Meteorology leaps forward following tornadoes of 1974

The science of meteorology was just beginning in 1974 when tornadoes devastated many in the U.S. Meteorologists were still using radar technology from the second world war.

Distinguishing storm structure from the little green blobs on the radar was difficult, to say the least.

Now, radar technology takes a 360-degree look at precipitation every four to six minutes. That gives meteorologists plenty of lead time to issue warnings for dangerous weather.

Radars can also look at storm structure, seeing how tall a storm is and what direction all of its parts are moving. This allows meteorologists to locate the dangerous rotation that can spawn tornadoes.

Satellites have also improved. In the mid-70s, satellite technology was in its infancy. Monitoring the weather was only a fraction of early satellites’ jobs. Today, two satellites are constantly monitoring weather in the United States.

The way we communicate has significantly improved as well. When 148 tornadoes marched across the U.S. in 1978, teletype machines couldn’t keep up with all the warnings. Radio and TV were the only means of communicating those messages.

Everything is electronic today. Computers can issue multiple warnings at once. Television, radio, internet, social media, and smartphones are all instantaneous. These improvements mean better lead times for tornadoes and more lives saved.

Everyone will need to keep an eye on those warnings again, today. The same front that brought tornadoes, hail, and wind to the mid-U.S. has moved east. The risk for severe weather today now lies from southern Mississippi to West Virginia.


Tornadoes, hail, and wind are all a threat, but it should be much more tame than yesterday.

Follow Storm Shield Meteorologist Jason Meyers via the Storm Shield app on twitter, @StormShieldApp and Facebook. Download the Storm Shield Weather Radio App for your iPhone or Android device and get severe weather alerts wherever you are.

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