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Name: Natasha Arnett
Status: Student
Age: 11
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A 

What kind of equipment do you use to study the tornados?

Hi Natasha..!

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 tornadoes.

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 measurements.

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..!

Wendell Bechtold
forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO

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