A hail of a storm

article

Pictured above: the Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. The computer is being used to help University of Oklahoma researchers experiment with new models for tracking and predicting hail storms. 

A hail storm of massive proportions pummeled Colorado Springs yesterday, leaving residents with property damage and a bulldozer-sized mess in their front lawns.

The city wound up deploying snow plows to deal with the leftover piles of hail, which clogged drains around El Paso County.

While they make for great clips on the evening news, these late-summer hail storms can be dangerous and costly for people, especially when there is little time to prepare and make a safe exit. Luckily, students and researchers at the University of Oklahoma are working to improve our knowledge of how storms like this develop so that experts can predict them earlier.
The Severe Hail Analysis, Representation and Prediction Project (or SHARP) is a collaboration between the university and the National Science Foundation that began in 2015.

According to an article about the project at nsf.org, scientists predict storms like the one that hit Colorado Springs by creating models of the Earth’s atmosphere and using mathematical equations to describe the behavior of factors that impact the Earth’s climate. The models Involve a grid, and the finer the grid is, the more accurate scientists’ weather predictions will be.

“The highest-resolution National Weather Service’s (NWS) official forecasts have grid spacing of one point for every 3 kilometers,” the NSF article states. “The model the Oklahoma team is using in the SHARP project, on the other hand, uses one grid point for every 500 meters — six times more resolved in the horizontal directions.”

A major goal of this project, which requires a supercomputer called the Stampede, is to be able to predict hail storms at least two hours ahead of time.

While warnings of possible rain and thunderstorms in Colorado Springs began before noon yesterday, earlier predictions of such a severe hail storm may have helped some locals avoid a lot of headaches.

The SHARP project is slated to wrap up in August, 2017. For an abstract on the SHARP project check out http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1261776&HistoricalAwards=false, or for the NSF article on predicting hail storms check out http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=137978&WT.mc_id=USNSF_1. And, for photos and videos from the storm yesterday, follow the link to the Colorado Springs Gazette http://gazette.com/snow-plows-used-in-recovery-after-storm-hammers-colorado-springs-area-with-floodwaters-hail/article/1583947.

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