MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Researchers have developed a new method to predict the severity of tornado outbreaks. The breakthrough is a direct result of studying the devastating tornadoes that pummeled Alabama and other states on April 27, 2011.
What researchers at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory have found is that rotating air created by wind shear, called helicity , is an even more powerful component than previously thought.
Wind shear creates the helicity, which initially is horizontal like the spiraling of a football. When this spiraling air is picked up by an updraft in a thunderstorm it creates a rotating supercell thunderstorm, the type of storm that produce tornadoes.
By measuring how strong that updraft helicity may become researchers found a direct correlation with severity of tornado outbreaks. The three massive tornado outbreaks of 2011 were used as examples in the research and the new methods were found to give accurate predictions on tornado severity and path length.
While this new method can't predict exactly where a tornado will occur, it can give forecasters areas that show high potential for long-track severe tornadoes.
FOX10 News Meteorologist Matt Barrentine will be looking into the research and how it could impact you tonight on FOX10 News at 5 pm.
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