Vortex2: world's largest tornado research project ever, is underway

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:49 PM GMT on May 12, 2009

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Tornado season is in full swing, and researchers are now poised in America's Great Plains with the largest armada of storm chasing vehicles and equipment ever assembled, in order to learn more about these enigmatic and violent storms. The massive Vortex2 field study began Sunday, and for the next seven weeks over 100 scientists in up to 40 science and support vehicles will be roaming through Tornado Alley, seeking to catch tornadoes on the rampage. The three basic questions the $10 million study will attempt to answer are:

- How, when, and why do tornadoes form? Why some are violent and long lasting while others are weak and short lived?

- What is the structure of tornadoes? How strong are the winds near the ground? How exactly do they do damage?

- How can we learn to forecast tornadoes better? Current warnings have an only 13 minute average lead time and a 70% false alarm rate. Can we make warnings more accurate? Can we warn 30, 45, 60 minutes ahead?'


Figure 1. Tornado over Matador, Texas on April 29, 2009. Photo taken by Texas Tech meteorology graduate student Danielle Turner.

Major tornado outbreak possible Wednesday
The Vortex2 project will have its first good chance to help answer these questions on Wednesday, when a strong cold front is expected to pass through an unstable air mass over Missouri and Illinois, triggering severe thunderstorms with tornadoes. The Storm Prediction Center has given these states a "Moderate" chance of severe weather, the second highest alert level. Today, the Vortex2 armada is stationed in western Oklahoma. The cold front that is expected to trigger Wednesday's severe weather outbreak will be moving through Oklahoma today, bringing a slight chance of severe weather to that state. You can follow the progress of the Vortex2 field project this Spring through our new featured Vortex2 blog. This blog is being written by a team of six University of Michigan students that will help deploy the Texas Tech "Sticknet" sensors during a tornado.


Figure 2. Severe weather outlook from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center for Wednesday, May 13.

An average tornado season so far over the U.S.
Through April, U.S. tornado activity was very close to the mean observed during the past five years, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. However, there were just 15 tornado deaths through April, compared to 70 deaths through April of 2008, and the 3-year average of 60 deaths. According to the unofficial seasonal stats at Wikipedia, we've had 57 strong EF2 and EF3 tornadoes so far this year, and two violent EF4 tornadoes. These are fairly typical numbers of strong and violent tornadoes for this point in the season. The season's first EF4 hit Lone Grove, Oklahoma on February 10, killing eight, injuring 46, and destroying 114 homes, and was the strongest February tornado to hit Oklahoma since 1950. The season's second EF4 hit Murfreesboro, Tennessee on April 10, killing two.

Wunderground launches high-definition radar product
In case you missed my post on this in December, wunderground is now providing imagery from a network of 45 Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) units located at airports across the U.S. The radars were developed and deployed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) beginning in 1994, as a response to several disastrous jetliner crashes in the 1970s and 1980s caused by strong thunderstorm winds. The crashes occurred because of wind shear--a sudden change in wind speed and direction. Wind shear is common in thunderstorms, due to a downward rush of air called a microburst or downburst. The TDWRs can detect such dangerous wind shear conditions, and have been instrumental in enhancing aviation safety in the U.S. over the past 15 years. The TDWRs also measure the same quantities as our familiar network of 148 NEXRAD WSR-88D Doppler radars--precipitation intensity, winds, rainfall rate, echo tops, etc. However, the newer Terminal Doppler Weather Radars are higher resolution, and can "see" details in much finer detail close to the radar. This high-resolution data has generally not been available to the public until now. Thanks to a collaboration between the National Weather Service (NWS) and the FAA, the data for all 44 of 45 TDWRs is now available in real time. We're calling them "High-Def" stations on our NEXRAD radar page, and they are denoted by a yellow "+" symbol. Only one TDWR radar (Las Vegas) remains to be added; this will happen in June. For more info on how to interpret the new TDWR images, see our radar FAQ page.

