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May 15, 2019

Tracking supercell thunderstorms across the Great Plains (Image 1)

A severe thunderstorm looms overhead as researchers with the Targeted Observation by Radars and UAS of Supercells study load instrumentation onto a "tracker" vehicle prior to launching a drone. [Image 1 of 4 related images. See Image 2.]

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Atmospheric scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and three partner institutions -- Texas Tech University, the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Severe Storms Laboratory -- will soon launch the most ambitious drone-based investigation of severe thunderstorms to date.

For the study, which is called TORUS, for "Targeted Observation by Radars and UAS of Supercells (TORUS)," researchers will use radar and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to reveal the small-scale structures in a supercell storm that contribute to tornado formation. Scientists hope to reduce the number of "false alarm" tornado warnings and improve detection of potentially lethal storms.

"To understand how tornadoes are formed, we need to study their parent storms, called 'supercells,'" said Chungu Lu, a program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which is funding the project. "In TORUS, scientists will deploy a suite of radars and drones to observe supercells. The results will increase our ability to forecast tornadoes."

[This photo was taken during a field experiment supported by the NSF National Robotics Initiative (grant IIS 15-27919).]

Read more about this award in the NSF Discovey story Tracking a supercell thunderstorm across the Great Plains. (Date image taken: June 2018 date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: May 16, 2019)

Credit: Roger Laurence, University of Colorado Boulder


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