National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launches VORTEX2 to study tornadoes

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Approximately 100 scientists and students will take part in the Verification of Rotation in Tornadoes Expermiment VORTEX2 project in May to study tornadoes in the central United States along Tornado Alley.

Project Vortex. The Dimmitt Tornado.

One of the unique features of VORTEX2 is that it is mobile, with no fixed base. The large armada will operate from the Dakotas down to Texas, operating in a different area every day as the weather dictates. The project will run between May 10 to June 13, repeating again in 2010 from 1 May until 15 June. 40 research vehicles will use mobile radar, deployable arrays of instruments called Sticknets and Podnets to measure around and inside tornadoes, ten instrumented vehicles, 4 balloon launching vehicles, unmanned aircraft, and other instruments to surround tornadoes and the supercell thunderstorms that form them.

"We have a strong focus on trying to figure out why storms tornado when they do. VORTEX1 made a significant difference. But now we have a lot more technology to make real-time predictions, which can increase warning times.” Louis Wicker, National Severe Storms Laboratory research meteorologist 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 US$11.9 million project, will help to determine why and how tornadoes initially form and how tornadoes are related to supercell thunderstorms.

Stephan Nelson, National Science Foundation (NSF) program director for physical and dynamic meteorology, whose program is providing the bulk of funding for VORTEX2, said “An important finding from the original VORTEX experiment was that tornadoes happen on smaller time and space scales than scientists had thought. 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,"

Storm chasing NSSL vehicles on Project VORTEX1 equipped with surface measurement equipment.

Researchers from Finland, Bureau of Meteorology in Australia, Environment Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS), ten universities across the US, and the NOAA Storm Prediction Center will take part in the project.

Already in 2009, there have been nine fatalities caused from tornadoes in the US alone.

The VORTEX1 project took place between 1994 and 1995, and was the largest tornado study to date, collecting valuable data that enhanced scientific understanding of tornadoes and tornadogenesis.


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