Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Summer Thunderstorms May Become More Predictable

Date:
June 27, 2002
Source:
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Summary:
Meteorologists have long known that summer thunderstorms and heavy rains are difficult to predict. They pop up quickly and disappear within a few short hours. But after looking at large numbers of radar images over four years, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have discovered a systematic pattern of rainfall across the continent, day after day. That knowledge should make the rainiest summer thunderstorms more predictable.

BOULDER -- Meteorologists have long known that summer thunderstorms and heavy rains are difficult to predict. They pop up quickly and disappear within a few short hours. But after looking at large numbers of radar images over four years, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have discovered a systematic pattern of rainfall across the continent, day after day. That knowledge should make the rainiest summer thunderstorms more predictable.

The analysis of 50,000 summertime radar images showed that the movement of blocks of enhanced rainfall from west to east, from the Rockies toward the Appalachians, is an identifiable pattern, even when traditional weather maps show none of the typical weather patterns, such as fronts or low pressure systems.

These eastward-moving blocks of enhanced thunderstorm activity still have individual storms popping up quickly and disappearing in a few hours, but it appears that the older storms give birth to new storms as the activity moves across the country. Thus, there is a much greater chance that a particular location will feel the effects of a thunderstorm when one of the activity areas is passing by, rather than either before or after it.

"Heavy rain from thunderstorms is hard to predict because these storms are mostly local, don't last very long, and exhibit chaotic behavior in their evolution," said Richard Carbone, lead author of a paper appearing in the July 1 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Atmospheric Science. "But our work shows some clusters of storms actually spawn new clusters of storms. If we can follow this pattern, we may be able to greatly improve our predictions of where the new storms will develop."

A senior scientist at NCAR, Carbone and his colleagues applied sophisticated computer processing techniques to vast quantities of data containing radar imagery of summer thunderstorms between 1997 and 2000. By compiling the images they found a distinct pattern of old storms generating new storms downstream.

"We can track the signal associated with afternoon thunderstorms in the west to new thunderstorms across the country more than 500 miles on a typical midsummer day" added Carbone. "Some of these storms or 'episodes' last up to two days and 1,500 miles, even though ordinary thunderstorms last about an hour and organized groups of thunderstorms three to ten hours. You could say, for example, that yesterday's storms in Colorado have a lot to do with the likelihood of storms in Chicago today--and watch out on the East Coast tomorrow!"

Mountains and storm-created "waviness" in the atmosphere are mostly responsible for starting weather systems on their way across the country. But what links some of the thunderstorms together is still a mystery, said Carbone.

"We haven't discovered the 'silver bullet' yet--what ties these sequences of storms together--but we've got some ideas," said Carbone. Ongoing research by Carbone and his collaborators includes looking more deeply into how these episodes of enhanced thunderstorm activity form and what controls the speed at which they propagate across the central United States. If the underlying mechanisms can be brought to light, that information can be used to improve forecasts of thunderstorm activity in the summer months.

Carbone's thunderstorm research was funded primarily by the U.S. Weather Research Program.

NCAR (http://www.ncar.ucar.edu) is a national research laboratory managed by a consortium of 66 universities offering Ph.D.s in the atmospheric and related sciences. NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation. The AMS (http://www.ametsoc.org/ams) is the nation's leading professional society for scientists in the atmospheric and related sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "Summer Thunderstorms May Become More Predictable." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 June 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020627002855.htm>.
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). (2002, June 27). Summer Thunderstorms May Become More Predictable. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020627002855.htm
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "Summer Thunderstorms May Become More Predictable." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020627002855.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Hurricane Gonzalo pounded Bermuda with wind and heavy surf on Friday, bearing down on the tiny British territory as a powerful Category 3 storm that could raise coastal seas as much as 10 feet. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Powerful hurricane could hit Bermuda this weekend, and even if it misses it will likely do some damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) One of the largest volcanic eruptions in centuries is occurring on Iceland. The volcano Bardarbunga is producing high levels of sulfur dioxide. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins