Friday, April 13, 2012

Satellites Help Study of 2011 Tornadoes

April is the Cruelest Month

April 13, 2012: In the opening lines to The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot wrote "April is the Cruelest Month."

You might agree if you live in the southeastern United States. Last April, a historic outburst of 202 tornadoes turned broad swaths of that part of the country into a disaster zone.

"The event of April 27th and 28th 2011 was the costliest convective storm in U.S. history," said Kevin Knupp, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. And he doesn't just mean costly in terms of property damage -- 316 people lost their lives.

Of the 202 twisters that day, 62 tore through Alabama, where Knupp works. Ten of them were ranked EF 4 and 5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.  Three tornadoes churned paths more than 120 miles long, and a large number of the twisters cut swaths more than a half mile wide.

Knupp saw the results first-hand, and he’s been studying them ever since. Aided by a team of graduate students and colleagues, he’s sifted through gigabytes of data1 collected by NASA and NOAA satellites and local ground sensors.   A year later, they have drawn some interesting conclusions.
April is the Cruelest Month (splash, 558px)
A new ScienceCast video recaps the events of April 27-28, 2011, and explores what researchers have learned from the outbreak. Play it



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