Meteorology includes the study of the weather and climate. Meteorologists are in particularly interested in studying the development of thunderstorms and tornadoes. The research and observation of storms began as a hobby for Howard B. Bluestein. Bluestein’s interest in meteorology began with cloud photography. After receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering he went on to graduate school to major in Meteorology. In his book, Monster Storms of the Great Plains, Bluestein relates his experiences with chasing storms and researching tornadoes. He also provides the history of the technology used to research and gather data on storms.
Thunderstorms can be spectacular yet so destructive. The development of thunderstorms and why tornadoes form continues puzzle to scientists (Bluestein, 1999, loc. 2046). The development of a storm begins with the accumulation of clouds (cumulous stage) and updrafts. Moisture in the clouds turns to liquid water and heat is released. The moisture in the clouds turns into raindrops and this changes the density of the clouds. The cooling and weight of the rain causes a downdraft. The wind shifts with the downdraft which causes wind gusts.
Tornadoes can develop in thunderstorm cells. According to Bluestein (1999),
Cells begin when dry thermals, buoyant parcels of unsaturated air reach the condensation level and remain buoyant. In the absence of dry thermals, the cells can be triggered if unsaturated air is lifted to its condensation level through various means (loc. 359).
The word supercell was termed by a British meteorologist to describe a large thunderstorm that endures for more than an hour. Supercells are severe thunderstorms that produce hail. Updrafts in supercells can be so strong that they produce penetrating tops and an anvil shape. Severe thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes although there is no specific documentation that can be used to predict if a storm will produce a tornado. Weak storms can also produce thunderstorms.
Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world. However, there is one area in the United States that is referred to as Tornado Alley. This area includes the North Texas and the Panhandle, Oklahoma and Nebraska. More tornadoes are produced in this area because of the dryline. Most thunderstorms form along a dryline. Tornadoes can occur any time throughout the year but occur most often during the spring and summer. They are violent rotating columns of air that form beneath the base of a thunderstorm or a towering cumulus cloud. Interestingly, tornadoes rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the...