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Revolutionizing Tornado Prediction

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The funnel clouds of a tornado.

The Warn-on-Forecast early storm warning system under development would inform the public of impending storms with 30 to 60 minutes of lead time.

Credit: Don Farrall/Getty Images

University of Oklahoma researchers are developing a tornado modeling and simulation system that aims to explain why some storms generate tornadoes while others do not.

The researchers "hope that with a more accurate prediction and improved lead time on warnings, more people will heed the warnings, and thus loss of life and property will be reduced," says University of Oklahoma professor Amy McGovern.

The researchers are working with the National Weather Service to implement an early storm warning system, called Warn-on-Forecast. The project aims to inform the public of impending storms with 30 to 60 minutes of lead time.

This level of accuracy requires a high-resolution model, which takes a lot of computing power to implement. The researchers are using the University of Tennessee's Kraken supercomputer to run the simulations and the University of Texas' Nautilus supercomputer to analyze them.

"The biggest thing that Nautilus does for us right now is process the data so that we can mine it, because we're trying to cut these terabytes of data down to something that's usable metadata," McGovern says. "I am able to reduce one week of computations down to 30 minutes on Nautilus, and post-processing time is reduced from several weeks to several hours."

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