Jeff Masters

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1248. stillwaiting
3:44 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
afternoon kids!!!!,doing a little analysis on our local weather here along FL west coast,It looks like a more active day than yesterday for our region as cape values are higher,as well as precpitable water values,look for some severe wx in our area and more widespread coverage along our coastal areas,IMO....
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 20 Comments: 4970
1246. Seastep
2:42 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
new blog
Member Since: September 9, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 3414
1245. nrtiwlnvragn
2:42 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
PRELIMINARY EXTENDED FORECAST DISCUSSION


ANY WEAKNESS/CUT-OFF LOW DEVELOPING OVER FL/ERN GULF WILL BE MONITORED FOR POSSIBLE TRANSITION INTO A SUBTROPICAL SYS. HOWEVER...WE REJECT THE CANADIAN SCENARIO OF A FULL BLOWN TROPICAL SYS MOVING INTO S ATLANTIC STATES THE LATTER PORTION OF NEXT WEEK.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 11500
1244. hondaguy
2:40 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting Patrap:
SH/TS ,"showers and Thunderstorms" would be nice for the Farmers and to keep the Temps down. Was torrid here yesterday,hit 93F


It hit 93°F in New Orleans? Gees I didnt realize that we were already creeping that high!
1243. hahaguy
2:39 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
New Blog
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
1241. Tazmanian
2:37 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
so are there any modes forcasting any thing for the E Pac??
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5092 Comments: 115712
1240. Tazmanian
2:37 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
by the way the E Pac will be starting there hurricane season on friday
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5092 Comments: 115712
1238. hondaguy
2:35 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting WeatherStudent:
still no blog updates from dr masters blog bloggers?


Not yet!
1237. hondaguy
2:34 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Love the Jim Carrey reference there Patrap.

You always seem to livin up the blog, whether it be intentional, or un-intentional (SH/TS) LOL
1235. Tazmanian
2:33 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
hi all


i see they added some in new called Polar Imagery


Link
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5092 Comments: 115712
1232. CaneWarning
2:30 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting IKE:
Patrap...when I first read this portion...

"THE FRONT SHOULD STALL OFFSHORE WHILE THIS OCCURS PROVIDING
SEVERAL DAYS OF SH/TS FOR AT LEAST THE COASTAL WATERS AND MAYBE
EVEN SOME ONSHORE LOCATIONS THROUGH MUCH OF NEXT WEEK.".....

I thought the italics part said sh*t. LOL.


I bet they just did that to be funny.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
1231. melwerle
2:29 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
1230. I THOUGHT IT SAID THAT TOO!!! totally did a double-take.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
1230. IKE
2:27 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Patrap...when I first read this portion...

"THE FRONT SHOULD STALL OFFSHORE WHILE THIS OCCURS PROVIDING
SEVERAL DAYS OF SH/TS FOR AT LEAST THE COASTAL WATERS AND MAYBE
EVEN SOME ONSHORE LOCATIONS THROUGH MUCH OF NEXT WEEK.".....

I thought the italics part said sh*t. LOL.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1227. RitaEvac
2:14 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
The winds of change...... are blowing a hurricane!
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9689
1226. SomeRandomTexan
2:14 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
The Gulf, The Gulf, The Gulf is on Fire....haha!

Good morning everyone!!!!
Member Since: August 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1859
1225. IKE
2:14 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Definitely see a spin with the blob.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1224. RitaEvac
2:12 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
local station here in Houston showing 86 degree water in Galveston. Galveston paper showing 84. Waters are on fire early folks, buckle up it's gonna be a rough ride.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9689
1223. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
2:00 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
oh?? you sould have said that then
next time taz
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 187 Comments: 57781
1222. eye2theskies
1:59 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting StormW:


Things are pretty good. You?

Yeah, I was looking at the GOMEX SST map...really though, only the southern portion would support full tropical development...what I don't like is that damned warm eddy off the west coast of FL.


I'm great; thanks for asking! I agree about the warmth of the Gulf basically being in the south, but it looks like it is rapidly moving north and filling in. Also, what's your take on rainy season here in Florida? Is this rain that we're getting from Tampa south only short-lived, or are we beginning our transition from Fire Season?
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 47
1221. DaytonaBeachWatcher
1:56 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Actually i think he did.
Member Since: June 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1136
1220. CaneAddict
1:55 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting WeatherStudent:
are you onboard with our ghost storm?


