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Can you use your television set (or AM radio) as a tornado detector? In theory, yes, but in real life NO!

Known as the Weller Method when used in the 60's and early 70's, it was possible to detect tornadoes using the TV or the AM radio. The theory is that a severe thunderstorm which contains a tornado will also contain large amounts of lightning. The user was to turn the television to channel 13, turn down the brightness till the screen was almost black then switch to channel 2.

As the tornado developed, the lightning intensity would increase to a point that would cause the screen to turn bright white since channel 2 is near the same frequency as the signal produced by the lightning and would override the brightness control. (Using the radio, the static would become continuous at 550 mHz, on the low end on the dial).

While this method can work, this is absolutely NOT foolproof because...

  1. Research has shown that tornadoes can (and do) form when the parent cloud contains little lightning. Conversely, not all thunderstorms which contain a large amount of lightning will always produce a tornado.

  2. Some television sets are designed with filters to prevent this from happening.

  3. Many now have cable or satellite. If you do, this will not work.

This method produces far too many false alarms in the detection of tornadoes and also misses many of the tornadoes that do form. IT IS NOT RELIABLE AND IS NOT TO BE USED.

To discover about more about lightning, go to JetStream - an Online School for Weather.

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