Meteorologists develop better ways to measure atmosphere, thunderstorms

Local News

For over a hundred years one of the main tools of weather forecasting and has been a weather balloon with a small instrument package attached called a radiosonde. 

These are launched twice a day, around daybreak and again around sunset. 

It climbs through the atmosphere and takes measurements. It works okay, but it is pretty old, and quite frankly, clunky and somewhat inefficient technology.

So, right in Texoma’s backyard, a team of scientists and engineers at the National Weather Center, in Norman, Okla., are developing better ways to measure the atmosphere, and, forecast thunderstorms.

“But the area that we really haven’t been able to make substantive advancements in has been in the lower atmosphere, the lowest mile or two,” Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling Director Phillip Chilson said.

The second you release a weather balloon, you lose control of it.

Dr. Phil Chilson from the Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling and his team are looking to change that, provide a higher resolution atmospheric sample, and, make better thunderstorm forecasts.

“Then the models could take the data in and we can narrow down the target areas much more precisely and also potential times of activity.”

To do that, they need a better tool than a balloon.

In this lab on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, a team of scientists and engineers are “building” unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

“We have two 3D printers that are run from print servers that are held on raspberry pies so we can have students come up with an idea and model it from anywhere in the world and send it to our printers,” CASS Staff Engineer Bill Doyle said. 

They outfit their printed drone with the same sensors used with weather balloons.

“Inside this ducted fan right here there are temperature and humidity sensors inside of here,” Brian Greene, PhD Student, Meteorology. “The autopilot itself gives pressure, that’s how it figures out its altitude and then based on the tilt of the UAV it can give you the wind speed and direction. So it gives you all the normal parameters that a weather balloon would, or a tower would, in a much more mobile fashion.

You can control it unlike the balloon, and learn to fly “in” the lab

“Even for experienced pilots, we can use this to simulate certain conditions. For instance, pre-storm you’re probably gonna get windy conditions.”

Practice in the lab leads to better data in the field.

“So maybe you know it is going to be a rough day. So you want to pre-deploy some assets that have UAVs that can them sample the environment in that area in a more targeted fashion. Maybe after a thunderstorm develops there around the periphery. The radars can already see what is happening internal, and that is not a place that is most favorable for UAV operations but luckily the place where the UAVs work best is where the radars are blind.”

The UAV can provide more high resolution and “continuous” data before and during a storm which allows forecasters to “have a good sense of is this storm intensifying, weakening, is it going to do a left hook or a right hook to really allow people to make better decisions to protect themselves.”

The OU team is in the very very early stages of development. Just “beginning” to learn “how” to sample the lowest levels of the atmosphere.

“It’s very hard because since it was so undersampled we don’t even know what is possible,” Gus Azevedo, PhD Student Electrical Engineering said.

This generation of uavs leads a long term vision in mind for thunderstorm or tornado warnings.

“One of the things we’re working toward is being able to get it to where we can almost virtually tap you on the shoulder or knock on your door,” Warning Coordination Meteorologist Rick Smith said.

Now it will be many years before I am able to knock on your door, but the future is flying closer every day.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Severe Weather Definitions

Severe Thunderstorm Warning
Issued when there is evidence based on radar or a reliable spotter report that a thunderstorm is producing, or about to produce, wind gusts of 58 mph or greater, structural wind damage, and/or hail 1 inch in diameter or greater.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch
Is issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms over a larger-scale region. Tornadoes are not expected in such situations, but isolated tornado development cannot be ruled out.

PDS Severe Thunderstorm Watch
PDS stands for "Particularly Dangerous Situation" and is issued by the SPC when conditions are favorable for the development of high-end severe thunderstorms over a larger region.  In this situation the SPC believes multiple events of extreme severe weather with significant wind damage are likely to occur.  Citizens should alter their daily routine and listen for further updates when this watch is issued.  Tornadoes are not expected in such situations, but isolated tornado development cannot be ruled out and widespread straight-line wind damage is likely.

Tornado Warning - Observed or Radar Indicated
Issued when there is evidence based on radar or a reliable spotter report that a tornado is imminent or occurring.

