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Researchers study new way to predict severe weather

By Andrew Wittenberg | Posted - Nov. 21, 2013 at 7:38 a.m.


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LOGAN — Scientists have spent decades working to create better ways to predict severe weather. Now, one Utah physicist says his team has made a pretty big discovery by monitoring the shifts in the jet stream.

In a small conference room, on a small laptop in Logan, Utah, the way extreme rainfall events are predicted around the world is about to change.

The new research conducted at Utah State University has monitored changing wind patterns with the hope of giving long range predictions of major rainfall events.

"Yes, the potential is there to give people a heads up, to be prepared," said Dr. Robert Davies.

It could be useful in events like this year's massive flooding in Colorado and the tornado outbreak in the Midwest this weekend that dropped 62 twisters across seven states.

"The Illinois example is a good one because this is an unusual weather event for this time of year," Davies pointed out.

They're all tied to rainfall events and wind patterns, which and changing.

"This is simply one in a large number of studies that is relating the changes in the weather patterns we're seeing to anthropogenic, human-caused climate change," Davies said.

Inversions
Using similar mathematical information, they've also been able to generate higher likelihoods for winter inversions here in Utah. They're predicting a major, long term inversion event in the second week of December.

So, the always fiery topic of climate change is involved.

"The notion of climate change in a warming atmosphere is not fiery at all. It's well accepted. It's scientific knowledge," Davies said.

Politics aside, the climate is changing, no matter what you may believe is the cause, and Dr. Davies sayid it's possible we are seeing more extreme weather events because of it.

Long range studies using their mathematical formulas hope to eventually predict when and where they'll happen.

"Now we can start to make forecasts that get people ready for these extreme precipitation events," Davies said.

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Andrew Wittenberg

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