"Science Storms" looks at science of predicting tornados

Spring is the height of tornado season and here in Michiana, we've had our share of dangerous tornadoes.

There is a science behind predicting those destructive winds, and Chief Meteorologist Mike Hoffman took a closer look at the science behind predicting tornados.

“The tornado really catches your eyes. These balloons are flying 65 feet in the air. It's a big visual draw. Once you get in you realize the detailed hard science you can get into,” Chris Wilson from the Museum of Science and Industry said.

The science of tornados is prominent in this 26,000 square foot exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

“Now what guests can do is come here and actually adjust the properties of the vortex. We are actually increasing the air flow coming out of all of those. At if you wait a few seconds you can see the vortex change properties,” Wilson said.

“You might get a little bit of increased rotation at a particular altitude and that is why you might get those crazy shapes, those kind of classic snake or rope like tornado, because there is a lot of different wind speeds happening at the various strata,” Wilson added

Changing the speed and direction of a 40 foot tornado is just one way you get to experience tornadoes at Science Storms.

“We call these the baby vortices, baby tornadoes you can adjust these walls a little bit and create your own little vortex. You can see what happens when the rotational flow is interrupted,” Wilson said.

“To me one of the great things this points out is just how fragile tornados are, you know as terrifying and powerful they can be. It's really kind of a miracle they happen in the first place. It takes so many variables work just can happen in the first place,” Wilson added.

“One little puff of air and the system gets disrupted,” Wilson said.

“People ask why don't the big cities get hit by tornadoes and basically it is when they are coming in they are getting disrupted more and more. An F-5 might not matter,” Hoffman said.

One of the most popular areas, you can feel the power of a tornado. The wind actually comes down from on top so it is not the same as a tornado, but it really does show you the force of the wind, up to 80 mph in the middle.

“Every time we have a large scale phenomenon like this we're deconstructing that phenomenon with smaller exhibit,” Wilson said.

You can see it get red, you can actually see the convection currents here. One of the things we are talking about in this interactive is here is that convection is actually a key part of what's going on inside a tornado.

The air pressure exhibit a good example of the Bernoulli principle. Air pressure plays a big role in tornados. It is also a lot of fun and noisy.

I'm taking an in-depth look at each experiment in Science Storms online. It's a special segment called On the Road with Mike’s Weather U.

Everyday for the next couple weeks, kids, teachers and parents will be entertained and educated.


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