An avatar for Allan

Allan Lasser

back in the saddle

What’s Going on Inside the Fearsome Thunderstorms of Córdoba Province?

This was an excellent story about the research happening on storms in Argentina. As the climate gets warmer, there’s more moisture and energy in the atmosphere, which fuels more powerful storms. This is mostly reported in the context of hurricanes, but it’s equally true for the tornado-producing storms that roll across the Midwest in the spring and summer.

In the United States, which is home to the most extensive weather forecasting infrastructure in the world, around a third of severe weather predictions still prove wrong — not only about timing and location but also size, duration and intensity. The false-alarm rate for tornadoes continues to hover at about 70 percent, while the average warning time has only increased from about 10 minutes in the mid-1990s to 15 minutes today.

If one of these budding cells manages to punch through the tropopause, as the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere is called, the storm mushrooms, feeding on the energy-rich air of the upper atmosphere. As it continues to grow, inhaling up more moisture and breathing it back down as rain and hail, this vast vertical lung can sprout into a self-sustaining system that takes on many different forms.

Composed of millions of micro air currents, electrical pulses and unfathomably complex networks of ice crystals, every storm is a singular creature, growing and behaving differently based on its geography and climate.

Until the launch of global weather satellites in the 1990s, this level of sampling and detection wasn’t widely available outside North America. When NASA deployed its Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission in 1997, the satellite offered the first comprehensive look at the entire world’s weather. And part of what it revealed was an enormous regional variability in the size and intensity of storms.

with ever more heat, moisture and unstable air available to feed on, storms in many parts of the world have begun to exhibit increasingly erratic behavior.

researchers at M.I.T. and Princeton now consider a Category Six hurricane a realistic possibility


In 2019, a study conducted by Stockholm University found that one of the only uniform impacts of climate change was on forecasting, which has become more difficult.

Founded in the 1990s, by the meteorologist Joshua Wurman, C.S.W.R. is a seminomadic 11-person research institution that over the years has earned a reputation for pushing boundaries in chasing technology. In the mid-90s, Wurman built the first truck-mounted doppler radar system, nicknamed the “doppler on wheels,” or DOW. By 1999, a DOW had recorded the fastest wind speed in history within a tornado, in Moore, Okla., at 301 m.p.h. Since then, perhaps no other organization has ventured as far into the world’s deadliest tempests as C.S.W.R., whose fleet of four trucks has now transmitted data from inside 15 hurricanes and about 250 tornadoes.

​CSWR is the Center for Severe Weather Research.

They tell us that the sky, like our drying forests, is rapidly becoming an ocean of fuel, but they don’t tell us where and when it might ignite — much less what, exactly, might spark it.