Tornado Warning - Considerable
Issued when a reliable spotter reports the existence of a tornado (therefore, it is confirmed, not radar indicated) and it is doing considerable damage.

Tornado Warning - Catastrophic
Issued when a reliable spotter reports the existence of a tornado (therefore, it is confirmed, not radar indicated) and it is doing extreme damage that is considered catastrophic; complete destruction is possible.

Tornado Watch
Is issued by the Storm Prediction Center when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over a larger-scale region.

PDS Tornado Watch
PDS stands for "Particularly Dangerous Situation" and is issued when the SPC believes that a large outbreak of long-lived, large and violent tornadoes is likely.  This is a high-end tornado watch.  People in a PDS Tornado Watch should change their daily routines to ensure they are weather aware and prepared to take action with little notice.

Significant Weather Advisory
Issued for strong thunderstorms that are below severe levels, but still may have some adverse impacts. Usually issued for the threat of wind gusts of 40-58 mph or hail up to 1 inch in diameter.

Flash Flood Watch
Issued generally when there is the possibility of flash flooding or urban flooding over an area within the next 36 hours.

Flash Flood Warning
Issued when flash flooding is imminent, generally within the next 1 to 3 hours. Usually issued based on observed heavy rainfall (measured or radar estimated), but may also be issued for significant dam breaks that have occurred or are imminent.

Flood Watch
Issued when there is the possibility of widespread general flooding over an area within the next 36 hours.

Flood Warning for River Forecast Point
Issued when a river gauge has exceeded, or is forecast to exceed, a predetermined flood stage.

Flood Advisory
Issued when flooding is imminent or occurring, generally within the next 1 to 3 hours, but is not expected to substantially threaten life and property.

Wind Advisory
Issued when sustained winds of 30 to 39 mph are expected for 1 hour or longer.

High Wind Warning
Issued when sustained winds of 40 mph or more are expected for 1 hour or longer, or for wind gusts of 58 mph or more with no time limit. A High Wind Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Dense Fog Advisory
Issued when fog is expected to reduce visibilities to 1/4 mile or less.

Heat Advisory
Issued when maximum daytime heat index values are expected to reach or exceed 105°F on at least 2 consecutive days, with intermediate low temperatures of 75°F or higher.

Excessive Heat Warning
Issued when maximum daytime heat index values are expected to reach or exceed 110°F on at least two consecutive days, with intermediate low temperatures of 75°F or higher. An Excessive Heat Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Frost Advisory
Issued when nighttime minimum temperatures are expected to range from 33°F to 36°F in the growing season.

Freeze Warning
Issued when nighttime minimum temperatures are expected to reach 32°F or lower in the growing season. They are usually issued to highlight the first few freezes of the fall, or unusually late freezes in the spring. A Freeze Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Air Stagnation Advisory
Issued only at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whenever atmospheric conditions are stable enough to cause air pollutants to accumulate in a given area.

Blowing Dust Advisory
Issued when blowing dust is expected to reduce visibility to between 1/4 and 1 mile, generally with winds of 25 mph or greater.

Dust Storm Warning
Issued when blowing dust is expected to reduce visibility frequently to 1/4 mile or less, generally with winds of 25 mph or more.

Dense Smoke Advisory
Issued when smoke is expected to reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less.

Fire Weather Watch
Issued when dry vegetation and conditions favoring extreme fire danger are expected 12 to 72 hours in the future.

Red Flag Warning
Issued when dry vegetation and conditions favoring extreme fire danger are expected, generally within 24 hours.

Snow Advisory
Issued when accumulating snow of 2 to 4 inches is expected. An advisory may still be warranted if lesser accumulations will produce travel difficulties, especially early in the winter season.

Blowing Snow Advisory
Issued when blowing snow is expected to occasionally reduce visibilities to 1/4 mile or less with winds generally 25 to 34 mph. The event should last at least 3 hours.

Snow and Blowing Snow Advisory
Issued when winds of 25 to 34 mph are expected to be accompanied by falling snow and blowing snow, occasionally reducing the visibility to 1/4 mile or less. The event should last at least 3 hours.

