New Spin On Tornadoes
Reported September 2010
ATLANTA, GA (Ivanhoe newswire) -- Even before the devastation of hurricane Katrina, climatologists say since the 1990s, gulf hurricanes have been getting bigger and more powerful. We know that puts coastal residents at risk, but it can also increase the threat of devastating tornadoes hundreds of miles from where gulf hurricanes come ashore.
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A dark sky and ominous clouds, for many of us, this was our first introduction to tornadoes; funnel clouds and swirling winds straight out of the movies.
Earth and atmospheric scientist James Belanger grew up in Georgia, seeing a different kind of tornado; one that was formed by gulf hurricanes coming inland. Now, it's part of his research at Georgia Tech. He's found a way to predict which hurricanes will trigger the most tornadoes.
"The idea is that for the first time we can actually use a statistical model to provide us guidance on whether a hurricane is going to be a large tornado producer." Belanger told Ivanhoe.
Using data from hurricanes dating back to the 1940s, the model combines four factors: size, intensity, mid-level moisture necessary for hurricane formation and whether the hurricane reformed after it made landfall. Together, this information provides a new tool to determine a hurricane's tornado-producing potential.
"Nobody is forecasting hurricane-induced tornado outbreaks. I mean, there's just nobody forecasting that right now." Judy curry, Ph.D, chair at school of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Tech said.
It's research that could warn not just coastal communities, but inland residents who may be at risk for tornadoes long after the hurricane warnings are over.
Researchers say the change in wind speed or direction that occurs when a hurricane makes landfall increases the tornado threat. The most favorable location for formation of tornadoes? Less than 200 miles from the center of the hurricane.
The American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Georgia Institute of Technology
American Meteorological Society
Boston, MA 02108-3693
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
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