Tornadoes: How They Form And How Well We Can Forecast Them

Wednesday, April 5 2006
Room 2325 Rayburn 
3:00 to 4:00 PM

Sponsored by Representatives Jo Bonner, Wayne Gilchrest and Dennis Moore and Senators Jim DeMint and Ben Nelson, Co-chairs of the Congressional Hazards Caucus

In an average year, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported across the United States, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction, with damage paths as wide as a mile and as long as 50 miles and wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Tornadoes form in thunderstorms and the most severe tornadoes often develop in large storms with a well-developed rotation. Unfortunately, not every tornado forms in a severe storm and we do not yet understand how or why they form. This briefing will explore how meteorologists track potential tornadoes and warn the public as well as considering how we can study tornadoes up close to understand how they form to improve our forecasts and engineering designs.


Opening Remarks: 

The Honorable Dennis Moore (3rd District of Kansas)


Linda Rowan, American Geological Institute


Joshua Wurman, Atmospheric Scientist, Director of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) and Adjunct Faculty at Pennsylvania State University
1. What We Don't Know and What We Need to Know to Better Warn of Tornadoes: Close-Up Observations with Mobile Radars
2. Potential Catastrophic Impacts of Violent Tornadoes Crossing Urban Areas

Mark Tew, Meteorologist, NOAA's Public Weather Warning Program Manager 
Tornado Warnings: How Does the National Weather Service Track Potential Tornadoes and How Quickly Can They Warn the Public

Scott A. Carter,NOAA Office of Legislative Affairs National Weather Service Issues
Information About NOAA's National Weather Service

Greg Forbes, Meteorologist, The Weather Channel 
How the Public Gets and Reacts to Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Warnings and Forecasts

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Joshua Wurman is the Director of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR). Wurman leads the Doppler On Wheels (DOW) mobile radar program has obtained data in over 100 tornadoes. These data are being used to study tornadogenesis, tornado structure and low-level tornadic winds. The DOWs have also intercepted nine hurricane eyes and most recently intercepted the eye of Rita as it came ashore near Port Arthur, Texas. Josh received his BS, MS, and ScD's from MIT then moved to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to develop bistatic radar networks and was a tenured faculty member at Oklahoma University where he developed the DOWs, and began to study tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and other phenomena from close up in order to see details that were not otherwise resolvable. Josh is a scientific visitor at NCAR.

Mark Tew is a meteorologist at the Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services of NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) in Silver Spring, Maryland. He provides leadership and oversight of the NWS public weather warning policy and procedures and lead the implementation of a new software warning tool which codifies and permits automated delivery of NWS warning products to the broadcast media and emergency managers. Before leading the Public Weather Warning program, he served eight years as an operational forecaster at four different NWS weather forecast offices. He obtained a BS degree in meteorology from San Jose State University.

Dr. Greg Forbes has been a Severe Weather Expert at The Weather Channel since the summer of 1999. He appears on air to add detail and analysis of tornado, severe thunderstorm, and flooding events, including the after-landfall impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes. Before joining The Weather Channel, he was an associate professor in the Pennsylvania State University Department of Meteorology. He obtained his PhD in Meteorology at the University of Chicago, under the mentorship of tornado expert Professor Ted Fujita.

Sponsors for the briefing include the following members of the Hazards Caucus Alliance: 

American Geosciences Institute
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research