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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Researchers from the University of Oklahoma say they are working on a project that will help improve computer models for weather forecasting in the future.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Colorado at Boulder are taking part in a study using drones to study how storms form in coastal urban areas.

“By deploying a fleet of remotely piloted aircraft systems in the Houston, Texas, area, we will gain valuable insight to improve the ability for computers to predict how and why storms will form so that meteorologists can provide better warnings in advance of dangerous hail, flash flooding or high winds,” said Liz Pillar-Little, assistant director for OU’s Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling and a research scientist in the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences.

Researchers say ‘mid-latitude’ storm systems can produce severe storms but the physics behind the processes are often difficult to represent in models.

The research team wants to better understand how storms form through the relationship between atmospheric circulations, the winds driven by changes in temperature and pressure, and particles in the air, known as aerosols, and convection.

“Like a pot of water coming to boil, convection is the transfer of heat from a warmer area to a cooler one,” Pillar-Little said. “The combination of these atmospheric circulations and aerosols in coastal urban environments, like Houston, can drive convective processes by which big storms are created.”