| Tornado Chasers

Bangladesh Tornados


Bangladesh has the single most deadly tornado on record to date in the world, killing about 1,300 people in 1989. Many tornados have killed over 500 and 600 people in recorded history. With its dense population, poor government, as well as its proximity to the Himalayan Mountains and the Indian Ocean, Bangladesh has perhaps the highest concentration of deadly severe weather in the world. A combination of poor building construction practices, lack of awareness, and lack of sufficient warning systems leaves people vulnerable to even very weak tornados and straight-line wind events.

On top of this, Bangladesh is very vulnerable to large monsoon flooding events, cyclones, and tsunamis. Fortunately, warning systems are being developed for coastal areas especially prone to cyclones and tsunamis.

I hear respected meteorologists saying that a 4-year meteorology degree alone is becoming less and less sufficient for landing such a job in the United States. In the mean time, a straight-line wind event killed 41 people earlier this month in Bangladesh. There is an over-abundance of meteorologists in our own resource-rich country, and there is a striking under-abundance of them in Bangladesh.

Some work is beginning to be done toward mitigating Bangladesh’s high tornado death tolls. For instance, in 2013, storm-chaser Scott Olson spent time operating a mobile mesonet and chasing storms in Bangladesh to better understand the situation. Notably, NWS meteorologist Jonathan D. Finch has studied the climatology surrounding Bangladeshi tornados.

Public awareness, better construction practices, the installation of community shelters, spotter networks, public warning systems, and a customized damage rating system are all needed in Banglaedsh. Perhaps some of today’s newest weather enthusiasts will one day aid in mitigating tornado injuries and deaths in Bangladesh.

Does anybody know of any NGO’s currently operating specifically to address these issues in Bangladesh?


This is in fact a very worrisome issue. There are not enough resources. Starting with just a simple radar tower, there is a lot that goes into the whole network. One radar tower isn’t enough, you have to operate multiple ones. You have to find people and materials that can construct such a high-tech device and have it structurally sound. You need people to constantly repair and maintain it, and run cables to all the areas that need the information. Software must be developed to tailor to the needs of the Bangladesh people. Then you have the meteorologists, which decipher the radar information. Then a public broadcast method must be made, and finally, everyone needs ready access to this network. This is only to provide a static warning system.

Meterologists can take out mobile platforms for study and prediction, but it is moot unless some of the above criteria is met. There are simply not enough of something somewhere.

Has anyone thought of doing a fundraiser? You never know what you will get!


Wow! That is a real interesting fact! They get the worst of every thing it seems. In Oklahoma we get cold and snow in winter, heat and tornados in summer. But monsoons, cyclones, AND tsunamis?!?!


That is really sad. I never knew that Bangladesh was in such dire need of meteorologists!


They BMD does have a few radar sites, in addition to access to Calcutta, India’s radar. They also have satellite data, a couple weather stations, one radiosonde launch site, and some forecast models (like GFS). There is also electricity in many areas of the country; even internet access in the larger cities. Cell phone usage is also on the rise – even among those living in slums. They do not have sufficient awareness, training, or even tornado sirens. Awareness is first priority, establishing sirens in prone areas second, and training of spotters third. In the mean time, severe storm forecasting would need to be improved. Our EF scale would not work in their context, given their different construction methods, so some structural engineers and people with storm damage assessment experience would be needed to help develop a new scale. Additionally, community shelters need to be installed in especially prone areas (like slums), and in-home storm rooms would need to be made available and inexpensive across the region. Unfortunately, a lot of the areas are also very flood-prone, so underground shelters are likely not a workable option.

I can think of a number of non-profits that could be started from all this need, or at least some new projects that larger, existing organizations could take on! If anyone knows of anything going on, I’d love to know!