Severe Thunderstorm Detection by Visual Learning Using Satellite Images

Yu Zhang, Stephen Wistar, Jia Li, Michael A. Steinberg, James Z. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Computers are widely utilized in today's weather forecasting as a powerful tool to leverage an enormous amount of data. Yet, despite the availability of such data, current techniques often fall short of producing reliable detailed storm forecasts. Each year severe thunderstorms cause significant damage and loss of life, some of which could be avoided if better forecasts were available. We propose a computer algorithm that analyzes satellite images from historical archives to locate visual signatures of severe thunderstorms for short-term predictions. While computers are involved in weather forecasts to solve numerical models based on sensory data, they are less competent in forecasting based on visual patterns from both current and past satellite images. In our system, we extract and summarize important visual storm evidence from satellite image sequences in the way that meteorologists interpret the images. In particular, the algorithm extracts and fits local cloud motion from image sequences to model the storm-related cloud patches. Image data from the year 2008 have been adopted to train the model, and historical severe thunderstorm reports in continental U.S. from 2000 to 2013 have been used as the ground truth and priors in the modeling process. Experiments demonstrate the usefulness and potential of the algorithm for producing more accurate severe thunderstorm forecasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7733124
Pages (from-to)1039-1052
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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