At the present time the only generally accepted method for detecting when a tornado is on the ground is human observation. Based on theoretical considerations combined with eyewitness testimony, there is strong reason to believe that a tornado in contact with the ground transfers a significant amount of energy into the ground. The amount of energy transferred depends upon the intensity of the tornado and the characteristics of the surface. Some portion of this energy takes the form of seismic waves, both body and surface waves. Surface waves (Rayleigh and possibly Love) represent the most likely type of seismic signal to be detected. Based on the existence of such a signal, a seismic tornado detector appears conceptually possible. The major concerns for designing such a detector are range of detection and discrimination between the tornadic signal and other types of surface waves generated by ground transportation equipment, high winds, or other nontornadic sources.

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