Science Pops Open, Ep. 8: Taking European Tornadoes by Storm

Research fellows of the AXA Research Fund tell the story of their work to reduce an array of risks

“Tornado destroys major European city!” We may not expect this type of headline in Europe, but tornadoes cause billions of euros in damage across the continent each year. Even now, surprisingly little is known about them and the conditions that cause them—a major hurdle to accurate storm forecasts and climate predictions. Bogdan Antonescu aims to change that with his work studying severe storms across Europe.

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“Tornado destroys major European city!” We may not expect this type of headline in Europe, but tornadoes likely happen in this region more than we realize. The severe storms that create these conditions, as well as fierce hail, wind and lightning, are responsible for some 8 billion euros in damages across the continent, yet basic knowledge about them is lacking. How many such storms occur, where and under what conditions do they form? Without this information, the true extent of the risk posed by large thunderstorms is unknown.

Dr. Bogdan Antonescu is changing that. He realized that the first problem was a lack of storm data, as every country maintained its own records. Using information from the new European Severe Weather Database, he is developing a storm model covering the whole continent. So far, his estimates show about 400 tornadoes per year occurring across Europe. These can be even more costly than stronger storms in other parts of the world, due to the density of the European population. As Dr. Antonescu takes his analysis of severe storms further, his results could help improve weather forecasts, insurance estimates of storm risk, and provide a baseline from which to predict the effect of climate change on tornadoes. From better predictions comes better ability to prepare.

Next Monday:

Efforts to reduce the risks of climate change will need to be as efficient as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as Sandrine Sidze has witnessed in Cameroon, where different groups’ needs can be far from aligned. With her research, she is doing her part to increase understanding of the bigger picture of climate change for all stakeholders. Her secret weapon: technology-enhanced learning.

More Episodes of Science Pops Open:

Ep. 1 – Your body can defend itself against cancer. It just needs a little help!, with Margot Cucchetti 

Ep. 2 – Improving outcomes of crisis and conflict, thanks to an ethnographic outlook, with Ruben Andersson

Ep. 3 – After an Earthquake, the Show Must Go On, with Anna Reggio

Ep. 4 – Disrupting the Sleeping Sickness Symphony, with Fabien Guegan

Ep. 5 – Optimizing Welfare…and Equality, with Sean Slack

Ep. 6 – Awaiting Balance in the Adolescent Brain, with Kiki Zanolie

Ep. 7 – Come Drought or High Water, with Luciano Raso

Ep. 8 – Taking European Tornadoes by Storm, with Bogdan Antonescu

Ep. 9 – Learning to Tackle Climate Change Together, with Sandrine Sidze

Ep. 10 – Nourish the Children of Urban Slums, with Sophie Goudet

Ep. 11 – In Money Matters, We're Only Human, with Jeroen Nieboer

Ep. 12 – A Depressed Sense of Smell?, with Kalliopi Apazoglou

Ep. 13 – Climate Shifts Carried on a River of Air, with Nikolaos Bakas

Ep. 14 – Something in the Air Down There, with Fulvio Amato

Ep. 15 – Foretelling a Complex Future for our Complex Ecosystems, with Phillip Staniczenko

Ep. 16 – From Childhood Illness to Innovative Antibiotics, with Agata Starosta

Ep. 17 – Plants & Poisons: Assessing Contamination in Our Environment, with Natalia Ospina-Alvarez

Ep. 18 – Voice of a Storm Surge, with Emiliano Renzi