The Proposed 1883 Holden Tornado Warning System

Its Genius and Its Applications Today

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In the four years before the U.S. Army Signal Corps weather program banned the use of the word “tornado” in its forecasts starting in 1886, Sgt. John P. Finley headed up a program to document and study local storms, including tornadoes. Upon examination of Finley's findings, astronomer Edward S. Holden proposed an automatic local tornado warning system, using telegraph wires, in 1883. He felt that a system that could provide the residents of a town even 5-min warning could save lives. The system he proposed was not only fascinating, but three different aspects of it are still, either directly or indirectly, in use today.

Department of Atmospheric Science, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama

National Weather Service, Birmingham, Alabama

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Tim Coleman, Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, NSSTC, 320 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, AL 35805, E-mail: coleman@nsstc.uah.edu

In the four years before the U.S. Army Signal Corps weather program banned the use of the word “tornado” in its forecasts starting in 1886, Sgt. John P. Finley headed up a program to document and study local storms, including tornadoes. Upon examination of Finley's findings, astronomer Edward S. Holden proposed an automatic local tornado warning system, using telegraph wires, in 1883. He felt that a system that could provide the residents of a town even 5-min warning could save lives. The system he proposed was not only fascinating, but three different aspects of it are still, either directly or indirectly, in use today.

Department of Atmospheric Science, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama

National Weather Service, Birmingham, Alabama

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Tim Coleman, Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, NSSTC, 320 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, AL 35805, E-mail: coleman@nsstc.uah.edu
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