The first tornado forecast issued by two Air Force Officers at Tinker Air
Force Base, Okla., on March 25, 1948, was the first step in establishing
the National Weather Service's organized watch and warning program that blankets
and protects the nation today. Now 50 years later, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, Tinker Air Force Base, and the University of Oklahoma are
celebration this historic forecast. Following are some tornado-related story ideas that
you may want to develop as weather and science-related features commemorating this
50 YEARS OF PROGRESS
Since that first tornado forecast issued 50 years ago on March 25, 1948, the science
community has made significant progress to improve the watch and warning lead times.
Because of investments in research, observing systems such as the Doppler radar and
interactive computer systems, and forecasting technology, the lead time for tornadoes
has nearly doubled from a national average of 5 minutes in the early 1990s to nearly 10
minutes today. This extra time allows those in the path of danger to take steps to protect
themselves and their families from these powerful storms. What technologies does the
National Weather Service have in place today? How are tornadoes forecast? What
research projects are underway to continue these scientific improvements?
WHY DO SCIENTISTS TRY TO INTERCEPT TORNADOES?
Scientists chase and "intercept" tornadoes to measure them close up to learn more
about them. The goal is to improve forecasts and warnings. The National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and university scientists have conducted a series
of scientific intercepts of tornadic storms that should revolutionize our understanding of
tornadoes and dramatically improve tornado forecasts and warnings.
BETTER TORNADO WARNINGS FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
The NWS has completed a nationwide blanket of overlapping Doppler weather radars
that can actually see inside of storms and give forecasters new capabilities for making
timely, geographically-specific warnings of approaching tornadoes. Since the
introduction of these new radars, average warning lead times for tornadoes are longer,
and forecasters are learning more about spotting potential locations for tornadoes.
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET TORNADO WARNINGS WHEN THEY ARE SLEEPING OR
NOT WATCHING TV OR LISTENING TO THEIR RADIOS?
The high-band FM frequencies commonly referred to as the "weather band" carry
NOAA Weather Radio broadcast from National Weather Service Forecast offices.
Special NOAA Weather Radio receivers, available at most electronics stores for about
the cost of a pair of shoes, can be set to turn on only if a severe weather warning is
sent out from an NWS office. A special frequency tone is picked up by the radio, the
tone turns the radio on and sounds a brief alarm, followed by the warning information.
NOAA Weather Radios are becoming standard equipment in more and more schools,
hospitals, nursing homes, churches and synagogues and other public gathering places
in tornado alley and throughout the country. More information is available on the
Internet at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr
HOW DO STORM SPOTTERS HELP?
National Weather Service forecast offices across the country use Doppler radar and
satellite pictures as the primary tools to detect severe weather. However, one of the
most important tool for observing thunderstorms and tornadoes is the trained eye of the
storm spotter. Trained spotters perform an invaluable service for the NWS. Their
real-time observations of tornadoes, hail, wind, and significant cloud formations provide
a truly reliable information base for severe weather detection and verification. By
providing observations, spotters assist the meteorologists at local offices in their
warning decisions, and enabling the NWS to fulfill its mission of protecting life and