It is well after 1 a.m. on May 11, 2010. Karen Kosiba, a post-doctoral scientist for the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) in Boulder, CO, takes a breather in her Doppler on Wheels weather research vehicle in Perry, Oklahoma, a rural town 60 miles north of Oklahoma City. She and her fellow CSWR scientists are bone-weary after spending previous hours in the region chasing a major outbreak of tornadoes- – a spate of wicked weather that ultimately spawned more than 60 tornadoes over a three-state area, claiming three lives in Oklahoma and causing more than $595 million in damage in the state alone. Though she is exhausted after a day of tracking storms, Karen takes the time to post a blog on the CSWR website. She begins the blog with a heart-felt message: “I would first like to extend my deepest sympathy to everyone impacted by today’s severe weather outbreak. At best it is scary, at worst it is absolutely devastating…”
From early May through mid-June of last year, Karen and other tornado hunter scientists from CSWR studied not only this severe tornado event but also others across the Great Plains as part of a major undertaking called VORTEX2, the largest-ever research project aimed at finding out more about what causes devastating tornadoes — and how to give people earlier and more accurate warnings. “Currently, tornado warnings average 13 minutes of lead time, and those come with a 70% false alarm rate, according to our estimates,” says Karen, a senior research meteorologist with CSWR. “We want to know whether warning times can be more accurate and whether warnings could be issued a half-hour or more before the storm strikes.”
How do you think scientists could make warning times more accurate?
Read about Karen and the VORTEX2 study here.
And to hear Karen talk about the findings watch: