Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to a very bright group of students at Chadwick Elementary School in Carroll County, Illinois. We talked about the science of the seasons, tornadoes, hurricanes, and climate change.
My science talks include a lot of inspirational thought...for children to do something as adults that won't make them bored. To start thinking about a profession that will challenge their minds. Yesterday, I left these students with an idea for something I really believe they will be able to accomplish. The person who will discover enough about tornadoes so we can evacuate people before a tornado touches down is 10 years old today.
When it comes to tornadoes, we've come a long way
Saturday marks the anniversary of one of the most significant, long-lived tornadoes in U.S. history. The "Tri-State Tornado" was on the ground through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, killing killing 695 and injuring 2,000 people. That led the U.S. government to spend money to research and prepare for tornadoes. According to the American Meteorological Society, tornado warnings reduce the chance of injury by 32%. The lead-time between the issuance of a warning and the actual touch down is something that Meteorologists are working to increase. Just an extra minute of lead time on a tornado warning reduces expected injuries by 1.1%.
In 2011, the average lead time was 13 minutes. I believe advancements in Dual-Pol Doppler radar have the lead time closer to 20-25 minutes today. And I believe with new satellite technology like GOES-16, we will learn more about tornadogenesis which could put the lead time up to 30 minutes in just the next few years. The end result: more time for people to assess the threat, alert their families, and find safe shelter.
What if we could evacuate people before a tornado?
The mysteries surrounding tornado development are currently being researched fast and furious at universities all over the country. Discoveries are happening all the time which have a direct impact on public safety. But the great discovery is still out there! The biggest breakthrough since Dr. Ted Fujita's work in the 1960s and 1970s only lies 10-20 years in the future. And that discovery will happen in the brain of a child sitting in a fourth grade science class today.
That's why I am such an advocate for our public school system. We need to continue to focus on science and mathematics. And on top of that, encourage all children critical thinking skills and problem solving. Today's investment on education will pay off when we have enough technology to accurately say that a town will be hit by a tornado tomorrow and we need to get everybody out today.
That's a lot of homework for today's children, but I'm giving them 20 years to complete the task. Hopefully, it will be turned in by one of these students from Chadwick Elementary School.
-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen