with advance warning.

Smaller, portable Doppler radars are currently being used in a field project called Vortex 2. During the 2009 and 2010 tornado seasons, Vortex 2 has been tasked with seeking out tornadoes in “tornado alley”. Vortex 2 scientists intend to collect the most complete three-dimensional pictures of tornadoes that have ever been generated.

The results of this project may result in a better understanding of how tornadoes develop, which could lead to better short-term tornado forecasts and warnings. Additional study is needed to determine if a warming climate may lead to more tornadoes, or causes a change in where and when tornadoes appear.

CREDITS: Mike Coniglio, NSSL; NOAA; Dave Lewellen, National Science Foundation