Research at NSSL
Severe weather has touched every state in the United States. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, wildfires, floods and droughts are very real threats to our property and our lives. NSSL researchers work to observe, understand and predict severe weather in ways that will help our partners save lives and reduce property damage.
At NSSL we study all types of thunderstorms including supercell thunderstorms, mesoscale convective systems, quasi-linear convective systems and bow-echoes. We also study their environment and their life-cycle.
Much about tornadoes remains a mystery. They are rare, unpredictable and deadly. The U.S. has more tornadoes than anywhere else in the world. NSSL scientists study the lifecycles of tornadoes, why some supercells produce tornadoes and others do not, and what exactly causes a tornado to form. We also look for ways to improve tornado warning accuracy and lead-time.
Except for heat related fatalities, more deaths occur from flooding than any other hazard (NWS Jetstream). NSSL flood research focuses on improving ways to monitor water levels and precipitation amounts in ways that will improve flood and flash flood forecasts and warnings.
Lightning not only injures and kills people, it also ignites forest and brush fires. NSSL scientists find unique ways to measure and study lightning in the field. We also create computer simulations of lightning, and look for ways to use lightning data in forecasts of severe weather.
Hail can cause billions of dollars of damage to structures, crops and livestock. NSSL hail research focuses on improving detection and warning of hail to give people time to protect their property and seek shelter.
Straight-line winds are responsible for most of the damage from thunderstorms. These winds can cause as much destruction as a strong tornado. NSSL works to better understand the thunderstorms that produce damaging winds, so the NWS can make better predictions and warnings for them.
Forecasting winter weather accurately is difficult because a degree or two of temperature change can mean the difference between snow or freezing rain. NSSL research includes looking for ways to make forecasting winter precipitation easier.
NSSL researchers work to understand and provide the weather information society needs. NSSL social science research directly involves emergency managers, broadcast meteorologists, and operational forecasters, in addition to the United States public, to assure innovations in weather research are holistically integrated into the weather communication system.