Sixteen minutes before a tornado touched down in Newcastle, Okla., yesterday, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center sent a warning to the area. That heads-up was longer than the average warning time of 8 to 10 minutes.
Why are tornado predictions so short-term, especially compared to other predictions we're familiar with, such as weather forecasts or hurricane warnings?
Hurricanes and blizzards show up on satellites days beforehand, but the conditions that favor tornados appear much more quickly and unexpectedly, the Associated Press reported in 2011. Tornadoes are just made of much finer print, so to speak. Their paths are smaller and they last for shorter periods of time, so predicting any particular tornado requires a fine-grain understanding that's more difficult for scientists.
Instead, the Storm Prediction Center issues tornado watches hours ahead of time that cover very broad areas. In 2011, the Associated Press reported on a watch that included 14 states.
The Storm Prediction Center looks for patterns in temperature and wind flow that create certain levels of moisture, instability, lift and wind shear, according to the center's extensive frequently asked questions page. Even then, its predictions may be uncertain because tornado conditions don't always look the same. A number of different scenarios can result in tornados, while similar scenarios may not always produce tornados. Slight changes that meteorologists can't currently measure may tip a thunderstorm to form a tornado—or not, Storm Prediction Center warning coordinator Greg Carbin told Scientific American in 2011.
Researchers are now working on forecasts that apply to areas smaller than a state, but larger than a county, Garbin said. With future improvements, meteorologists could get about an hour's warning on tornados, but not much more. Researchers just can't read the fine print that closely.
Meanwhile, the Storm Prediction Center has a webpage of tornado safety tips, many geared toward the short lead times that people typically have before a twister.
Chaos Theory and many factors.
Weather, overall, is hard to predict.
Mebbe a network monitoring local ion conditions combined with local pressure data all through tornado country.
I wonder about wifi as an addition to our infrastructure as people overall. We blanket these high risk areas that are known for high incidence with both heavy and lightweight RF emissions now. Aggravating factor? I'd assume it is, but to what degree?
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quasi, the National Weather service is deploying a network known as MesoNet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesonet
weather is easy to predict, areas where there have been tornadoes typically will get the same types of tornadoes again. If it is built to code (even chicken wire stapled over a house will save a structure from being destroyed by hurricane force winds, tornadoes, i am unsure if it would work) there is a better chance of the building still standing. Most hurricanes start around the bermuda area, and the bad weather is responsible for the bermuda triangle myths. You may not be able to predict the time and day, but where it has happened before, it will happen again.
A more appropriate question is why do we allow codes to rebuild more match stick homes in all of tornado alley? Just like codes in earthquake prone areas are tougher the codes in tornado alley need to be greatly toughened to require a safe room from steel/concrete underground and homes should be build totally underground like Hobbits. The classic definition of insanity is continuing to do the same things over and over again and expecting different results. I guess America is just insane-it does this for flood prone areas, quake areas, tsunami areas, hurricane areas, tornado areas.
America is the nation of the insane.