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New Virtual Workbench will help predict severe weather (Image 2)

Weather visualization system displaying mesocyclone severe weather cells over Georgia mountains

The Georgia Institute of Technology weather visualization system displays mesocyclone severe weather cells passing over the North Georgia mountains. Mesocyclone cells are features derived from Doppler radar data that show the position, motion and extent of severe storms. (Year of image: 2001) [See related image Here.]

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Researchers at Georgia Tech are developing a real-time, 3-D visualization system to help severe weather scientists improve the timeliness and accuracy of forecasting the formation, path and possible effects of storms. Weather researchers will use personal computers and large-screen projections to view, question and analyze large observational datasets, including information from radar stations, severe weather detection software, high-resolution weather models, geographic information systems, satellites and aerial photography.

In addition to providing weather information, these sources will also provide data on terrain, building locations and human activities such as rush-hour traffic. This information will be merged in a platform called the Virtual Geographic Information System (VGIS), which was developed by the project's lead researchers. Weather researchers will use the visualization system to improve storm detection software used by forecasters and the National Weather Service may eventually use the system to help them determine whether to issue watches and warnings. The system may also help forecasters accurately predict general areas of severe weather up to six hours in advance, giving emergency services personnel more time to prepare for response and residents more time to evacuate, if necessary.

An initial version of the system has already begun to receive north Georgia radar data via the Severe Storms Research Center at Georgia Tech, which gets its feed from the National Weather Service. Ultimately, predictions integrated with the visualization system could save lives, reduce injuries and save billions of dollars in lost products, equipment and time.

The visualization system is a collaborative project funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Georgia Tech and the University of Oklahoma's Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. Initial prototype work was accomplished under funding from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Tech Severe Storms Research Center (SSRC). The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) in Norman, Okla., is testing and evaluating the system, and also inserting the system's decision-support tools into NSSL severe weather detection software.

Credit: Courtesy Zachary Wartell

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