Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Recent Study Suggests Storm Chasers Positively Contribute to Tornado Awareness...

Following the deadly events in Moore and El Reno, OK in May, there was much discussion of "banning" or otherwise placing significant restrictions on storm chasers.

It's easy to jump to conclusions and make hasty declarations following such a devastating and traumatic event.  I think in the ensuing days, calmer heads have prevailed, and there is even some recent statistical evidence that suggests storm chasers have positively contributed to tornado awareness, which we know has a direct impact on tornado safety.

Research performed by Laura E. Michaels, Kelsey N. Scheitlin, and Ian J. Elsner (to be published in the Weather, Climate and Society Journal later this year) shows that it is just as common for a tornado to be reported well away from population centers today as it is near the city itself.  

In the past, reports of tornadoes were far more common near population centers than in rural areas, as illustrated by the chart below (I've inserted metric to English conversions at the bottom):

As you can see, during the most recent period of 2002-2011, you're almost as likely to hear of a tornado report "in the country" as you are "in the city".  James Elsner, one of the researchers involved in the study, states on his blog "we show evidence that this (result) could be related in part to an increase in the number of storm chasers..."

Meteorologists have long known of the contribution that responsible storm chasers make to severe weather awareness and safety, but as far as I know there hasn't been a formal study made that puts some "numbers" behind the suggestion. Perhaps this will be the one.  I look forward to reading the full publication and will post a review here on the blog when it becomes available.

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