New System Predicted Tornadoes Hours Not Minutes Ahead

New System Predicted Tornadoes Hours Not Minutes Ahead

first_img Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferNASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This Weekend One of the biggest problems with tornadoes is that they’re super-hard to predict. They are fast-and-furious beasts that pop up in minutes and disappear just as quickly — only with a giant swath of destruction in their wake. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) believes it has the beginnings of a new model that could predict twisters hours in advance — saving lives and helping others get prepped for disaster.I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Oklahoman, and I’ve seen (and survived) my share of storms. I was in the 1999 May 3 tornado, for example — the one that was a mile and a half wide, with wind speeds of 320 mph, and encouraged atmospheric scientists to rework the entire tornado categorization system. Since then, any storm below a certain size hasn’t really fazed me. That’s a false confidence, though. Severe storms are known to shift and grow rapidly, sometimes without warning. You can often get an idea of whether the conditions are right for a twister pretty early, but knowing the path is all but impossible. Or, at least, it was.Back in May, NOAA tested a new model called the “Warn-on-forecast” on a swarm of tornadoes in my home state, and just this week they announced that the data show it was a qualified success.Currently, if a tornado is likely to hit your house, our best data can give you less than 15 minutes’ warning. That’s barely enough time to get a mattress to cover you and yours and hunker down in a basement. If you’re not already ready, you’re going to have terrifying few moments before it hits.With the Warn-on-Forecast system, NOAA used lots of data including radar and satellite imaging to issue earlier notifications to those in the path of the storm. These warnings aren’t as urgent as a full-on tornado warning, but computers can crunch the numbers and give much more accurate information on what is likely in the coming hours than ever before.In this case, the warning system was right. On May 16, NOAA notified western Oklahomans that “Severe weather is likely with these storms as they move into Oklahoma, and there is a high probability that tornado warnings will be issued.”An hour and change later, a tornado did touch down — meaning that Oklahomans in the path of it were able to start making preparations six times earlier.“That level of detail and lead time in a forecast is new,” said National Severe Storms Laboratory Director Steve Koch. “To have information conveying a sense of certainty in so small of an area that far in advance is a success.”Warn-on-Forecast has plenty of work yet to go. The system is still under development, and this was largely a trial run. But these kinds of results are extremely encouraging. They could give people enough time to evacuate major areas like urban cores or stadiums or malls well before they otherwise would. That could save lives and lots of money as time goes on. Plus, with severe weather getting more and more common thanks to climate change, this tech may be vital in the decades ahead.All that said, I’m really damned glad I don’t live in Oklahoma anymore. Phew.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on targetlast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *