How do meteroligist predict tornadoes?
There are several conditions that can cause tornado formation.
When these conditions exist, meteorologists can predict
tornado likelihood for a certain area or along a line in
in front of a cold or warm front. Commonly, a jet stream
lying above and to an angle to the surface wind direction,
plus a large difference in water vapor in the air on the
two sides of a front are contributing factors. Using modern
Doppler radar, there are signatures of spinning air (called
vorticity) that can be seen in a thunderstorm prior to a tornado
actually forming; these are looked for very closely by
meteorologists to try to detect precise locations where a
tornado may form.
Argonne National Laboratory
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Update: June 2012