What observations do scientists make about tornadoes?

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Dear Tom,

What observations do scientists make about tornadoes, what tools do they use, and how are the observations that they make important/influential?

Julia and Jenna,
Thomas Middle School Arlington Heights

Dear Julia and Jenna,

Tornadoes are capable of producing the most violent winds on Earth. Understanding how tornadoes form leads to earlier warnings of their approach, thereby reducing potential injury, or loss of life. Much of our knowledge of tornadoes began with research done at the University of Chicago by the late Dr. Ted Fujita. His early work resulted mainly from weather observations and photography of tornadoes. The advent of Doppler radar has allowed scientists the capability of observing air motions in, and around tornadic thunderstorms. Doppler radar was deployed to National Weather Service offices in the early 1990’s. Since then, warning lead times have steadily risen.

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