NASA Talk Explains How To Make a Tornado

HAMPTON, VA -- On Tuesday, Sept. 9 at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, tornado researcher Paul Markowski will present "How to Make a Tornado: Ideas Emerging from Decades of Theory, Simulation and Field Observations" at 2 p.m. in the Reid Conference Center.

A professor of meteorology at Penn State, Markowski will examine the process by which a tornado is formed within the atmosphere, particularly super cell thunderstorms that are responsible for virtually all strong tornadoes.

Markowski will be available to answer questions from the media during a news briefing at 1:15 p.m. that day. That same evening at 7:30, Markowski will present a similar program for the general public at the Virginia Air & Space Center in downtown Hampton. This Sigma Series event is free and no reservations are required.

Markowski will review how barotropic or regions of uniform temperatures, and baroclinic, distinct air mass regions or fronts, are mechanisms for how downdrafts lead to the development of near-surface rotation. This is a prerequisite for the creation of tornadoes or tornadogenesis. He will also discuss some of the ideas emerging from the recently completely Second Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) and directions for future research.

Markowski uses a blend of cutting-edge observations and computer simulations to better our understanding of how tornadoes work in order to improve warnings. He is a recipient of the National Weather Association's Fujita Award, the European Severe Storms Laboratory's Dotzek Award, the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Award, the American Meteorological Society Editor's Award and the Penn State University Alumni Achievement Award.

He was one of the principal organizers of the VORTEX2, the largest tornado research project to date, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He also was a special consultant to the National Football League for Super Bowl XLVIII.

For more information about NASA Langley's Colloquium and Sigma Series Lectures, visit


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