Through a collaborative effort between professors at Northern Illinois University, Columbia College and the College of DuPage, Professor Victor Gensini and his team have made an important link between jet stream patterns and severe weather events.
“We’ve identified certain types of jet stream configurations. The jet stream is this a vast ribbon of wind speed where commercial airlines fly and if the configuration of that jet stream goes into a certain pattern then we can anticipate either above average or below average severe weather activity for the entire U.S.,” said Gensini.
To make the connections between the jet streams and severe weather, Gensini and his team looked back at events like Hurricane Katrina and the devastating tornado that hit Plainfield in 1990.
“We looked at the conditions on those specific days, specifically the jet stream. Then we went backwards about two or three weeks and started seeing these very similar patterns. So when you anticipate that, you find that 20-30 days later severe weather could happen across the U.S. It is very challenging because we are trying to forecast something very small, people think tornadoes are these huge things and they are small events in the atmosphere,” he said.
While alerts will stay the same, this link could help us to better prepare for weather emergencies.
“Tornado watches are still going to be issued, tornado warnings are still going to be issued on the day of the event. But what we are trying to do is allow this extended range prediction for activity so anyone who is in education or administration or emergency management – those are the people we want to give outreach to let them know when these activities might occur,” he said.
Now that we can pin point these events on a large scale, Gensini is eager to take the findings one step further.
“I am happy to start this process, but I think we need a lot more work, and a lot more time, research and money to get where we need to be and that’s narrowing down a three or four state area that far in advance,” he said.
Naperville News 17’s Natalie Vitale Reports.
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