665 The Use of Satellite Imagery to Assess Tornado Damage in the Central Appalachian Region

Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Hall D/E ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
James Morrow, NOAA/NWS, Blacksburg, VA; and S. J. Keighton

Remote sensing has been found to provide crucial assistance in times of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. There is also evidence that high resolution satellite data holds value to meteorologists performing damage surveys following tornado outbreaks. Few studies have examined advantages and disadvantages of various satellite-based resources for detection and refinement of tornado damage paths. This research focused on how high resolution satellite imagery may be useful in tornado damage analysis, especially for finding or refining damage paths from lower-end tornadoes in remote areas. Archived satellite images were gathered from before and after a number of tornadic events from 2008-2014 in the central Appalachian mountain region of the eastern United States. The images were then analyzed to determine what specific evidence existed of tornado damage by subjective visual inspection, and to determine whether or not vegetation and land cover types affected the ability for this detection. The satellite analysis was then compared to official National Weather Service tornado damage surveys. From the results of these findings, a matrix was created based on available imagery sources, highlighting their advantages and disadvantages for tornado damage assessment, timeliness/availability, and imagery access platforms. This is meant to serve as a quick operational reference guide to meteorologists tasked with performing tornado damage surveys, and can potentially help refine ground-based surveys (especially path dimensions), or determine where follow-up surveys may be required.
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