"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Research Could Impact Tornado Warnings in the Next 10 Years

National Weather Service in Norman, OK
On November 7th, 2011, the partnership with the University of Oklahoma and the National Weather Service was confirmed:
NOAA has selected the University of Oklahoma to continue a federal/academic research partnership that focuses on weather radar research, improving forecasts for severe storms, and improving our understanding of extreme weather and short-term regional climate.
The warning system we have in this area is already amazing.  When the alerts go out, you can go to our main TV stations and track the bad weather by street thanks to the Storm Chasers and latest technology.  This is perfect timing for this article as we are about to enter tornado season here and will be seeing even more people in the area who chase the storms.

They researchers have been perfecting the technology over the years and with the Storm Prediction Center here at the complex of the National Weather Service on the University of Oklahoma we get the latest warning information available.  Now they are researching to make it even better.  The University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology is located in the NWC building which is part of complex that houses researchers from around the world.  National Weather Service, Radar Operations Center, Storm Prediction Center, National Severe Storms Laboratory, and the Warning Decision Training Branch are located throughout the complex.

OU Gets New Mobile Radar To Better Understand Tornadoes
Remember when we first moved here and our families back east would think all the warnings that come out from Norman, OK, for areas around the Country were actually happening here in Norman.  Next time you hear a warning from Norman, OK, you need to take notice because they track storms around the Country and send out their warnings.

We also test warning sirens here.  The latest one is about a block from my house and if you are doing anything at noon on Saturday, you won't be talking as the person could not hear you.  This one wakes you from your sleep.

When you drive around Norman and the area you see all the instruments on the storm chaser's SUVs just like in the movie, Twister, which part of it was filmed here.  We have had massive tornadoes, F5+, just north of us a few miles but knock on wood not where I live.  For some reason the tornadoes that track from the SW go into pretty much the same area of Moore.  The weather service experts say there is no reason but like many others, we will go with the Indian legend of the buffalo wallow down by the Canadian River in west Norman which protects us from the really bad tornadoes (knock on wood)  and the legend that tornadoes go in at the knee of a river which is Moore.
February 26, 2012 
Research could impact tornado warnings 
By Joel Pruett, The Norman Transcript 
NORMAN — Organizations at The National Weather Center are conducting research that could give you notice up to four times faster when tornadoes, hail or damaging winds are headed your way. 
Several groups housed within the center, a cooperative of the University of Oklahoma and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, began a research project in 2010 to extend the current national average for severe weather notification time, 14 minutes, to up to 60 minutes with what they’re calling “Warn-on-Forecast.” 
David Stensrud, chief of the Forecast Research and Development Division of NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, said Warn-on-Forecast would allow meteorologists to predict severe weather by feeding radar data into a computer model, which then predicts probable directions and behaviors of a storm. 
This project would provide forecasters, media and the public with “richer information” that would allow them to “make even better decisions for their own safety,” Stensrud said.  
Hurdles remain 
He said the project aims, eventually, to provide Americans with rapidly evolving information, though a couple of things still stand in the way. 
“We still don’t understand all the details of how tornadoes form,” Stensrud said. “That’s always going to be a challenge. 
“The other obstacle is just computer speed. To make a forecast valid, you have to get the model very quickly. You need computers that are very fast, and they need to be fairly inexpensive.”
Stensrud said the project’s researchers have access to “very good” technology to complete their research, but he said the computers are not yet fast enough for an operational setting. He said he expects that the needed technology to use Warn-on-Forecast in practice likely exists, but he expects that it will be about a decade before computers of “affordable expense” will be available. 
“This is a 10- to 15-year project,” he said. “One could imagine in 10 years from now that you could actually get weather service warning information on your cell phone or on your GPS unit for your car. No matter where you are, you could get information telling you where the threat is relative to where you are.” 
As meteorologists wait for the earliest potential project completion date of 2020, they continue to rely on the current 14-minute-warning prediction model, which relies on human interpretation of radar data and local weather norms as well as reports from spotters. 
Joel Pruett 366-3540  jpruett@normantranscript.com
We have had some unusual weather here in the last two years -- a blizzard that acted like a hurricane the day before Christmas, heavy ice storm that took out all kinds of trees and electric poles, downburst in a square mile area where I live, a tornado that formed several blocks from the weather center, and a straight wind that snapped off poles and damaged the large heating/air units at Walmart.  The power poles were snapped like toothpicks only about five blocks from my home but we had little damaging wind here in my neighborhood.  Every home on my street has a new roof after the last two years.

We learned last year that tornadoes do go through mountain areas as one came out of the Wichita Mountains (video) in SW Oklahoma near Lawton barely missing the large OGE wind farm in that area.  It was amazing to watch on television as the station had their helicopter in the air that tracks tornadoes.

With all the strange weather including the drought and fires, the one thing we can say is that we have some of the most advance warning in the Country and without that warning there would be a lot more injuries or deaths in the past years.  The fact that our local television stations have invested so much money into making their reporting on tornadoes and bad weather available immediately taking off regular programming is appreciated by those of us who live in this area.  From the National Weather Service to the meteorologist who are also weather reporters, to their staff, and especially to the storm chasers, we say Thank You for keeping us safe!

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