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More effective early warning system for megastorms

storm © Cornelia Klein

Mesoscale convective systems (MCS) which lead to severe storms due to their innate potential are often termed "megastorms" in the headlines. In particular, the affect tropical and moderate regions in Africa, Australia, Asia and America, and cause enormous damage. A new study led by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) in cooperation with the Universit of Innsbruck has now provided evidence that land surface conditions influence the direction and intensity of megastorms.
These research findings support the development of online tools to more accurately predict the path and strength of an impending storm. In this way, the existing warnings systems in certain regions of Africa can provide up to six hours of advance warning to the population before the storm arrives. "It is well known that heat provides thunderstorms with a great deal of energy. It was generally assumed that once they started moving, they were independent as far as the nature of the ground below them was concerned. We have now been able to show that drier soil actually increases the intensity of a storm, which in turn affects the amount of precipitation and the direction in which they move. The air above dry ground becomes warmer and rises more easily. This also promotes the convergence of more humid air masses from the surrounding environment. Strong temperature differences with the surroundings would also facilitate wind circulation, making it easier for thunderstorms to draw in warm, moist air. Storms always take the route where they find these favourable conditions. Conversely, we found that storms moving over ground that is wetter were often seriously weakened."

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