Research is on-going into the whys and wherefores of one of nature's most destructive events. Because of the dedication of professionals and amateurs alike, the meteorologist's knowledge of tornadoes has expanded and forecasting potential tornadic storms has improved.
VORTEXOne meteorological study that collected a great deal of information on the correlation between supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes is VORTEX.
VORTEX is an acronym for Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment.
In the springs of 1994 and 1995, professional storm chasers associated with this United States government study drove thousands of miles across the Southern Plains hoping to intercept severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
An armada of specially outfitted cars, each with weather sensing devices and interlinked computers, combined with mobile and airborne Doppler radars to examine pre-thunderstorm environments and probe thunderstorms and tornadoes once they formed.
Some of the greatest successes came in early June 1995, in the project's waning days, as project members intercepted several violent tornadoes in West Texas. They obtained close-range high resolution Doppler radar imagery of the tornadoes and collected a massive amount of data on the environments surrounding the storms.
In the post VORTEX years research continues on tornadoes using a number of techniques. Researchers using higher-resolution mobile Doppler radars continue to study the structure of tornadoes and their parent thunderstorms. Other researchers deploy wind and pressure sensors and video cameras into the path of tornadoes, recording unique data when the tornado passes overhead. Other researchers work on new types of radars and how to use them to improve measurements of severe thunderstorms. Yet others work to improve numerical models which predict severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and the weather conditions in which they form.
SkywarnSkywarn is an organization consisting of individual tornado spotters. During severe thunderstorm situations, the spotters closely monitor the skies for tornado development. Skywarn members report to their local National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office via ham radio or cellular phone if they sight possible funnel cloud formations.
Skywarn organizations generally include members of the local police and fire departments among their ranks, men and women specifically trained to spot tornado activity. Some of these people are also storm chasers.