Texas Tech researchers participate in study to help better detect tornadoes

On average, more than 130 tornadoes form in Texas each year. That means more tornadoes happen in Texas than any other state in the U.S. 

Now, researchers at Texas Tech University are working on a project they hope will improve the speed and accuracy of tornado detection in the future. 

Next week, the “Targeted Observation by Radars and Unmanned Aircraft Systems of Supercells,” or “TORUS,” project will begin. The project will take place from May 15 to June 16, and include more than 50 researchers, tracking severe storms from Texas to Wyoming. 

The project is funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation.

The project is led by the University of Nebraska, and has several partners. The coalition of researchers will use mobile radars on the ground and weather-sensing drones in the sky to try and learn the precise conditions that spawn tornadoes. They will also deploy the 'Orion' hurricane hunter aircraft.

The Orion is traditionally used during hurricanes to obtain pressure and wind speed readings.

“The broader impact of the research is of course, to improve our warnings for tornadoes, and there's really two parts to that. One, is to increase the lead time on the warnings, so that people have adequate time to take shelter in their safe spots. But, also to reduce the false alarm rate for tornado warnings.” said Dr. Christopher Weiss, professor of atmospheric science at Texas Tech University. 

False tornado warnings can cause undue stress for people in the forecasted area.

The National Weather Service reports that roughly 70 percent of tornado warnings issued in the United States are false alarms. The TORUS project could improve those statistics.