STATUS UPDATE: 4:05 PM Tue 3 April

The NOAA P-3 is working a tornado-warned storm to the northwest of Batesville, and south of Melbourne, AR. Storms to the southwest of there continue to get more interesting as well, but are currently too difficult to operate on… the aircraft needs some space on the inflow side of a storm to gather research-worthy dual-Doppler data.

The storms are barreling east toward an evening encounter with our mobile radar network in NW AL.

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STATUS: 3 April 2018

STATUS: Operating

Mobile assets from the University of Alabama-Huntsville and the University of Oklahoma are moving toward the western part of northern AL. This is the western end of the relatively open Tennessee Valley area where we can operate mobile Doppler radars effectively. The NOAA P-3 aircraft with Doppler radars and a Compact Raman Lidar for boundary layer profiling will be taking off at 2 PM, with an initial target area in eastern AR.

We expect potentially tornadic supercells to form in the NE part of AR up toward southeast Missouri in the mid-afternoon. Activity will organize into a QLCS squall line during the late afternoon, and race eastward across northern MS and northern AL, with the possibility of a tornado or two, before weakening as it approaches northeast AL.

This will be a one-day operation, with the next possible active weather toward the end of the week.

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STATUS: 2 April 2018

STATUS: IOP tomorrow

The NOAA P-3 scientists from NSSL, and the University of Oklahoma SMART-Radar crews, are on their way to the Huntsville AL area for operations tomorrow.  This will likely be a one-shot event.  As of midday today, we are anticipating a QLCS (squall line) system to pass through the northern AL area during the evening on Tuesday.

There are a couple of factors that reduce our confidence in tornadoes:  the low-level wind profile has a weakness at about 2-3 km above the ground that we typically do not see in tornado situations.  And the moisture may not be especially rich and deep near the ground.  If the near-ground relative humidity is low, there will be more evaporation of rain and colder outflow, diminishing the likelihood of the near-ground updrafts thought to be important in tornado production.  But it’s always good to be proven wrong… if our knowledge were perfect, there would be no need for VORTEX-SE.

Right now it looks like a another chance of operations toward Friday, and then perhaps a better chance around Monday of next week.

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STATUS: 29 March 2018

STATUS: Operations in progress

VORTEX-SE had a very successful mission yesterday, capturing a QLCS tornado (likely EF1 or stronger) within our ground-based triple-Doppler network near Monroe LA. The NOAA P-3 had a difficult time getting close to this tornado because of storms that kept firing ahead of the main QLCS, but it is quite possible that they got close enough to collect Doppler data. And it’s possible that our overall data sets contain more than one tornado. We won’t know for sure until damage assessments are complete, and the data have been examined.

The P-3 is once again airborne, headed toward southern AL. This aircraft can obtain Doppler radar data sets that are worthy of research even if no ground-based systems are available. Today, the activity will be southeast of either of our subdomains… these are areas where the terrain and land use allow us to collect data with mobile Doppler radars and other instruments.

We expect a lull in the data collection for the next few days, with perhaps an uptick toward the middle of next week.

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STATUS: 28 March 2018

STATUS: Operations in progress

As of 2 PM, VORTEX-SE operations are in progress. The NOAA P-3 aircraft is over Mississippi, heading west to begin studying the storms that are moving into western Louisiana.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is preparing to launch a sounding from campus. Current analyses suggest that the air north of Monroe is perhaps too stable near the ground for much tornado potential, whereas south of Monroe it appears to be more unstable. This sounding will help us assess this issue.

The research radar at the University of Louisiana at Monroe is operating.

The University of Oklahoma SMART-Radars are enroute to their locations in the Monroe subdomain, where they will gather data that will be combined with the ULM research radar and the NOAA P-3 data. The SMART-Radars should be operating around 3 PM.

We expect a QLCS to move through the Monroe subdomain later this afternoon, with decent potential for updraft rotation, and a slight chance of a tornado. Our primary goal is to collect radar data that can help us design better ways to observe Southeast US storms as VORTEX-SE continues.

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STATUS UPDATE: 19 March 2018


The IOP is completed. Several tornadic supercells were observed, with a number of tornadoes occurring. The level of damage is not clear yet.

We succeeded in collecting many volumes of multiple-Doppler data involving ground-based and airborne radars.

Many soundings were obtained, at an hourly interval, to document the evolution of the environment.

The next potential for operations appears to be toward next weekend.

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STATUS Update: 19 March 2018

STATUS: Operating.

One supercell with a low-level meso is moving through our multi-Doppler coverage northeast of Huntsville; the P-3 has been scanning this storm for most of its life. No tornadoes from this so far… lots of hail. This is the kind of data set we were seeking this year to test approaches to measuring 3D winds using multiple simultaneous Doppler radars.

Another supercell is forming south of Huntsville and moving toward Sand Mountain, also in good multi-Doppler coverage. This provides an alternative target for the P-3 aircraft if they have trouble scanning the northern storm.

New storms are forming in MS and will move into AL in a couple of hours. Low-level hodographs are starting to lengthen. A PDS tornado watch has been issued for all of our study area.

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STATUS: 19 March 2018

We are operating. All five ground-based radars are scanning, and the P-3 aircraft is attempting to find a way to scan the storm in NW AL. This storm has a tornado warning, and we suspect it will stay connected to the surface warm front as it continues east toward the Huntsville area in about an hour. Thereafter, it will enter our Doppler radar domain.

We still anticipate another round late this afternoon/evening.

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STATUS update: 18 March 2018

We have just finished our planning meeting. A number of sounding and profiling systems will be deployed across northern AL in the morning on Monday. We still expect a line of supercells to initiate around 2 PM in far eastern MS, and move east across northern AL at about 50 mph. The NOAA P-3 aircraft will take off from Huntsville at 2 PM. We expect the supercells to pass Huntsville around sunset, and then move on into Georgia. We will have five radars on the ground… ARMOR, two SMART-radars, MAX, and the Hytop WSR-88D, and these will be covering all of NE AL and far southern TN, generally east of I-65.

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