Technology is out there to better predict storms, but not everyone has accesson September 6, 2013 @ 12:25 pm (Updated: 10:18 pm - 9/6/13 )
During the 1970s, technology was developed to collect wind, pressure and temperature data from big airliners. But they spend most of their flight time at 30,000 feet.
"During the last decade, another technology, better technology was developed called TAMDAR, small observation sensors that can be put into commuter planes or short-haul planes," says UW Atmospheric Sciences Professor Cliff Mass.
Mass says readings from the lower atmosphere are critical to forecasting.
"The beauty of this is that these planes give weather observations not only coming into big airports like Sea-Tac, but smaller airports like Yakima, Wenatchee, Port Angeles, Bellingham places like that. Also, these planes stay low which gives us a lot of information where we really want it in the lower atmosphere."
To predict thunderstorms, you have to get the moisture and temperature data just right.
"We don't have enough data to do that today," says Mass. "If we had this TAMDAR data, we'd get a much better description of what is happening in the lower atmosphere and that should help us do much better job in forecasting strong thunderstorms."
In his blog, Mass calls the TAMDAR data a weather homerun.
"The National Weather Service does not get any of these data now, zero," says Mass, "and that is a shame."
It's distributed by a private company and while the feds initially invested in the program, it was cut from the budget. Mass calls that short-sighted for such a cost-effective technology.
"If you forecast better one major storm, you could save millions, tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars for society," says Mass.
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