Can Drones Improve Weather Forecasts?

Adam Houston

Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Live, in-person lecture, April 2, 2024, 3:30 p.m., Swanson Auditorium, Nebraska Union

In the last two decades, tornadoes in the U.S. have been responsible for more than 1,600 deaths, over 23,000 injuries and nearly $31B in damage. No other thunderstorm-related hazard impacts humans so severely. While identification of the large-scale conditions that support tornado formation has improved, false alarm rates have been virtually unchanged in two decades. Operational numerical weather prediction (the use of computer models to guide manual forecasts) is nearly to the point where model output can provide direct guidance for the issuance of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings, an effort broadly referred to as warn-on forecasting. However, forecast skill at such high resolution is limited by poor resolution of the current of meteorological surveillance network. Drones have the potential to modernize the observation network and realize the promise of warn-on forecasting. Whether or not the general public has an appetite for such modernization is unknown.

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