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Largest in-field tornado study ever set to launch in May

Sunday, April 19th, 2009 3:51am MDT
The VORTEX2 tornado research project will be the largest in-field study of tornadoes ever.

The VORTEX2 tornado research project will be the largest in-field study of tornadoes ever.

The single largest and most ambitious field study to increase our understanding of tornadoes is set to kick off next month.  The Verification of Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment2 (VORTEX2 or V2) will feature more than 50 scientists utilizing 40 vehicles, 10 mobile radar units and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

The study which will run from May 10 to June 13 will become the largest mobile in-field laboratory ever assembled to study tornadoes.  In a statement Louis Wicker, research meteorologist with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory and V2 co-principal investigator said, “Data collected from V2 will help researchers understand how tornadoes form and how the large-scale environment of thunderstorms is related to tornado formation.”

The VORTEX2 tornado research project will be the largest in-field study of tornadoes ever.

The VORTEX2 tornado research project will be the largest in-field study of tornadoes ever.

Operations will be controlled at the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma while the mobile units chase tornadoes across Tornado Alley and the central Great Plains.  The target area for the study ranges from southern South Dakota through Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.  Eastern Colorado, home of many tornadoes, is included in the study.

This unprecedented gathering of scientists and technology hold incredible promise for the research that will be gathered.  The original VORTEX program which happened from 1994 to 1995 documented the entire life cycle of a tornado from start to finish, the first time that had ever been done.   That research greatly enhanced our understanding of twisters and led to much improved tornado warnings that help to save lives today.

VORTEX2 seeks to build on that research and the research that has taken place since.  According to the project website it will seek to answer such important questions as:  How do tornadoes form? What exactly causes the wind to spin into a concentrated funnel? How can we tell exactly when a tornado will form and when it will die, or how long it will last? Why do some thunderstorms produce tornadoes and others do not? What is the structure of tornadoes? What is the relationship of tornadic winds to damage?

An important finding from the original VORTEX experiment was that the factors responsible for causing tornadoes happen on smaller time and space scales than scientists had thought.  New advances will allow for a more detailed sampling of a storm’s wind, temperature and moisture environment and lead to a better understanding of why tornadoes form – and how they can be more accurately predicted.
– Stephan Nelson, NSF program director for physical and dynamic meteorology.

VORTEX2 features scientists and students from the United States, Canada and Australia in collaboration with government agencies, private industry and educational institutions.  Many luminaries within the storm chasing and severe weather research community will participate including Dr. Josh Wurman of the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers TV show.  Some of the notable participating organizations include Center for Severe Weather Research, Rasmussen Systems, NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, OU/NOAA Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, NSF-sponsored National Centers for Atmospheric Research, Penn State University, University of Oklahoma, Texas Tech University, Lyndon State College, University of Colorado, Purdue University, North Carolina State University, University of Illinois, University of Massachusetts, University of Nebraska, Environment Canada, and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

For more information:

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2 Responses to “Largest in-field tornado study ever set to launch in May”

  1. Bob Schildgen Says:

    I know how & why tornado’s form, why there is a tornado alley, and why they are so destructive at ground level. If you are interested, someone will at least have to listen. If you think you know it all, then good luck. I do not seek any monetary or other compensation, other than having someone listen.
    Current theories are physically impossible and do not follow engineering principles.
    Feel free to contact me by email first and then possibly a meeting. I have an Electronics BSEE and an MBA and I am a registered professional engineer in Illinois.
    Good Luck, Bob

  2. sami osler Says:

    good luck guys im glad someone is out there trying to figure this stuff out. i live in PA. far away from tornado alley. i can only remember 2 tornadoes hitting my town in all my 18 years which one of them i was in. my town doesnt have tornado sirens. because of the myth that the mountains will protect us but i know that it is entirely possible for a twister to travel right along our valley. please find an answer to this puzzle.

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