Questions

Are tornados smaller or larger than hurricanes?

What data do scientist need to collect on tornados?

Is storm chasing a dangerous job? Why?

Chasing Tornadoes

Tornadoes are much smaller than hurricanes, but are they easier to study? The answer is "No!" Some of the same kinds of inventions are used, but tornadoes are harder to study.

To study a tornado, scientists have to collect a lot of data on temperature, wind, and moisture in the air. But most tornadoes only last for a few seconds or minutes, so it's hard to get the data fast enough. And even when a tornado lasts an hour or more, it's hard for scientists to keep track of it. This is because the tornado can change its shape and its direction as it moves. And these changes may also be hidden by clouds and sheets of rain.

Storm chasers are scientists who travel around looking for big storms to study.  They hope to watch tornadoes as they happen and to collect data about them. Storm chasers may spend months and months driving around, trying to find a good tornado to study.

Storm chasers use special inventions like the ones that hurricane scientists use. Some storm chasers drive trucks that carry Doppler radar machines. Other chasers drive trucks that carry probes. A tornado probe holds tools for collecting data about tornadoes. The tools are protected by a heavy metal shell.  This Doppler radar truck is used to collect data about tornadoes.

Storm "chasing" is really more like sneaking up on a tornado. Storm chasers try to leave their probes on the ground right in the path of a tornado. Then the chasers have to get away fast!  This storm chaser is trying to put a probe in the tornado's path.

After the tornado has passed, they come back and look for the probes. If they are lucky, the tornado has passed close to the probes so that the probes could pick up data. And if they are really lucky, the tornado has not smashed the probes!

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