CASA’s Great Undertaking

casa1We are reminded every year of the great need for tornado early warning systems. This year Oklahoma endured widespread devastation in Moore and witnessed the record breaking EF-5 monster that passed along El Reno’s doorstep. You may have wondered, “Why aren’t we able to track tornadoes by radar?” The answer to that question is eloquently put on CASA’s website.

“Today’s weather forecasting and warning systems utilize data from high-power, long-range radars that have limited ability to observe the lower part of the atmosphere because of the Earth’s curvature. This means that meteorological conditions in the lower troposphere are under-sampled, leaving us with precious little predicting and detecting capability where most weather forms.” CASA’s plan is to place networks of smaller, short-range radars that won’t be affected by Earth’s curvature and objects that can easily block long-range radar like tall buildings and mountains.

This network of smaller radars will fill in the gaps missed by their bigger brothers, allowing those monitoring them to actually track tornadoes and give early warning to those in harm’s way, and that’s only the beginning of the potential of CASA’s radar network. Make no mistake, this is a monumental project.

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Since the short-range radars only cover a few miles, dozens would be needed just to provide a single city with enough coverage to be effective, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing CASA down. CASA is actually a collaboration between multiple universities across the U.S. CASA even has members abroad including the University of Puerto Rico and the Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention (NIED) of Japan.

CASA has more than a few obstacles before them in pursuit of a better way to track tornadoes, but they understand the challenges before them and are taking them head on.