New research suggests analyzing sounds in a storm could help detect tornado formation earlier.  People who have experienced tornadoes frequently describe the sound being like that of a train.  The sounds important in detecting tornadoes earlier can't be heart by human ears; it's called "infrasound."  These infrasound signals could tell us information about the pressure, wind speed, and size of the tornado.

(Image credit: Brian Elbing)

(image credit: Brian Elbing)

Brian Elbing teaches mechanical and aerospace engineering at Oklahoma State University.  He and a team of students are working on this research and had some success with storms last May. He said, “We could look at radar data of the larger storm system, and when the rotation there was really strong, it produced almost no infrasound." He added, “And then 10 minutes before the tornado itself formed is when you start seeing this big increase in the sound levels. And then it lasted the duration of the tornado.” Tornadoes are not the only weather event or natural phenomenon to produce these infrasound waves which have frequencies lower than what humans can pick up on. This research is still in the early stages, but Elbing says he hopes this can improve false alarm rates of tornado warnings and provide more lead time.

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