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Researchers keen for earlier warning of violent storms

By Sam Burgess, Wednesday July 24, 2013 - 09:43 EST

Predicting violent storms days in advance could become a reality, with Australian researchers looking into the possibility.

Melbourne's Monash University and the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) have teamed up to develop mathematical models that could give the public advanced knowledge of storms, such as the 'inland tsunami' that killed 19 people in the Lockyer Valley in 2011 or Melbourne's Christmas Day super-cell that same year.

Queensland climatologist Roger Stone says they want a better understanding of the early warning signs.

"All the underlying factors are sitting there in the atmosphere maybe a day beforehand, maybe even longer, two days beforehand," he said.

During the drought of the late 2000s, a team of Queensland researchers was investigating the potential of cloud seeding or artificially creating rain.

Professor Stone, who was one of the researchers, says the data collected during that period could now be used to give forecasters a more accurate picture of how and when destructive storms occur.

He says supercomputers in the US that processed the information have inadvertently discovered some surprising evidence.

"Found this remarkable new capability to better understand more about these big cells that surprisingly wasn't that well known beforehand," he said.

USQ and Monash are now trying to develop a modelling system based on the data.

Insurer Suncorp is supporting the research.


© ABC 2013

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