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Meteodrones improve tornado forecasts


Measurements of temperature, relative humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction in the atmosphere are sparse, so there has always been a gap in knowing how the thermodynamics and kinematics evolve in the lower layers. The Atmospheric Turbulence & Diffusion Division (ATDD) of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is one of many who face the problem of limited data in the planetary boundary layer – where the weather occurs. Especially, phenomena such as tornadoes are of high interest to ATDD because there are still a lot of unknowns regarding their formation. Clarifying these unknowns would improve the tornado forecast resulting in preventive deployment of safety measures.


Meteomatics offers the solution to this problem: Meteodrones. These small unmanned aerial vehicles are equipped with sensors to measure vertical profiles of meteorological variables revealing advanced insights into the planetary boundary layer. Currently, the U.S. weather service utilizes weather balloons for those kinds of analyses. Unfortunately, balloons do not provide a very localized vertical profile and are always lost after launching. Flying the Meteodrones at specific locations to high altitudes enables ATDD to study the boundary layer more profoundly. Moreover, Meteodrones endure high wind speeds; thus, they can be deployed right before the formation of a tornado giving new insights into the atmospheric conditions before the occurrence of such phenomena.


As a Meteodrone customer ATDD/NOAA benefits from an innovative technology that helps deepen their knowledge of meteorological processes. Replacing the weather balloons with Meteodrones more frequent and more localized vertical profiles are flown, which enhances operational weather forecasting. Furthermore, specific events of tornadoes, e.g., can now be examined which previously was not possible due to technological limitations. Based on this new data early tornado warnings can be issued to the public. Using this environmental monitoring system ATDD is able to enhance their abilities in climate adaptation and mitigation.