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New research being done to better predict damaging, destructive storms

Carleen Heij San Tan Ranch.jpg
Posted at 6:28 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 23:13:26-04

PRESCOTT, AZ — New research is underway at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott to better predict Arizona's monsoon thunderstorms.

The tools deployed, which include weather balloons and drones, are outfitted with numerous instruments to detect humidity, temperature, pressure, and wind speed. The tools gather important data near the Earth's surface, right as thunderstorms start forming. The reason: forecasting these storms is still not easy, according to Dr. Curtis James, a professor of Meteorology at Embry-Riddle and co-investigator of the project.

“Our computer models that we use to forecast thunderstorms don’t always get the timing and the location of convective cells accurately," Dr. James said.

With more dense and frequent data, computer models can pick up changes in turbulent winds, moisture, heat, and many other processes that they would otherwise miss.

That new data could be lifesaving.

“If we can better improve our forecasting and understanding of these processes, then we can better predict flash flood, severe thunderstorms events that affect Arizonans,” Dr. James stated.

Research is still ongoing, which will also include Embry-Riddle's manned aircraft.

Scientists here are hoping that the data gathered this monsoon season will lead to a larger project within the next two to four years.