Tornadoes contain the most powerful winds on Earth. North Georgia has experienced two of the top 20 deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history so there is evidence that we should be aware of the factors that produce tornadoes and what to do to protect ourselves from them. Over the past 60 years we have learned that tornadoes are more than just random, unpredictable, freak occurrences. With innovative technology like Doppler radar, dual polarization radar, photogrammetry, mesoscale observation networks, computer modeling, and high resolution weather satellites like the new GOES-16, meteorologists can now monitor, track, and even predict tornado outbreaks much sooner and more accurately. This combined with our improved theoretical and scientific understanding of tornadoes has allowed the Storm Prediction Center and National Weather Service Forecast Offices to establish a watch and warning system that has saved countless lives.
Dr. Mitchem will also discuss storm chasing. He has chased storms in previous years in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Indiana. Storm chasers provide data, video, and images that have allowed atmospheric scientists to better understand the physics, thermodynamics, and even optics of tornadoes. The chasers also provide valuable ground truth to verify warnings and convince the public to take shelter. Unfortunately chasing is a dangerous profession, and chasers can also be killed by tornadoes as we learned in the El Reno tornado. Some do’s and don’ts from chasing will be shared. This talk will highlight the science of tornadoes, the climatology of their occurrence (risk), our region’s tornado history, tornado safety, and storm chasing as we prepare for the peak of tornado season in Georgia.