(USA)

Big data could save lives by providing an early warning of severe weather, new research suggests.

A team from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) – and AccuWeather – has found a way of harnessing the technology to identify ‘bow echoes in radar images’ – which are early indicators of deadly winds.

“If we can predict severe thunderstorms better, we can save lives every year,” said IST professor James Wang. “I think computer-based methods can provide a third eye to the meteorologists, helping them look at things they don’t have the time or energy for.”

The researchers found that by using an algorithm to continually assess radar imagery from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) a response can be automated any time a bow echo is forming. This early stage development of a damaging weather system is something often missed by forecasters.

AccuWeather forensic meteorologist, Stephen Wistar said: “If you can get even a 10, 15 minute jump and get a warning out earlier pinned down to a certain location instead of entire counties, that’s a huge benefit.”