Developments in Tornado Research

While the meteorological road from research to forecasting and warnings is often a bumpy one, we continue to make progress. Here is an example which -- may -- lead to better tornado warnings.

Below is a screen capture from a Twitter/X post and video:

There was fascinating data from a mobile radar (below). Dr.'s Josh Wurman* and Karen Kosiba intercepted this tornado and were able to set up the radar in time. 
The maximum measured winds just above the ground were 224 mph! EF-5 intensity is 200 mph. However, the official rating may not be that high for the reasons below.

While original (superior, in my opinion) Fujita Tornado Intensity scale allowed for measurements of tornadoes, its successor, the 'Enhanced' Fujita Scale (EF), ranks tornadoes solely by damage. 

Example: If, for example, an EF-4 (second highest) tornado's only damage was to a rural barn that would fall apart in 100 mph winds, that tornado will be rated EF-2 rather than its actual intensity which was EF-4.

To my knowledge, the Harlan Tornado has not received its final EF- rating. But, this nearby measurement from the mobile Doppler radar shows it had winds deserving of an EF-5 rating. These mobile research radars can measure lower in the tornado than operational radars and with more precision because of their intentionally limited range.

It was also of scientific interest to learn the violent tornado was on the north side of the hook. 

Now that we have computer models with resolution of 1km (5/8th of a mile), eventually we will find ways of getting this type of data into a form that may allow us to better model the thunderstorms that may have a better chance of producing tornadoes. It is not a straight line from hypothesis + data = better warnings. Let's hope we can make this work sooner rather than later. 

*The spell check incorrectly changed the spelling of Dr. Wurman's name. It has been corrected. 


  1. This was rated as EF-3 (

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Bill. It has been fixed.


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