Scientific American on predicting tornadoes and hurricanes 2011 was a natural disatser heavy year for the U.S., wasn't it? What with Hurricane Irene rattling the East Coast and, a bit more significantly, the record 750 tornadoes blowing through the country's interior. Which is perhaps why the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration is making a technological push at predicting when dangerous weather occurs. Scientific American's Jane Lubchenco and Jack Hayes run down the various investments being made in prediction technology: advanced radar better able to pick up on tornadoes' wind signatures, more satellites in the sky to watch brewing hurricanes over the ocean, and supercomputers to crunch the data coming in from them. The goal is get out warnings for disaster events as early as possible. "Severe weather outlooks will extend beyond five days, hurricane forecasts beyond seven days, and the threat of spring floods will be known weeks in advance." For tornadoes, issuing a warning even a few minutes earlier will save lives. NOAA discusses their techniques itself int he video below.
Time on the link between climate change and natural disasters If there is an unusual glut of natural disasters, what's causing it? Thankfully, Time is also on the disaster beat today. "As it happens, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published an assessment on the science of extreme weather and global warming just last month — but the answers are cloudy," writes Bryan Walsh. Heat waves were confidently linked to global warming; flooding and storms, less so. The problem, unfortunately, is lack of data on hurricanes and tornadoes that occurred in decades past, preventing meaningful links between global warming and natural disasters from being made. However: "The fact that it's impossible to draw a straight line between climate change and the seemingly more turbulent weather doesn't mean we should act as if the two aren't linked," he writes. "There's no doubt that warming raises at least the risk of extreme-weather events."