Biggest Tornado Ever Research Project Set For This Year

How do tornadoes work? That has been a question for decades for the storm chasers and researchers that probe the funnel beasts. From May 10 until June 13 a massive research project will take place in the US tornado belt.
The project named Verification Of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment 2 (VORTEX2) is being funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Ten universities are on board as well as scientists from NOAA and three non-profit groups.

Scientists do understand the basics of tornado formation. Basically when warm and cold air masses clash the funnel clouds can form. But what goes on inside those funnels remains a huge mystery.

The researchers are planning on sampling the super-cell thunderstorms that form over the Great Plains in the United States.

In Science

“An important finding from the original VORTEX experiment was that tornadoes happen on smaller time and space scales than scientists had thought,” said Stephan Nelson, NSF program director for physical and dynamic meteorology.

“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.”

The goal of Vortex2 is to understand the whys and hows of how tornadoes form. This information would save lives as predicting them would improve.

“Data collected from V2 will help researchers understand how tornadoes form and how the large-scale environment of thunderstorms is related to tornado formation,” said National Severe Storms Laboratory research meteorologist Louis Wicker.

The fifty researchers will be in research vehicles in order to get as close as possible to the twisters. The researchers will be using radars, mobile vehicles equipped with instruments, instrumented weather balloons, and research aircraft to get the most accurate measurements possible.

The first Vortex program took place during 1994 and 1995 in the central Great Plains. The research was the first time that the entire life cycle of a tornado was documented.

NOAA reports:

“VORTEX1 made a significant difference,” says NSSL researcher Lou Wicker, “But now we have a lot more technology to make real-time predictions, which can increase warning times.”

For more than 30 years researchers at NSSL have been working on understanding the complexities of tornadoes.


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