Science

Tornado Strike: Wind Patterns In Super Cell Storms To Help Predict Twisters

By Rodney Rafols , Oct 14, 2016 03:00 AM EDT
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Tornadoes are some of the deadliest forces in nature. A tornado might have a short lifespan compared to a hurricane or typhoon, but the destruction that it can cause can rival any hurricane. Predicting tornadoes require much observation, and one way of predicting it is to see how wind patterns are in supercell storms.

Supercells usually precede a tornado strike, although not all supercells will generate a tornado. Researchers from the North Carolina State University say that to more accurately know if a supercell will generate a tornado, wind patterns will have to be observed. Their research has found that wind patterns in the lowest 500 meters of a supercell could predict if a tornado will indeed be formed, according to Phys Org.

Researchers in the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) have collected data from supercells. The team is led by Brice Coffer, a graduate student of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from North Carolina State and the lead author of the study. Data was taken from 12 of the best-sampled supercells. Simulations were then run to see what factors would create a tornado.

"We noticed that the difference between tornadic and non-tornadic storms was the wind in the lowest 500 meters near the storm," Coffer observed. He added that this difference can be seen in the way the air rotated into the storm.

All storms have an updraft. This is when air is drawn up into the storm which then drives it. Wind shear conditions would have to be right in the lower 500 meters in order to create a tornado, NC State News reported. Wind rotation on the ground is stretched by the updraft, which, in turn, increases the spinning speed of the tornado.

Better observation techniques on wind patterns would have to be made in order to predict tornadoes, as Coffer has said. This would improve the chances of predicting tornadoes and lessen false alarms. 

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