Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers develop model to correct tornado records for better risk assessment

13.09.2013
In the wake of deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma this past spring, Florida State University researchers have developed a new statistical model that will help determine whether the risk of tornadoes is increasing and whether they are getting stronger.

Climatologists have been hampered in determining actual risks by what they call a population bias: That is, the fact that tornadoes have traditionally been underreported in rural areas compared to cities.

Now, FSU geography Professor James B. Elsner and graduate student Laura E. Michaels have outlined a method that takes the population bias into account, as well as what appears to be a recent surge in the number of reported tornadoes, thanks in part to an increasing number of storm chasers and recreational risk-takers roaming Tornado Alley.

Their model is outlined in the article “The Decreasing Population Bias in Tornado Reports across the Central Plains,” published in the American Meteorological Society’s journal Weather, Climate, and Society. The model offers a way to correct the historical data to account for the fact that there were fewer reports in previous decades. In addition to Elsner and Michaels, Kelsey N. Scheitlin, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Ian J. Elsner, a graduate student at the University of Florida, co-authored the paper.

“Most estimates of tornado risk are probably too low because they are based on the reported number of tornadoes,” Elsner said. “Our research can help better quantify the actual risk of a tornado. This will help with building codes and emergency awareness. With our research, the science of tornadoes can move forward to address questions related to whether cities enhance or inhibit tornadoes.”

Although other researchers have proposed methods to address the population bias, all of them assume the bias is constant over time, Elsner said. This model is the first to take into consideration how the population bias has changed over time.

Historically, the number of reported tornadoes across the premiere storm chase region of the central Plains is lowest in rural areas. However, the number of tornado reports in the countryside has increased dramatically since the 1970s and especially since the 1996 release of the disaster movie “Twister.” The movie spawned a generation of storm chasers who are partially responsible for more tornado reports, Elsner said.

Interestingly, Elsner’s model was developed after he led a team of undergraduate and graduate students on a storm-chasing mission of their own.

“While we were driving around the Great Plains looking for storms, I challenged my students to think about how the historical data could be used to better estimate the risk of getting hit by a tornado,” he said. “The observations of other chasers and the geographic spacing of towns led us to our model for correcting the historical record.”

In addition to more storm chasers logging tornado sightings, greater public awareness of tornadoes and advances in reporting technology, including mobile Internet and GPS navigating systems, may also have contributed to the increase in reports over the past 15 to 20 years.

The increase in reports has diminished the population bias somewhat, but it introduced a second problem: There are more reports, but are there also, in fact, more tornadoes? In other words, is the risk actually increasing?

To address these issues, the FSU researchers first made the assumption that the frequency of tornadoes is the same in cities as in rural areas. They also operated on the assumption that the reported number of tornadoes in rural areas is low relative to the actual number of tornadoes.

Their model calls for the reported number in rural areas to be adjusted upward by a factor that depends on the number of tornadoes in the nearest city and the distance from the nearest city. The model shows that it is likely that tornadoes are not occurring with greater frequency, but there is some evidence to suggest that tornadoes are, in fact, getting stronger.

“The risk of violent tornadoes appears to be increasing,” Elsner said. “The tornadoes in Oklahoma City on May 31 and the 2011 tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., suggest that tornadoes may be getting stronger.”

The Oklahoma City tornado on May 31, 2013, was the largest tornado ever recorded, with a path of destruction measuring 2.6 miles in width. The Tuscaloosa and Joplin tornadoes are two of the most deadly and expensive natural disasters in recent U.S. history.

James Elsner | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fsu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht A 3-D look at the 2015 El Niño
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht 'Tiny clocks' crystallize understanding of meteorite crashes
29.05.2017 | University of Western Ontario

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New drug reduces transplant and mortality rates significantly in patients with hepatitis C

29.05.2017 | Statistics

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>