Name: Natasha Arnett
What kind of equipment do you use to study the tornados?
Your question is a good one, because, if you think about it, the
destructive winds of tornadoes can damage regular weather instruments. But
meteorologists and other scientists have figured out ways to investigate
thunderstorms, and have figured out which ones are most likely to spawn
The main equipment used today is the weather Doppler radar system. A
Doppler radar is a little more sophisticated than previous radars, because
it can measure wind velocity and direction "inside" a thunderstorm, as well
as the normally measured rainfall intensity. Thunderstorms are very complex
cloud systems, but we are learning more every season about the physics of
their life cycle.
Tornado investigators have developed mobile doppler radars, mounted on
trucks or trailers, that they can move to locations favorable for tornadic
storm development on a given day, and then make their observations. They can
space several radars a few miles apart, and make very high resolution
observations of wind fields in and around tornadoes.
They also use other portable weather instruments, that have been specially
developed for the extreme environment of the tornado. These are also placed
in the likely path of a tornado, with the hope of getting some valuable data
on wind speeds and direction, temperature, humidity, and air pressure
Occasionally, the investigators will get lucky, and get some excellent
data from all their observing instruments. This data is studied, and
compared to other data, such as satellite photographs of the storm system
from above, and regular videotape and photographs taken from airplanes and
from the ground.
The ultimate goal of all these investigations is to gain a better
understanding of the atmosphere, and help weather forecasters make longer
range and more accurate storm warnings.
I think the study of the atmosphere and weather is about the most
interesting job there is..! I am a weather forecaster (meteorologist) and
work for the National Weather Service in St. Louis, Missouri. If you have
more questions about tornadoes, or any aspect of meteorology, just ask..!
forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO
Click here to return to the Environmental and Earth Science Archives
Update: June 2012