Museum of Science and Industry

Chicago doesn’t seem to have much use for seismographs, instruments used to capture current or past earthquake activity. We don’t see a lot of seismic activity here, and our main springtime concern is more windy and swirly than wiggly and shaky. Surprisingly, scientists at Indiana University have recently found a potential new use for the equipment – seismographs may be able to help predict tornadoes!

Concerned that the recent tornado activity may have damaged earthquake-sensing instruments near the New Madrid seismic zone in southern Illinois, scientists decided to take a close look at their seismographs. They noticed some strange readings, and realized they were able to see pulses on the seismogram that corresponded to an atmospheric pressure drop related to the tornadoes!

This is such a fortuitous and curious finding; tornadoes rarely come so close to advanced recording equipment! And while it's pretty easy to see the connection between earthquakes and tsunamis or earthquakes and volcanoes, who would have thought that earthquake equipment could help us better understand all the crazy atmospheric activity that goes down just before a tornado - and possibly help save lives in the future? Science is full of neat surprises!


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Museum of Science+Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
1 (773) 684-1414
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