Essay about Researching Tornado Warnings in the U.S

Submitted By Timothy-Wanamaker
Words: 3383
Pages: 14

A Tornado is nature’s most violent and unpredictable weather phenomenon. In the last 30 years great strides have been taken to reduce the amount of fatalities associated with tornadoes. Jerry Brotzge, Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms of the University of Oklahoma, and W. Donner, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, at The University of Texas, state; “Before technological advancements in recorded years 1912 through 1936, tornadoes killed an average 260 persons per year, about 1.8 deaths per million people when normalized by population” (Brotzge and Donner 2013.) Tornadoes create violent and shifting winds and are hard to provide warnings for without the work of dedicated scientists in the field disseminating storm information with radar, radio, television, and GPS-based systems. This ability to provide advanced warnings on storms depends heavily on verification reports by meteorologists on the ground recording tornado winds with advanced instruments. To achieve the most accurate tornado warnings by following severe storms with radar, storm chasers provide a service which puts their lives at risk for the sake of warning the public, saving their lives, and pushing new technology to its limits, gathering new data on tornadoes. The history leading up to today’s advancements and providing information to the public has been a reconfiguring of the government to allow such practices to be shared, creating a largely effective public tornado warning system. “Between 1975 and 2000, that number had declined to 54 deaths per year or 0.12 deaths per million people in 2000, a reduction of 93% from 1925.”(Brotzge and Donner 2013) Tornadoes need to be understood and recognized as a normal function of nature; better warnings and lead times for predicting severe weather outbreaks will alleviate some anxiety among us and help prepare us when weather is favorable for tornadoes.
The sheer scope of power tornadoes unleash is exactly why we must advance warnings. Winds have been clocked at 302 mph as seen in the May 3, 1999 Moore, Oklahoma F-5 tornado. Recently on May 31, 2013, El Reno Oklahoma experienced the largest and second strongest tornadoes on record. The tornado was an astounding 2.6 miles wide, had peak winds of 295 mph, and carved a path over 16 miles long! The size and magnitude of raw tornado power has baffled scientists for centuries. Benjamin Franklin is arguably the first in America to document “spouts” in the sky, first trying to figure out the nature of a waterspout (“tornado over water”,) and arguably was the first on record to chase a tornado in the Maryland countryside in 1754, on horseback nonetheless. Tornadoes before modern research were mystical to those without formal knowledge. For the inquisitive and educated, tornadoes over water (which with the main travel being by ship, and a majority living near the coast,) were quite common and thoroughly documented by captains and philosophers alike. The cause and effect of the “spouts” were speculative at best.
It would take another hundred years, during the latter part of the 19th century, for tornado research to slowly develop. With the large number of tornado deaths (per capita) in the United States high by modern standards, severe storms and tornadoes remained a condition of the weather that wasn’t researched with much enthusiastic gusto. Tim Coleman, Professor of the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama, and Kevin Pence Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, coordinated joint research of Sgt. John Finley. “By 1882, early research and warnings were conducted in earnest by the efforts of Sgt. John Finley, of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He was part of the weather program known as the “Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce and Agriculture,” that included some 1,000 “reporters” that were organized to provide details on tornado damage and report tornado sightings.”