Spring 2009 brought scientists at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory back to the field for the largest tornado research project in history. With support from NOAA and the National Science Foundation, more than 100 scientists, students, and staff sought to collect data that would provide better understanding of tornado intensity, longevity, and behavior. The team deployed 10 mobile radars and 40 additional vehicles with custom instrumentation for data acquisition.
NSSL’s Lou Wicker was one of six principal investigators on the project, which included Chris Weiss from Texas Tech, Joshua Wurman from the Center for Severe Weather Research, Yvette Richardson from Penn State, David Dowell from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Howard Bluestein from the University of Oklahoma.
Between May 10 and June 13, 2009, researchers traveled more than 10,000 miles across the central and southern plains. A number of storms were analyzed, including one supercell that spawned a tornado. On June 5, researchers were able to deploy all of their mobile research equipment in a tornadic supercell in LaGrange, Wyoming. They collected data on the tornado from 20 minutes before formation until dissipation. This remains the best-sampled storm on record.
During the second year of VORTEX2, vehicles logged more than 25,000 miles each. Scientists sampled 36 supercells and 11 tornadoes. The field project resulted in numerous studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
To read some of the publications resulting from VORTEX2 research: http://journals.ametsoc.org/action/doSearch?AllField=vortex2&filter=AllField
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