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Meteorologists, researchers converge on NEA ahead of severe storms

Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 11:03 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - People driving down Red Wolf Boulevard in Jonesboro Tuesday could not miss a big truck with a dish on the back.

“They obviously get a lot of attention,” Dr. Sean Waugh, research and instrumentation meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, said. “When people see those, they immediately go to weather.”

In front of Embassy Suites, people could see a mobile Doppler radar and several weather research trucks. Scientists converged on Northeast Arkansas Tuesday ahead of expected severe weather on Wednesday.

“As part of a larger research project that we are doing called PERiLS,” Waugh said.

PERiLS stands for Propagation, Evolution and Rotation in Linear Storms. It’s a project the NSSL is undergoing with several partners to learn more about tornadoes that form along what is called a QLCS or quasi-linear convective system or what is more commonly known as a squall line.

“It’s been something that we’ve really wanted to focus on for a while,” Waugh said. “So the PERiLS project is actually designed to look at those events specifically.”

He said the different institutions in the project bring their instruments to help study these storms.

“To try and sample those events and have a deeper understanding of what causes those tornadoes to form, which allows us to better warn and predict those in the future which helps everyone out,” Waugh said.

Waugh is working out of one of the mobile Mesonet trucks. It has instrumentation that can measure surface conditions like temperature, pressure, wind speed, wind direction, and relative humidity on the move.

“We don’t actually have to stop and deploy anything, which give us a lot of advantages and being able to follow the weather where it happens,” Waugh said.

They also have the capability to launch small weather balloons out the back of the truck that can give a vertical profile of the atmosphere.

“And those observations really start to give us a picture of what is kind of driving the severe weather event,” Waugh said.

The mobile doppler radar units, which there are several that will be deployed on Wednesday, will work in tandem with each other to give meteorologists high-resolution data as the storms come in.

That data will be used to help keep everyone safe in future events.

“The more we understand about those events and how they function and how they produce that hazardous weather, that gives us a better ability to predict and prepare for those in the future which helps us protect and save lives. And that’s our ultimate goal,” Waugh said.

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