NSSL research project gathered information about tornadoes in new way

Researchers in front of a OU CIMMS mobile radar unit and the NOAAP-3 airplane used in VORTEX-Southeast.
Researchers in front of a mobile radar unit and the NOAAP-3 airplane used in VORTEX-Southeast.

NOAA researchers from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory had a different view of tornadoes this spring — flying high above them in a NOAA P-3 “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft.

During the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast project, or VORTEX-SE, scientists collected data on several isolated supercells and large convective systems during a short time span with airborne Doppler radars mounted on the P-3, a lidar operated by the University of Wyoming, and ground based mobile and fixed radars.

NSSL scientist Conrad Ziegler recently presented preliminary findings from the project.

From early March to mid April, the researchers concentrated observations on severe weather processes in supercells. They conducted missions with the NOAA P-3 on eight days and gathered data on a total of 10 tornadoes from four supercell thunderstorms. This spring also provided the first opportunity to combine observations from the P-3’s airborne radars with other ground-based radar measurements of the same storms. The result and goal was to derive a more accurate and detailed storm airflow analyses.

On April 13, 2018 — the last P-3 mission day before the end of the project — Ziegler, along with colleague Kim Elmore and a team of researchers, followed a single cycling supercell storm for over two hours observing the growth, maturity, and decay of three different tornadoes.

Use of the P-3 allowed researchers to position themselves closer to storms in a safe way while retrieving higher resolution radar scans and images of a tornado’s life cycle. They were able to fully analyse the atmosphere’s features without impeding terrain to achieve the ultimate goal of better understanding the growth of intense low-level storm rotations that typically accompany severe weather.

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April 27 Reddit AMA: Tornado! Severe Weather Research & Prediction with NOAA

Spring has arrived and with it come efforts to study and learn to better predict severe weather like tornadoes. Join NOAA for a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on severe weather research and prediction on April 27, 2017.

Patrick Marsh, Adam Clark, Kim Klockow and Harold Brooks will take your questions during Thursday’s #Reddit AMA.

Severe weather touches every state in the U.S. Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, hail, strong winds, and floods are real threats to our property and our lives. The NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed and VORTEX-SE (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast) are designed to learn more about storms, helping to improve our prediction abilities and bring you better forecasts.

At the National Weather Center, which houses NOAA’s National Severe Storm Laboratory (NSSL) and Storm Prediction Center, as well as the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS), our scientists work to better understand and predict severe weather to help everyone be prepared.

Reddit AMA Details


     Harold Brooks, NOAA NSSL research meteorologist

     Kim Klockow, UCAR scientist at CIMMS

     Adam Clark, NOAA NSSL research meteorologist

     Patrick Marsh, NOAA SPC warning coordination meteorologist

When: Thursday, April 27, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CT

Where: Reddit Science AMA series

About the Scientists

Harold Brooks, a senior scientist in the Forecast Research and Development Division of NOAA NSSL, is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. He received a Ph.D. in atmospheric science in 1990 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined NSSL in 1991 as a research meteorologist specializing in tornado climatology.

Adam Clark is a meteorologist with NOAA NSSL and a 2014 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) winner. Originally from Des Moine, Iowa, Clark received his Ph.D. in meteorology and started working at NSSL in 2009. Clark is active in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed, which conducts experiments mainly late March and April.

Kim Klockow is a University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) project scientist at NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at The University of Oklahoma who earned her Ph.D. in Human Geography. Working with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, her research involves behavioral science focused on weather and climate risk, and explores the effects of risk visualization on judgment and perceptions of severe weather risk from a combination of place-based and cognitive perspectives.

Patrick Marsh is a warning coordination meteorologist at the NOAA National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, which provides forecasts and watches for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over the contiguous United States. He was born in Georgia but grew up in Arkansas and received his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma.


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