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Tornado Tracking Attempt in Time-Lapse Video

BY Tom Bearden  June 1, 2011 at 4:20 PM EST

On Wednesday’s NewsHour, you’ll see a story on the scientific push to identify possible tornadoes sooner and issue warnings earlier.

As part of that reporting, we met with researchers from the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colo., who gave us a first-hand view on how they study the science behind powerful twisters.

This video shows one of 18 instrument packages that Dr. Josh Wurman’s team deploy in front of advancing tornadoes. The devices measure wind speed, temperature and relative humidity. They set them out like a picket fence, hoping that a tornado will pass directly over them.

As can be seen in the clip, filmed in 2009 in Goshen County, Wyo., that is a hit-or-miss proposition because tornadoes often change course unexpectedly.

You might think that a tornado would just pick them up and toss them, but Wurman says they’ve never even had one tipped over. That’s because they’re quite heavy, and because the winds from tornadoes near the ground are much less strong than even 10 feet off the ground.

The data from the sensors is collected by an instrument inside of a strongly constructed steel box on the base of the pod. Wurman says it’s stronger than the black boxes on aircraft. The pods also have small, battery-operated camcorders for a visual record.