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VORTEX2 - Super Storm Chaser Data Project

By Joe D'Aleo
Monday, April 20, 2009


An unprecedented $10.5 million dollar effort to understand tornadoes will send dozens of scientists into the field May 10 to June 13.

 

Verification Of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment 2 (VORTEX2) is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

 

Researchers from four countries and 19 universities and institutions will fan out and chase tornadoes across South Dakota, western Iowa, eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, the Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma.

 

VORTEX2 will be the largest and most ambitious attempt to explore tornadoes, their origins, their structure and evolution, and how to increase the accuracy and timeliness of tornado forecasts and warnings.


The infamous Elkhart Indiana double funnel tornado during the Palm Sunday Outbreak in 1965. It was the only F5 tornado that day and it killed 36 people.

The project, VORTEX2 (V2), will be the largest attempt in history to study tornadoes, and will involve more than 50 scientists and 40 research vehicles, including 10 mobile radars. Key players are NOAA’s NSSL, the University of Oklahoma (OU), OU’s Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, the Center for Severe Weather Research, Penn State, and Texas Tech University. The VORTEX2 project is described in detail in various documents linked to the VORTEX2 site.

The legacy VORTEX 1 program collected unprecedented datasets on tornadoes in the central Great Plains during 1994 and 1995.  Scientists hope to build on the success of VORTEX1 through V2, ultimately leading to even further improvements in tornado warning skill, and short-term forecasts of severe weather. 

VORTEX-2 is a carefully planned field experiment that will target a potentially tornadic storm and canvass the area with an armada of instruments including radars, mobile vehicles equipped with instruments, instrumented weather balloons, and research aircraft.

The project will focus on answering new questions about how, when, and why tornadoes form, why some thunderstorms produce tornadoes and others do not, the structure of tornadoes, and the relationship of tornadic winds to damage. Answers to these questions will help improve forecasts and warnings of tornadoes.

NSSL is providing leadership and equipment for VORTEX-2. During Spring 2008, organizers will be outfitting vehicles, testing equipment and upgrading communications. A test run on V2 technologies is planned from 15 May-15 June to identify and solve any problems.

For over 30 years, researchers at NSSL and their colleagues have been working to unravel the mysteries of tornado formation. VORTEX-2 will provide valuable data to help complete the picture begun with the original VORTEX project in 1994 and 1995.

“VORTEX1 made a significant difference,” says NSSL researcher Lou Wicker, “But now we have a lot more technology to make real-time predictions, which can increase warning times.”

“An important finding from the original VORTEX experiment was that tornadoes happen on smaller time and space scales than scientists had thought," said Stephan Nelson, NSF program director for physical and dynamic meteorology. "New advances from VORTEX2 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."

Mobile and deployable instrumentation that is likely to be employed include:

 

* Mobile radars: DOW6, DOW7, Rapid-Scan DOW, SMART-Radar-1, SMART-RADAR-2, NOXP, UMASS-X, UMASS-W, CIRPAS [9 mobile radars total]


DOW (Doppler on Wheels)


SMART Radar

* Deployable instrumentation: Tornado-PODs (12) Sticknets (24) [36 platforms total]

 

* Unmanned instrumented aerial system

 

* MGAUS mobile ballooning facilities: NSSL MGAUS (2), NCAR MGAUS (2) [4 total]

 

* Mobile mesonets: 6 dedicated, 3 deploying PODS [9 vehicles total]

 

In addition an extensive array of fixed instrumentation based in Oklahoma will be integrated when severe weather systems cross that region. These include:

 

* Norman Phased Array Radar

 

* CASA radar array

 

* Oklahoma mesonet


* KOUN dual-polarized WSR-88D

 

The season is off to a slower start than last year, which was very active, especially during May. It is not unusual for years set to study a particular phenomenon to see less than normal activity during the study period. For example, decades ago, a year chosen to study the east cost winter storms was one of the only years not to have one during the study period. They ended up with having to study data associated with a strong cold front. However, the current pattern is active and La Nina springs are usually characterized by bouts of severe weather. Time will tell. We will have more on the project and any unusual outbreaks or results as the season progresses.

 

Monthly and Annual U.S. Tornado Summaries

2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

Latest U.S. Tornado Statistics (AWIPS ID:STAMTS*)

ZCZC STAMTS ALL
NWUS21 KWNS 102047
TORNADO TOTALS AND RELATED DEATHS...THROUGH AFTERNOON 04/10/2008
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0347 PM CDT FRI APR 10 2009
      ...NUMBER OF TORNADOES...    NUMBER OF       KILLER
                                   TORNADO DEATHS  TORNADOES
     ..2009.. 2008 2007 2006  3YR             3YR             3YR
    PREL  ACT  ACT  ACT  ACT   AV  09 08 07 06 AV  09 08 07 06 AV
JAN   10   6    84   21   47   51   0  7  2  1  3   0  4  1  1  2
FEB   44   -   147   52   12   70   9 59 22  0 27   2 12  3  0  5
MAR  123   -   129  170  147  149   0  4 27 11 14   0  3 10  7  7
APR   72   -   189  167  244  200   3  0  9 38 16   1  0  3  9  4
MAY    -   -   461  252  139  284   - 44 14  3 20   - 10  4  1  5
JUN    -   -   294  128  120  181   -  7  0  0  2   -  4  0  0  1
JUL    -   -    93   69   70   77   -  1  0  0  0   -  1  0  0  0
AUG    -   -   101   75   80   85   -  0  1  1  1   -  0  1  1  1
SEP    -   -   111   52   84   82   -  2  0  1  1   -  1  0  1  1
OCT    -   -    21   86   76   61   -  0  5  0  2   -  0  3  0  1
NOV    -   -    15    7   42   21   -  2  0 10  4   -  2  0  3  2
DEC    -   -    46   19   42   36   -  0  1  2  1   -  0  1  2  1
    ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----  --  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
SUM  249   6  1691 1098 1103 1297  12 126 81 67 91  3 37 26 25 29
PREL = 2009 PRELIMINARY COUNT FROM NWS LOCAL STORM REPORTS.
ACT = ACTUAL TORNADO COUNT BASED ON NWS STORM DATA SUBMISSIONS.
TORNADO-RELATED FATALITY NUMBERS ARE ENTERED WHEN CONFIRMED BY NWS
FORECAST OFFICES.
..CARBIN..04/10/2009

 

 

For more see these videos:

 

http://www.ultimatechase.com/Tornado_Video.htm

 

http://www.tornadovideos.net/video-gallery

 

http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/hazard/tanim/torw9599.html (annual cycle of tornado day frequency)

 

http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/hazard/tanim8094/viotanim2195.html (annual cycle of violent tornadoes 1921 to 1995)

 

OTHER LINKS:

WSI severe weather Intellicast page

WSI Intellicast NOWrad radar

 

WSI Intellicast Lightning Strikes

WSI NWS Severe Alerts page

 

WSI Infrared Satellite Imagery

 

NOAA Storm Prediction Center


NOAA SPC Severe Storm Summaries

NOAA SPC Watch, Warning, Advisories

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