STILLWATER – A professor at Oklahoma State University and his team have been working on research related to the low-frequency sounds tornados emit.
Brian Elbing, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has caught the attention of National Geographic for his work, which includes developing a system of microphones and soaker hoses to capture low-frequency sounds, or infrasound. Elbing’s system helps him and his team interpret how the storm is forming and, with this technology, scientists will be able to predict tornadoes before they form even to the point of determining size and rotation.
“Evidence suggests that how loud [the infrasound] is directly relates to how strong [the tornado] is,” Elbing said in a recent press release. “We still need more data to prove that, but if that’s the case we should be able to listen and say, ‘it’s this loud, it’s an EF-4.’”
Elbing and his team collaborates with CLOUD-MAP, a a multi-university collaboration led by OSU professor Jamey Jacob that develops drones used in weather forecasting where the drones can be flown to the site of a developing tornado to measure the atmosphere.
“There’s evidence that tornadoes can start emitting infrasound an hour beforehand,” Elbing said. “So, if I have a drone, when I start detecting this infrasound, I could deploy the drone and go measure the atmosphere at that location.”
The research conducted by Elbing and the technology it has produced can play a vital role in increasing accuracy of tornado warnings.
Elbing hopes to use his research and drone technology to one day save lives, provide a deeper understanding of the environment and restore Oklahomans’ faith in the power of a twister.
An episode of Explorer, a documentary television series, will feature Elbing’s research and is scheduled to premier on January 7, 2019, at 9 p.m. central time.