The Morning Conference Call

The Morning Conference Call
VORTEX II hold's their first official conference call of the 2010 season

Have you ever wondered what it takes to coordinate such a massive field campaign like VORTEX II?  It certainly isn’t an easy task.  With over 100 people and oftentimes over 50 separate vehicles, each with a different mission, it is imperative that everyone starts off each day on the same page.  This is where the morning conference call comes in.

Every morning the principal investigators and the VORTEX II Operations Center at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, OK, hold a teleconference to discuss the state of VORTEX II.  The conference call time is flexible depending on what that day’s mission is anticipated to be.  If a long travel is required to get into position for potential storms, the conference call is held very early.  If it appears that operations will not take place on a given day, the conference call will take place a little later in the morning to allow principal investigators an opportunity to rest.  (This project is grueling for everyone and everything involved!).

Each conference call begins with a review of the previous day’s operations and a status report on all equipment.  This is a chance for everyone to learn what pieces of equipment will be available for that day’s mission.  Because VORTEX II is such a grueling project, things break.  Additionally, some of the missions put vehicles in the way of very large hail that could result in destroyed windshields that need repairing.  If a piece of equipment is inoperable on a given day, the principal investigators must adjust the standard operations plans to ensure that the project’s science objectives are still met.  This is also the chance to discuss how things went the day before.  If things went well, principal investigators will discuss what they must do to keep things working smoothly.  If something went afoul the day before,  ideas and suggestions to improve operations are discussed.

Next comes the forecast discussions.  We begin with a look at the current day’s forecast and also carefully examine the forecast for tomorrow and beyond.  Because this project is highly dependent on being in the right place and the right moment, we have to keep a “big picture” view on things.  An example of this is when a given day has two areas of potential severe thunderstorms and tornadoes and the following day also holds potential for severe weather.  In this example, the VORTEX II crew must contemplate picking the location today that will allow them to operate the next day as well.  This means that the forecasters responsible for aiding VORTEX II achieve their research objectives must be prepared to answer detailed weather questions about not only today, but tomorrow and the next day to help the crew maximize their opportunities to collect observations on thunderstorms and tornadoes.

After the morning teleconference, which only the principal investigators attend, a briefing is given to the entire VORTEX II armada to let them know about that day’s mission.  After this briefing, the mission of the day is put into action – and the real fun begins…

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll continue to give a glimpse into what a typical day is like for the VORTEX II crew…