Sounds like something exactly like what JFV/Presidentialelection would say. You really can't deny it bud...I dont have a problem with you and if you would just admit it..everyone would be good with you and you'd be back to normal on the blog...Just fess up to it, your a grown man now.
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2151
1219. IKE
1:53 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting sporteguy03:
Ike you left Melbourne out ;):

Mon-Thu...the GFS and European model (ecmwf) indicate that southern portion of trough
moving across the southeast states will cut off over the central
to southeast Gulf of Mexico. I am not so sure that the initial
low the GFS shows moving north Monday-Tuesday from the Florida Straits to
northeast Florida will be as organized initially as the model
forecasts it to be. Whatever happens at the surface will take some
more time to pinpoint. The main thing is that it looks like we
will remain on the moist side of the developing cut off low. If
things work out as prognosticated...some much needed widespread rainfall
is possible.



Oops...hey, I haven't seen you on here in awhile.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1218. hondaguy
1:50 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
If you want to pull a positive from the GOM temps...at least they are good for swimming. lol

I say this cause I'll be in Pensacola a week from today.

Only concern is this low that I keep seeing on the models...even if it does head over to New Orleans it will probably up the chances of rain in the Pensacola area. :-/
1217. CaneWarning
1:49 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting naplesdreamer28:
Hmmm...here we go again with the JFV bickering!


I don't see any bickering.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
1216. Tazmanian
1:49 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
oh?? you sould have said that then
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5092 Comments: 115712
1215. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:43 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:




thats old the date says may 3dr
its an animation taz it runs from may 3 to may 13
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 187 Comments: 57781
1214. Tazmanian
1:41 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
heres what iam looking at for sst's





thats old the date says may 3dr
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5092 Comments: 115712
1213. Ossqss
1:36 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Some interesting blobules way out on this item.

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8192
1212. Cavin Rawlins
1:35 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Tropical Update
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1211. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:32 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting naplesdreamer28:
Hmmm...here we go again with the JFV bickering!
no not this time more important matters now its almost trackin time
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 187 Comments: 57781
1210. naplesdreamer28
1:31 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
JFV = Presidential Election = Weather Student = WHO CARES.
Member Since: July 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 242
1209. naplesdreamer28
1:30 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Hmmm...here we go again with the JFV bickering!
Member Since: July 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 242
1208. hondaguy
1:29 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting WeatherStudent:


hey man i took your advice into consideration therefroe im back, i dont ahve to prove myself to no one on here, once again thanks 456.


Good decision man. Welcome back.
1207. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:27 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
sporteguy03 dam good to see ya
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 187 Comments: 57781
1206. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:26 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting WeatherStudent:
are you onboard with our ghost storm?
from ghost to haunting it will become for 4 days
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 187 Comments: 57781
1205. weathermanwannabe
1:26 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Good Morning......Very nasty for the US with the line of severe weather, but, not sure, based on visual, whether that "blob" off the US is going to amount to anything significant...Looking forward to Dr. M's Blog later (he gave it a 10% chance yesterday) but it looks much less promising today than it did yesterday....It is caught in the middle of too many competing forces so it may miss Florida, get squashed up, or just end up being a rainmaker for someone further up the Seabord me thinks........
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9981
1204. CaneWarning
1:25 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting WeatherStudent:


hey man i took your advice into consideration therefroe im back, i dont ahve to prove myself to no one on here, once again thanks 456.


Welcome back.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
1203. sporteguy03
1:24 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Ike you left Melbourne out ;):

Mon-Thu...the GFS and European model (ecmwf) indicate that southern portion of trough
moving across the southeast states will cut off over the central
to southeast Gulf of Mexico. I am not so sure that the initial
low the GFS shows moving north Monday-Tuesday from the Florida Straits to
northeast Florida will be as organized initially as the model
forecasts it to be. Whatever happens at the surface will take some
more time to pinpoint. The main thing is that it looks like we
will remain on the moist side of the developing cut off low. If
things work out as prognosticated...some much needed widespread rainfall
is possible.

Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5417
1201. CaneWarning
1:24 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting StormW:


Things are pretty good. You?

Yeah, I was looking at the GOMEX SST map...really though, only the southern portion would support full tropical development...what I don't like is that damned warm eddy off the west coast of FL.


The water off the west coast of Florida is very warm and could cause trouble now, or later in the year.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
1200. hondaguy
1:23 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Good morning all!
1199. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:21 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
heres what iam looking at for sst's

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 187 Comments: 57781
1198. Cavin Rawlins
1:21 PM GMT on May 14, 2009
Quoting WeatherStudent:
good morning


hey bro...glad your back.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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