Help University of Queensland researchers create a hailstorm warning system

RESEARCHERS are appealing for citizen scientists to take pictures of hail to help them create a warning system.

University of Queensland researcher Joshua Soderholm, of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said they wanted pictures to compare with information from radars.

“We need a ground-truth to be able to compare our information with reality,” he said.

“The information the citizen scientists gather will be valuable for supplementing scientific data obtained from a UQ storm-chasing field campaign in south-east Queensland over the next few months.”

Dr Soderholm asked for people to take a picture of hail next to an object of a known size, such as a golf ball or credit card, or a ruler.

Hail forms when supercooled water droplets collide and freeze in the upper reaches of thunderstorm clouds.

Dr Joshua Soderholm

“Safety is the number one priority so we need to stress that people must not walk outside in the middle of a dangerous hailstorm to take photos – they need to wait until the storm has well and truly passed.”

Dr Soderholm said hailstorms tended to affect areas to the west of Brisbane, with Greenbank and areas in the Scenic Rim often experiencing hail.

“The ranges are a trigger for storms in south-east Queensland.”

Dr Soderholm said the main hailstorm season started in October and peaked in late November.

The researchers would use mobile weather radar vehicles to collect pictures of the hailstorms and measure surface impact using hail and wind sensors.

Dr Soderholm said upgraded technology on the Bureau of Meteorology’s four capital city weather radars opened up potential for improving severe weather detection and warnings.

“Alongside the radar upgrades we are co-ordinating a science program to build better hail and wind algorithms for these radars and improve algorithms running across older radars in the network.”

“As we collect more and more data, we’ll be able to fine-tune and cross-check different algorithms to select those best performing in Australian conditions,” he said.

Brisbane’s worst hailstorm in 30 years occurred in 2014, leaving a damage bill of more than $1.3 billion.

Photographs of hail can be posted via the website uqhail.com or the Facebook page UQHail, or on Twitter using the hashtag #uqhail.