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Hurricane Katrina: Phone home
Date:7/6/2009

Though New Orleans residents were told to evacuate days before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, no one could have predicted the real extent of the devastation.

Now researchers from Tel Aviv University say they have found a novel and reliable way to help predict the intensity of the next big flood, using common cell phone towers across the United States. Their model, which analyzes cell phone signals, adds a critical component to weather forecasting never before available.

"By monitoring the specific and fluctuating atmospheric moisture around cell phone towers throughout America, we can cheaply, effectively and reliably provide a more accurate 'critical moisture distribution' level for fine-tuning model predictions of big floods," says Prof. Pinhas Alpert, a geophysicist and head of Tel Aviv University's Porter School for Environmental Education.

Prof. Alpert and his co-researchers Prof. Hagit Messer Yaron and doctoral fellow Noam David reported on their research in the April 2009 Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Information the weather girl can use

Cell phone towers emit radio waves that are diminished by moisture in the air, a factor that can be used to improve model warnings on flood levels. In addition, the researchers measured the rainfall distributions and were able to accurately estimate the size of impending floods before they struck. This was demonstrated in post-analysis of two case-studies of floods in the Judean Desert in Israel, where cell phone towers - and flash floods - are abundant.

Using real data measurements collected from the towers, the researchers demonstrated how microwave links in a cellular network correlated with surface station humidity measurements. The data provided by cell phone towers is the missing link weather forecasters need to improve the accuracy of flood forecasting. The microwave data used in this study was supplied by two cellular providers Cel
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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