Knowledge of severe storm patterns may improve tornado warnings

A radar signature may help distinguish which severe storms are likely to produce dangerous tornadoes, potentially leading to more accurate warnings, according to scientists.

News Releaase 1-Jul-2020


"Identifying which storms are going to produce tornadoes and which are not has been a problem meteorologists have been trying to tackle for decades," said Scott Loeffler, a graduate student in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science at Penn State. "This new research may give forecasters another tool in their toolbox to do just that."

Scientists analyzed radar data from more than a hundred supercell thunderstorms, the most prolific producers of violent tornadoes, and found a statistically significant difference in the structure of storms that produced a tornado and those that did not.

Weather radar constantly monitors storms across the country, and data similar to that used in the study are readily available to operational forecasters who issue warnings, the scientists note.

"These findings have potentially large implications for the accuracy and confidence of tornado warnings and public safety during severe storms," said Matthew Kumjian, associate professor of meteorology at Penn State and Loeffler's adviser. "We look forward to getting this information in the hands of operational meteorologists to assess the impact it has."

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