New tornado-sensing radar could get warnings out faster

Colorado State University researches have developed a powerful radar system that can save critical time in issuing tornado warnings, writes the Denver Post’s Bruce Finely.

The system, which uses high-resolution imagery and a network of radar units on cellular towers, will see its first action in the Dallas area this summer, Finley writes. The system produces better images of approaching storms at a faster rate than existing sensors can, allowing weather analysts to send critical warnings as quickly as possible.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s tornado information website, 2011 is on pace to be one of the most active and deadliest years for tornadoes in U.S. history. The massive tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., May 22 was nearly 0.75 miles wide, according to NOAA, and killed at least 110 people. That raises the tornado death toll for 2011 to nearly 500 people. The unofficial record for tornado deaths in a year is 794 in 1925.

Already this spring, April set a new record for tornadoes with 875 twisters, topping the previous record of 267 tornadoes by 228 percent, according to NOAA.

In the Denver Post article, Finley talked to a NOAA source who cited the difficulty in predicting tornadoes and emphasizing the need for immediate action. In some cases, people do not know what to do or simply ignore the warnings.

All it takes is one look at the Joplin twister in action, and it’s clear that tornado-sensing technology can’t deliver warnings soon enough.

About the Author

Michael Protos is a web content editor with 1105 Government Information Group.


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