A Doppler radar is one way to detect tornadoes. The National Severe Storms Laboratory developed the WSR-88D mesoscale detection algorithm. By looking at radar data, forecasters assess whether a rotation pattern could develop into a tornado.
“NSSL researchers discovered the Tornado Vortex Signature (TVS), a Doppler radar velocity pattern indicating a region of intense concentrated rotation,” according to NSSL. “The TVS appears on radar several kilometers above the ground before a tornado hits the ground. It has a smaller and tighter rotation than the mesocyclone. While the existence of a TVS does not guarantee a tornado, it does greatly increase the probability of a tornado occurring.
Forecasters can also use phased array technology, which scans an area within one minute and allows them to see if a tornado is forming faster than if they were using radar.
And then there are the storm spotters. They can be emergency personnel or volunteers. Storm spotters receive training so they can then report what they see to the National Weather Service.
Signs to take into account
Even without proper training, you can become familiar with the signs that there may be a tornado forming.
- The color of the sky: Clouds Yellow, green or brown colors can indicate that there will be a strong storm.
- The noises you hear: If you hear something that sounds like a freight train or the whistling of the wind, you should seek shelter.
- flying debris: Strong winds will pick up objects, so if you see this, you should also take immediate action.