Monday, April 8, 2013

Better tornado intensity forecasting

Typically weather is news when something terrible has happened, a hurricane, a major flood, or a tornado, But now weather is making news as meteorologists get a new tool to help us better determine how strong a tornado might be.

It now appears that the amount of spin in rising air is strongly connected to the length of the path of tornadoes.
If this new research pans out, it could help forecasters pinpoint the projected track of a twister and help warn communities in the path of the storm.  

These new forecast models can help identify the make-up of  individual storms which in turn can help forecasters get a better handle on how strong an outbreak might be.

This is what NOAA has to say:
Researchers believe that models can reveal important clues about the type of severe weather storms can spawn in localized areas. The problem is similar to using Doppler radar observations to predict whether a storm is producing a tornado or not. Doppler radars don’t have sufficient resolution to detect tornadoes. However, if a "hook echo" feature is present in the radar data along with a strong signal for rotation, forecasters recognize that there is a good chance the storm is producing a tornado.  

In a similar way, although the next generation of forecast models will not have sufficient resolution to simulate tornadoes, they can skillfully predict the general characteristics of tornado-producing storms. Thus, when the forecast model predicts structures typically seen with observed tornadoes, this can indicate to forecasters that tornadic storms are likely.  

We can only hope this new tool will allow us to help warn our audience and keep them out of harms way.

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