The Nevada University researchers’ team has used improved satellite imaging and powerful computer modeling to more accurately forecast the likelihood and intensity of storms and tornados. The research was published in the January issue of the Monthly Weather Review, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. The research was funded by the Office of Naval Research, National Science Foundation and NASA.
The key to the new weather prediction model is its more precise simulation of the amount of moisture surface vegetation is releasing into the upper atmosphere to affect the weather conditions, said Dev Niyogi, an assistant professor of agronomy and earth and atmospheric sciences. Niyogi said that current weather prediction models represent vegetation at a very simplistic level.
The research data were gathered on May 24-25, 2002, when a front moved southeast and met a cold front over western Texas, in what meteorologists call a “triple point.” Using the baseline data from this real weather event, Niyogi said the researchers “set out to assess how the improved land-vegetation processes, along with winds, convection, soil moisture and other factors, would affect the weather prediction.”
The simulations also took advantage of the finer scale data from satellite imagery of smaller and smaller plots of land. Niyogi said future research would attempt “to enhance the land-vegetation model, which will improve forecasting the location, timing and intensity of storms, thunderstorms and tornados. We also can improve our ability to include satellite datasets, remote sensing and satellite mapping into weather forecast models as well as making the vegetation modeling more realistic.”