Soundwaves may help improve tornado warnings

Low frequency infrasound could lower false alarm rate


Meteorologists are listening at low-frequency sound to predict tornado formation which could be crucial for saving lives.

Research from Oklahoma State University and University of Nebraska-Lincoln indicates prior to tornado formation, storms emit low-frequency sounds.

Current technology uses Doppler radar signatures to spot developing twisters. This warning tool has been in use since the late 1980’s but the false alarm rate can be as high as half as 50%.

Infrasound—sound can’t be heard by human ears but the instruments can supplement doppler radar detection by seeing around blocking mountains which is a problem with radar.

The fundamental question of what causes tornado-producing storms to emit infrasound is still unanswered, but the scientists have a few possibilities in mind.

“One theory suggests that radial oscillations of the tornado core produce the sound, which is supported by past observations showing the fundamental frequency being proportional to the diameter of the tornado,” said researcher Brian Elbing.

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