Weather satellites have the ability to record our dynamic planet at a level of detail scientists have never seen before. One of the latest US weather satellites, GOES-16, is recording violent storm systems in unprecedented detail, including tornadoes.
Tornadoes typically form when thunderstorms form in unrelenting weather conditions. These conditions include warm and humid air rising inside a cloud, while cool air falls; rain or hail; strong winds; and the presence of dust or dirt.
These conditions cause the rotating air within the cloud to spin faster and to stretch vertically, which creates a tornado. Once a tornado forms, it's incredibly dangerous to people or objects in its path.
Often, it can't be seen from the ground because of the swirling debris and wind. It's important to remember, however, that if you see a tornado form, get out of the way and stay away from windows.
Observations from inside a tornado are extremely dangerous since the powerful winds and swirling debris could easily damage or destroy cameras. Additionally, there's no safe place to observe a tornado at close range because these violent storms can change speed and direction at any time and come right at you.
GOES-R Series weather satellites do a better job than earlier weather satellites at quickly identifying storms that may produce tornadoes. This allows meteorologists to forecast tornadoes before they happen, which can help save lives.