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"Fauxnado" -- The Discovery Files

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Researchers have developed the first numerical polarimetric radar simulator to study and characterize the scattering of debris particles in tornadoes. Current polarimetric radars, also called dual-polarization radars, transmit radio wave pulses horizontally and vertically. The radars provide estimates of rain and snow rates, accurate identification of the regions where rain transitions to snow during winter storms and detection of large hail in summer thunderstorms. But polarimetric radars have limitations the new research aims to address.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Swept up in the data.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files from the National Science Foundation.

If you can catch moonbeams in a jar, can you simulate and ID the flying debris in an F5 tornado? Not as romantic, but by collecting data by scanning actual superstorms, and inputting stats from some legendary twisters, researchers at the University of Oklahoma have developed the first numerical polarimetric (po-lər-ə-mĕt′rĭk) radar simulator. They're studying what radar signals can tell us about how debris is scattering during a tornado. Important because flying debris causes most tornado fatalities. Like the 2013 EF-5 in Oklahoma. Researcher David Bodine:

(Sound effect: sound bite :20) "So one of the goals of this study is to look at this case to see how this debris signature changes with time so we can relate it to how much damage is occurring, what types of debris are present in the air and provide some information for forecasters so that they know how to relate the signature to a particularly damaging tornado event."

(Sound effect: tornado winds) (Sound effect: shouting) Leaves, shingles, boards! Better understanding of what radar signals say about how tornado debris scatters can provide more accurate warnings (Sound effect: close window, storm noise stops) (Sound effect: normal voice) and quickly direct emergency responders to affected areas.

I guess if you're gonna have a tornado, it best be a simulated one.

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