August 1, 2008 Meteorologists use high resolution satellite photography to analyze the path and intensity of recent tornadoes. The data obtained allows them to develop a mathematical model to identify storm damage and construct an understanding of the intensity of storms capable of causing the observed damage.
- Fujita scale
- Iowa Tornado Outbreak of November 2005
- Easter Week 2006 Tornado Outbreak Sequence
This year, dozens of communities around the U.S. are recovering from devastating tornadoes -- storms that have caused millions of dollars worth of damage to homes, businesses and crops. After every reported tornado, it's the job of the weather service to track its path, and estimate the damage, but since tornadoes can travel hundreds of miles and touch down multiple times, that's not always easy. Now, there may be a solution -- from space!
NASA meteorologist Gary Jedlovek, Ph.D., studies tornadoes and their devastation from pictures taken hundreds of miles away. He's discovered that high-resolution satellite data that can help forecast tornadoes can also track the damage they leave behind.
"What we've discovered in the process of analyzing the satellite data is that we can also see the damage path of scars from where severe weather events such as tornadoes have occurred," says Dr. Jedlovek.
Using satellite images of Earth's surface, land use and vegetation, Dr. Jedlovek developed a mathematical model to identify storm damage on the computer. The result, high definition images that track a tornado's path of destruction, whether it's in a city or a forest far off the beaten path -- areas where damage can go undetected. "We can help the National Weather Service forecasters understand the length, the width and the intensity of the tornado that produced that particular damage path," Dr. Jedlovek says.
Information that can help communities clean up and rebuild, and help forecasters get a better understanding of the storms themselves.
"Obviously the more we know about tornadoes the better job we can do about understanding what forms them and predicting them," Dr. Jedlovek notes.
The NASA satellite technology has now been incorporated into weather service computer systems to help the weather service improve their damage estimates, and measure the magnitude of tornadoes after they occur.
THE ENHANCED FUJITA SCALE: The F Scale was developed in 1971 by Theodore Fujita to rate tornadoes and estimate their wind speed based on the damage they cause. But the original scale's limitations may have led to inconsistent ratings, including possible over-estimates of wind speeds. The new EF scale incorporates more damage indicators and degrees of damage to provide a more detailed analysis and better correlation between damage and wind speed.
TORNADO SAFETY TIPS:
- Move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement
- Stay away from windows
- Get out of automobiles; don't try to outrun a tornado
- Abandon your mobile home; mobile homes offer little protection from tornadoes
- An underpass is not safe: debris can fly underneath it and be deadly. Instead, head for a ditch
The American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.