June 10, 2016 Comments (0) Views: 7279 Environment, Miscellaneous, Physics, Resources, Sciences

Chase Past Tornadoes with the Tornado History Project

The spring and summer months mark the height of tornado activity in the United States. In fact, the US is a hotspot for tornadic activity, with around one thousand tornadoes, on average, annually. (Canada as a nation comes second in the world to the US in number of annual tornadoes with about a hundred, on average.)

The Tornado History Project is a website that is attempting to catalogue as many US tornadoes as possible that have occurred since 1950. The site gives you search parameters that you can manipulate to look at specific tornadoes within a certain area or time period. The tornadoes that apply to your search will overlay on Google Maps. Below, I’ve chosen the date 6 May 1965, and I zoomed into Minneapolis, MN. On that date, there was a tornado outbreak where six tornadoes touched down around the Twin Cities metro area.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.52.36 PM

Each tornado is shown on the map with its respective path from start to finish. The touch-down or starting point of a tornado is indicated by a pin; click on the pin, and you’ll get an exact start time of the tornado, and the casualties it caused. If you’re lucky, you may find some videos and photos of the tornado as well.

You’ll notice that each tornado pin is color-coded with a little number on it. This indicates the Fujita-scale rating of that tornado. It’s also one of the search parameters you can choose from. The Enhanced Fujita scale is a damage rating system for tornadoes that runs EF0 – EF5. EF0 tornadoes cause little to no damage, where EF5 tornadoes cause total destruction of what they hit. On my search, you can see that four EF4 tornadoes happened in the metro area, which is an incredibly rare event.

So far, the site has catalogued over sixty thousand tornadoes and their paths. Trying to visualize a fraction of these tornadoes on the map is impractical, and will probably severely slow your computer down. Below is five thousand of all the tornadoes in their database. Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.55.45 PM

Each of those pins is a tornado. As you can see, the US gets bombarded. If we get around a thousand tornadoes a year, then this is about five years worth of tornadoes on the same page. But don’t panic. The vast majority of all tornadoes are EF0 or EF1 tornadoes—storms that would cause minimal damage, but you still probably don’t want to be outside during one.

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