Georgia Tech researchers working to predict tornadoes before they form

ATLANTA — Severe Weather Team 2 knows every minute counts when it comes to keeping your family safe during severe weather events.

Severe Weather Team 2 Chief Meteorologist Brad Nitz spoke with researchers at The Georgia Tech Research Institute about a project that could help predict a tornado before it happens.

It begins with a deeper understanding of lightning activity. Nitz first introduced us to the research in its very early stages, one year ago.

Georgia Tech Researcher Levi Boggs said since then, “we’ve analyzed 60 storms, so significantly more, almost ten times more.”

“The lightning patterns are related to the tornado phase at the time,” Boggs said.


Once the method is proven, it would lead to earlier warnings for storms like the system that came through parts of Georgia in January 2023.

Meteorologists could use the lightning information along with radar data to make even earlier predictions about when a tornado will form and when it will lose intensity.

Georgia Tech Researcher Jessica Losego is also working on the project.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out how we can use that information if we see a really fast jump in the number of lightning flashes there are. All of that information used together can be an indication of there being a tornado on the ground or a possible tornado,” Losego said.

Typically, tornado warnings are issued roughly five minutes ahead of time.

Losego told Nitz that using radar plus lightning data may allow more time to seek shelter by up to 15 minutes.