# Why do we still gather data from inside tornadoes?

I’ve watched all the episodes of “Storm Chasers” and “Tornado Chasers”, and I know that even today there are still tornado scientists trying to put probes inside tornadoes to gather data about conditions inside the funnel. I have to ask, what’s the point of continuing to do this?
We already have dozens of sets of data of what the conditions are like inside a tornado. How collecting more of this data will change anything is beyond me. We know the wind speeds are higher, the pressure is lower. We know we need to build buildings that can withstand 300mph winds. So why do we keep putting probes into these tornadoes?
What we should be doing is what Vortex 2 was doing in 09 and 10, and study why some storms produce tornadoes while others don’t. Figure that out and you have the same warning times as somebody would have for a hurricane. You could know days in advance, or at least an hour or two in advance, that a storm would create a tornado.

So why the research into what happens inside a tornado?

Since every tornado is different, they want to know the characteristics of as many tornadoes as possible to better understand the differences. More data is always better than less data. It also helps to understand the damage that different tornadoes do, based on how tornadoes differ. Predicting exactly when and where a tornado is going to occur is a very different problem.

But why is the data collected from Tornado X different from the data collected from Tornado Y? In the end, all the data, no matter how different tornadoes are, is going to tell us to build stronger buildings, right?

In what way does the building need to be stronger, though? Does it need to handle a greater pressure differential? Does it need to handle greater forces horizontally? Does it need to handle greater forces vertically? You can’t build infinitely strong buildings for a reasonable amount of money. If you constrain your building codes to what people can actually afford, what gives you the best bang for your buck as far as tornado protection is concerned?

You can’t answer those questions unless you have a very good understanding of the forces inside (and around) a tornado.

Also, how do you model and predict where a tornado will go? If you can predict which way it is going to go, you can give that town a bit of warning and give the folks a chance to get to shelter before they get slammed.

The more you know, the better.

Eventually we’ll get to a point where we can take routine data (radar, sensors on the ground, satellites, etc.), feed it into a supercomputer, and have the computer predict exactly where every tornado will form, what the wind speed is at different parts of each tornado, how it will move, etc. Until then, we can’t say “we understand tornadoes, we don’t need any more data.”

I take it you’re not a big fan of abstract scientific knowledge for its own sake, then?

No two tsunamis are the same, and no two earthquakes are the same. You can’t study one instance of a phenomena and say “I’m done now”. That’s not how science works. We need to learn as much as we can… and we learn more about tornadoes every year.

It’s also not just that they’re collecting the same data over and over, but as the remote sensing equipment gets better and better they’re collecting ever higher-resolution data, which might provide some insights that weren’t previously apparent.

Well, first things first, both of those are Reed Timmer shows and the truth is that he’s not doing much worthwhile. He says he’s collecting data and saving lives, but all he really does is go around trying to get cool footage and promote himself. I don’t believe any of his data has been published or that he has ever written any research papers or studies on tornadoes. If you ask people in the field what he has contributed, they kind of scratch their heads and can’t come up with anything. Here is a thread from a weather forum that illustrates it.

Getting a better warning time is the major reason that people study tornadoes and there are a million data points that need to be studied in order to do that.

I have not followed this field. Do you have a cite for data collected inside a tornado? I don’t remember hearing about anyone who actually got lucky enough to have a tornado pass over their instrumentation-and have the instruments survive. I know there have been many attempts, and eventually someone is going to get lucky, but what is the cite?

In addition to forecasting, warning time is connected to how well a weather monitor can interpret the radar data coming in.

If you know what a forming tornado looks like on radar, in excruciating detail, you can train people, or software, to recognize that signature and sound the alarm.

Tornadoes are driven by fairly simple physics. The devil is in the details. what is the range of humidity & vorticity and lapse, and etc. that will or won’t trigger one?

What does a pregnant storm look like?

Equally we have to know what false alarms look like. Sounding the alarm when no tornado forms is very, very bad policy. Real quickly the public will learn to ignore those warnings.
Here’s a final hint. If you’re getting anything at all about science from a video, broadcast or otherwise, you’re doing it wrong. That’s pure infotainment, and about 99% tainment with only enough info to glue the hunks of BS together. And have the info they do have is either deliberately false, or truth simplified to the point of *de facto *falseness.