Freezing Rain/Drizzle Advisory
Issued for freezing rain when ice accumulations are expected to cause travel problems, but not exceed 1/4".

Sleet Advisory
Issued for accumulating sleet of 1/4" to 1". Because sleet usually occurs with other precipitation types, a winter weather advisory will almost always be used in such cases.

Winter Weather Advisory
Issued for a winter weather event in which there is more than one hazard present, but all precipitation is expected to remain below warning criteria. For example, it would be issued if 2 inches of snow were expected with a small amount of sleet mixing in at times.

Wind Chill Advisory
Issued when wind chill values will reach -5°F to -19°F, with wind speeds around 10 mph or more.

Wind Chill Warning
Issued when wind chill values will reach -20°F or colder, with wind speeds around 10 mph or more. A Wind Chill Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Ice Storm Warning
Issued when a period of freezing rain is expected to produce ice accumulations of 1/4" or greater, or cause significant disruptions to travel or utilities.

Heavy Sleet Warning
Issued when a period of sleet is expected to produce ice accumulations of 1" or greater, or cause significant disruptions to travel or utilities.

Heavy Snow Warning
Issued when snow is expected to accumulate 4 inches or more in 12 hours, or 6 inches or more in 24 hours.

Winter Storm Warning
Issued for a winter weather event in which there is more than one hazard present, and one of the warning criteria listed above is expected to be met. For example, it would be issued if 5 inches of snow were expected in 12 hours, with some sleet mixing in at times. It is commonly issued for heavy snow with strong winds of 25-34 mph that will cause blowing and drifting of the snow. A Winter Storm Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Blizzard Warning
Issued for sustained wind or frequent gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile for three hours or more. A Blizzard Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Weather Radio Guide and Information

 

Instructions to programming your weather radio are available here.

You can also purchase a weather radio here.

Weather Radio Programming Codes

Texas
County S.A.M.E. Code NWS Frequency
Archer 48009 162.475
Baylor 48023 162.425
Childress 48075 162.525
Clay 48077 162.475
Cottle 48101 162.525
Foard 48155 162.525
Hardeman 48197 162.425
Haskell 48207 162.400
Jack 48237 162.525
King 48269 162.525
Knox 48275 162.425
Montague 48337 162.425
Stonewall 48433 162.500
Throckmorton 48447 162.425
Wichita 48485 162.475
Wilbarger 48487 162.475
Wise 48497 162.550
Young 48503 162.52
 
Oklahoma
County S.A.M.E. Code NWS Frequency
Comanche 40031 162.550
Cotton 40033 162.475
Greer 40055 162.425
Harmon 40057 162.425
Jackson 40065 162.425
Jefferson 40067 162.425
Kiowa 40075 162.550
Stephens 40137 162.550
Tillman 40141 162.550

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss

Recent Videos

Social media depression

Thumbnail for the video titled "Social media depression"

iPhone 11 tests

Thumbnail for the video titled "iPhone 11 tests"

WF WALK to END Alzheimer's

Thumbnail for the video titled "WF WALK to END Alzheimer's"

Raise the woof

Thumbnail for the video titled "Raise the woof"

Imperfect Produce

Thumbnail for the video titled "Imperfect Produce"

National pot pie day

Thumbnail for the video titled "National pot pie day"

Lego is releasing braille legos

Thumbnail for the video titled "Lego is releasing braille legos"

Birthdays & Anniversaries 9-23-19

Thumbnail for the video titled "Birthdays & Anniversaries 9-23-19"

Burkburnett bomb threat

Thumbnail for the video titled "Burkburnett bomb threat"

David Cannon, terroristic threat

Thumbnail for the video titled "David Cannon, terroristic threat"

Terroristic threats arrest, skyler gaines

Thumbnail for the video titled "Terroristic threats arrest, skyler gaines"

Local hiring event

Thumbnail for the video titled "Local hiring event"
Get FREE Text Alerts
Report It

Latest News

More Local News