UAH scientist working with NASA on 20 minute tornado warnings

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Wednesday's severe weather reminds us that type of threat is always around us. And here in North Alabama, tornadoes are especially imminent.

UAH scientists are working on a new type of sensor that could increase the time of tornado warnings, therefore making it more possible for you and your family to get to safety.

Hugh Christian is a principal research scientist at UAH. He is currently working with NASA on a lightning sensor on the geostationary orbit in space. The sensor would help them with getting tornado warnings out.

"By observing lightning from space, in conjunction with ground based Doppler radars, we're able to increase the warning time by almost double to more than twenty minutes," he explained.

That's ten minutes more than tornado warnings now. Christian said the longer response time will hopefully give people a better sense of safety.

"Where am I? I'm driving along this road, what do I do now? How much time do I have? You can get to a better location, a more secure location," he said.

With the lightning sensor they can also reduce false alarms by half.

"False alarm rates are very high with severe weather. Sometimes ninety percent, so you see you give out ten warnings and only one of them's real," Christian explained.

The lightning sensor is already in orbit, and they hope to have it operational by the summertime.

"Then the data will go directly to the forecasters at the National Weather Service, and they'll put out warnings the lightning data, in conjunction with the radar data," he said.

The sensor was built by Lockheed Martin, with much of the design and development coming from UAH. The project is a joint effort between UAH, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.