Low Frequency Sound May Predict Tornado Formation

Researchers will discuss research on fluid mechanisms behind infrasound emitted before tornado formation at this year’s APS DFD meeting.


  • newswise-fullscreen Low Frequency Sound May Predict Tornado Formation

    Credit: OSU Brand Management/Phil Shockley

Newswise — SEATTLE, November 25, 2019 -- How can you tell when a storm is going to produce a tornado even before the twister forms? Research from Oklahoma State University and University of Nebraska-Lincoln indicates prior to tornado formation, storms emit low-frequency sounds. 

Brian Elbing, Christopher Petrin and Matthew Van Den Broeke will present their studies on the potential fluid mechanisms behind the warning noise at American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics 72nd Annual Meeting at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. The session, "Potential Fluid Mechanics for Low Frequency Sound from Tornadoes," will take place on Nov. 25 at 3:20 p.m. in Room 6B and is one of the largest gatherings in the world for fluid dynamics. 

The researchers wanted to explore how fluid mechanics cause the sounds detected before a tornado is created. Those sounds are well below the range of human hearing. They will present recent infrasound observations from the 2019 tornado season as well as discuss how they were able to detect tornado formation, even before they were spotted on radars. 

“Prior to the 2019 tornado season, our array was only within range of one tornado, an EFU tornado in Perkins, Oklahoma. For that tornado, we started receiving a signal about eight minutes before the tornado formed, and a characteristic signature that we believe was associated with the tornado was received four minutes before the tornado touched down,” said Elbing. “This was significant since this small tornado had no warning and was not observed on any radar.” 

The fundamental question of what causes tornado-producing storms to emit infrasound is still unanswered, but the scientists have a few possibilities in mind. 

“One theory suggests that radial oscillations of the tornado core produce the sound, which is supported by past observations showing the fundamental frequency being proportional to the diameter of the tornado,” said Elbing. 

Additionally, the researchers will discuss methods for the long-range study of the formation and characterizations of tornadoes.

----------------------- MORE MEETING INFORMATION -----------------------

USEFUL LINKS 

Main meeting website: https://www.apsdfd2019.org/

Meeting technical program: http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DFD19/Content/3770

Invited talks: http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DFD19/APS_Invited

Hotel information: https://www.apsdfd2019.org/hotels

GALLERY OF FLUID DYNAMICS 

At the Annual Meeting, The Gallery of Fluid Motion will consist of posters and videos submitted by attendees illustrating the science and beauty of fluid motion. More information can be found here: https://www.apsdfd2019.org/gallery-of-fluid-motion

PRESS REGISTRATION 

We will grant free registration to credentialed journalists and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, contact media@aps.org. We can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips or background information.

LIVE MEDIA WEBCAST 

A press briefing featuring a selection of newsworthy research will be webcast live from the conference on Monday, Nov. 25. Times and topics to be announced. Members of the media should register in advance at  https://webcast.apswebcasting.com/go/aps-nov25-19.

ABOUT DFD 

The Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society, established in 1947, exists for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the physics of fluids with special emphasis on the dynamical theories of the liquid, plastic and gaseous states of matter under all conditions of temperature and pressure. For more information about DFD, visit https://www.aps.org/units/dfd/.

ABOUT APS 

The American Physical Society (APS) is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. For more information about APS, visit https://www.aps.org/.

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