If a tornado touches down and no one is around to see it…Kelsey EllisCollege of Arts & Sciences - Geography
Tornado climatologists rely on a complete dataset of
tornado touchdowns to analyze tornado risk across space and time. The only way
for a tornado to be added to the national database is for it to be witnessed,
reported, and the damage surveyed. Weaker tornadoes especially have a history of
being unseen and underreported. States in Tornado Alley have a larger portion
of tornadoes being observed recently, perhaps in part due to the watchful eyes
of storm chasers that frequent the area. In Tennessee, the number of tornadoes
remaining unobserved is not as clear. The state also has a high rate of killer
tornadoes and the greatest percentage of nocturnal tornadoes in the country.
Recognizing this, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
has prioritized research in the area of tornadogenesis and tornado
vulnerability in the Southeast United States. The VORTEX-Southeast program
launched this month with the goal to better understand tornado formation and
societal risk in this region, with a large part of the social science research
and outreach occurring in Tennessee.