Tornadoes aren’t long-lasting, low pressure swirls like hurricanes. They pop up and vanish in just a few minutes, leaving behind everything devastated. It hasn’t been easy to provide people with fair warning, with the current method the average lead time is 13 minutes. This isn’t enough for anyone to escape if he/she is far from home or in a huge crowd of people.
However, researchers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working on a new model that could solve the problem. They announced last week that they demonstrated its Warn-on-Forecast (WoF) model on a tornado outbreak in Oklahoma, which was a huge success.
This WoF could eventually offer a severe warning on tornadoes up to three hours in advance, giving the people enough time to evacuate. In the case of its first trial, the models warned people 90 minutes prior to that tornado.
“I’m really excited about this new approach being tested by NOAA,” Bob Henson, Meteorologist from Weather Underground, told Gizmodo in an email. “Warn on Forecast is a very promising bridge between observations and computer models. It merges the two, with enough detail in time and space to determine if tornadoes are likely within a tightly defined area within an hour or so.”
According to NOAA representatives, the WoF creates the model by combining high-resolution satellite, radar, and surface data. It also updates the model every 15 minutes or so.
However, Warn-on-Forecast isn’t in the official use yet, as NOAA says the model needs further development and testing. Once takes off, it could save so many lives and help the communities recover as soon as possible. The focus will be more on what you can preserve and less on basic survival when someone can reliably evacuate or reach a dedicated shelter safely.