With its swirling column of wind, a tornado is one of nature’s most destructive storms. The most powerful tornadoes can rip houses from the ground, throw cars in the air, flip trains, and topple trees.
What causes tornadoes? How do scientists study them?
Let’s find out.
A Tornado is Coming!
How does a tornado form?
How do scientists forecast tornadoes?
Meteorologists use radar to track severe storms like tornadoes. Radar works by detecting precipitation in a storm. The radar unit sends out radio waves that bounce off the raindrops, hail, or snow. The amount of time it takes for the wave to return tells meteorologists how far away the storm is. Radar provides detailed, up-to-the-minute information about the storm’s path. And when scientists see that winds are blowing raindrops in a circular pattern, they know a tornado might be forming.
A system of tornado watches and warnings is used to alert the public to danger. A tornado “watch” means thunderstorm conditions exist that could start a tornado. A “warning” means a tornado has already formed and been spotted. This system gives people in the storm’s path time to get to safety.