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OU researchers create innovative program to detect tornadic debris

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NORMAN, Okla. - Researchers at the University of Oklahoma have created an innovative program to help detect tornadic debris.

Devastating tornadoes slinging debris in its path is a scene all too familiar in tornado alley.

But researchers at OU are learning more about how that debris affects a tornado through radar simulation. The first of its kind.

"It's the best indicator of where the damage is occurring," Boon Leng Cheong, Ph.D., research scientist at OU, said.

The program shows the different types of debris inside a tornado.

“So here we have leaves, boards and shingles. The three particles would just get carried by the wind,” Cheong explained.

A room allows them to simulate a tornado with debris that's been collected from an actual twister.

"Through a simulations environment, we have total control, so we can eliminate the debris signature. We can eliminate the precipitation and only look at one or the other. In real data you can't do that,” Robert Palmer, executive director at OU’s Advanced Radar Research Center, said.

They hope it will help educate forecasters and meteorologists on how to better identify debris on radar.

"We never really know if a tornado's on the ground. That's why we have storm trackers out there, but now if we can see the debris on radar, that's going to let us know there's actually a tornado on the ground,” Jon Slater, meteorologist at KFOR-TV said.

“That can be valuable information to our media partners, emergency managers, forecasters to relay the information, `yes this tornado is doing a lot of damage,'” David Bodine, research scientist at OU, said.

Click here for more information on the program.