The spectacular images that have come to us in recent days about the Oklahoma tornado, estimated in the EF4 category, the second strongest, have brought us closer to a reality in which terror and devastation have devastated much of the capital of this US state, located in the center of the country. The Storm Prediction Center of the North American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described this natural phenomenon as a ” gigantic and deadly tornado “, with a diameter close to three kilometers, and a speed of more than 300 kilometers per hour.
Hundreds of houses, buildings, and various infrastructures were devastated in its wake, and what is worse, during its journey it took the lives of more than twenty people, including several children. In fact, the first estimates spoke of a hundred deaths, due to the violence exerted in its passage by this tornado. Its ferocity is unusual since only 1% of these phenomena reach its speed and diameter.
What is a tornado?
The National Meteorological Institute of Costa Rica defines tornadoes as a phenomenon that occurs as a result of a very intense air rotation and little horizontal extension, which extends from the base of a mother cloud known as Cumulonimbus.
This base is less than two kilometers from the ground and has a great vertical development since its top can reach 10 kilometers in height. What is known as a tornado chimney is nothing more than a collection of water droplets, dust, and debris particles.
Close to the ground is where the mixture of dust and debris is most abundant, due to the low atmospheric pressure, which causes the air to rise. In what is known as the eye of the tornado, electric shocks can occur.
According to sources from the BBC, it was impossible to detect the tornado that swept Oklahoma, because only half an hour passed between the storm that preceded this meteorological phenomenon and the outbreak. Its speed of formation, magnitude, and speed made it very difficult to notify citizens, hence the human and economic disaster unleashed.
Right now, there are few tornado detection systems, although scientists are trying to develop new and better technologies that allow them to anticipate and plan for tornadoes before they occur.
How are tornadoes detected?
In the United States, they are quite used to this devastating and striking process, since according to Pedro Fernández, from the Caztormentas website, the orographic and climatological characteristics of some areas of this country make the development of tornadoes quite common.
Tornado detection is carried out on a regular basis by means of what is known as Doppler pulse radar, which is capable of measuring the heading, distance, altitude, and speed of an object, and thanks to which we can have evidence of rotation in storms that are more than 150 kilometers apart. However, the use of these devices is most effective when the storm is close to the radar itself. If we are far away, we can only see the top of the storm, but not it’s base.