Jedlovec, GJ, Nair, U, Haines, SL (2006). Detection of storm damage tracks with EOS data. WEATHER AND FORECASTING, 21(3), 249-267.
The damage surveys conducted by the NWS in the aftermath of a reported tornadic event are used to document the location of the tornado ground damage track (pathlength and width) and an estimation of the tornado intensity. This study explores the possibility of using near-real-time medium and high spatial resolution satellite imagery from the NASA Earth Observing System satellites to provide additional information for the surveys. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Advanced Space-borne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) data were used to study the damage tracks from three tornadic storms: the La Plata, Maryland, storm of 28 April 2002 and the Ellsinore and Marquand, Missouri, storms of 24 April 2002. These storms varied in intensity and occurred over regions with significantly different land cover. It was found that, depending on the nature of the land cover, tornado damage tracks from intense storms (F1 or greater) and hail storms may be evident in ASTER, Landsat, and MODIS satellite imagery. In areas where the land cover is dominated by forests, the scar patterns can show up very clearly, while in areas of grassland and regions with few trees, scar patterns are not as obvious or cannot be seen at all in the satellite imagery. The detection of previously unidentified segments of a damage track caused by the 24 April 2002 Marquand, Missouri, tornado demonstrates the utility of satellite imagery for damage surveys. However, the capability to detect tornado tracks in satellite imagery depends on the ability to observe the ground without obstruction from space and appears to be as much dependent on the nature of the underlying surface and land cover as on the severity of the tornadic storm.