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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198. IKE
Quoting presslord:
...the most disturbing thing about JFV is, if I remember correctly, he reproduced at some point last year....


Be careful...he reproduces screen names...
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Storms just off west of me near Palm Beach Gardens.

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Quoting presslord:
...the most disturbing thing about JFV is, if I remember correctly, he reproduced at some point last year....


Yes, JFV Jr. will one day be on the blog.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting futuremet:


According to the 12z GFS, shear values will be adequately for some sort of tropical cyclogenesis within the region. The baroclinic zone that will catalyze cyclogenesis, does not have enough upper level energy to cause any significant shear. I still do not expect anything special to occur since shear will only be marginally favorable.

This is unfavorable.
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...the most disturbing thing about JFV is, if I remember correctly, he reproduced at some point last year....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
I dunno futuremet....I'm pretty scared....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting presslord:
...so....Drak....Where's it gonna hit?!?!?!?!?!?!?


It will hit JFV's house only with Cat 5 winds.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting presslord:
...so....Drak....Where's it gonna hit?!?!?!?!?!?!?


In my backyard, not yours lol
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
Seeing vigorous cumulonimbus clouds soar through the atmosphere today awesome. First time seeing this since October..
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
Looks like some nasty stuff forming near us now.
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...so....Drak....Where's it gonna hit?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Not a whole lot happening over the Atlantic currently.

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting Drakoen:
Shear will be too high for anything tropical in nature; also the factor of the baroclinic environment.


According to the 12z GFS, shear values will be adequately for some sort of tropical cyclogenesis within the region. The baroclinic zone that will catalyze cyclogenesis, does not have enough upper level energy to cause any significant shear. I still do not expect anything special to occur since shear will only be marginally favorable.
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
Too early to tell whether the ENSO phase would actually shift from Neutral to a Warm Phase during the season, but, it would certainly be a welcome development to help contain storm development/intensification come the Cape Verde Season in August and September...May I remind all the folks that Hurricanes, while a fact of life and interesting to watch, are no fun so I would welcome a short season due to shear increases.......
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Thanks DRAK!!!!!
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Cells popping all over Florida ATM! Mostly along the east coast though, really nasty ones.

Was just looking at that...LOL...gotta start paying closer attention. Outta practice.
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Cells popping all over Florida ATM! Mostly along the east coast though, really nasty ones.
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
I'm sorry Drak, I should have stated what my question was in reference to... I was wondering what the NINO values that you posted meant... Sorry, looking forwards to hearing from you!


They keep track of the warming in the Nino regions. The Nino 3.4 region is used to determine El Nino. El Nino is characterized by anomalies in the Nino 3.4 region +.5 for a duration of 3-4 months.
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Here comes the Rain again


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Shear will be too high for anything tropical in nature; also the factor of the baroclinic environment.
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I'm sorry Drak, I should have stated what my question was in reference to... I was wondering what the NINO values that you posted meant... Sorry, looking forwards to hearing from you!
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
DRAK
What does that mean?


It means that we may have a potential droughtbuster. I don't expect this to become anything substantial
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:


That was me... Remember we were playing a little game... If it forms you would be the winner!!!



317. Orcasystems 1:32 AM GMT on May 05, 2009

Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
maybe i should make a prize for the person who gets within 5 degrees of where the first storm officially forms....

Lol! love the answer KEH... sounds good to me!



12N 81W
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Orcasystems:

That would be perfect.. someone asked the other day where they figured the first one would form.. plus or minus 5 degrees.

That is almost the exact spot I picked :)


That was me... Remember we were playing a little game... If it forms you would be the winner!!!
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
DRAK
What does that mean?


An area of low pressure could develop along the tail end of the frontal boundary in the GOM or extreme northern Caribbean. That would be more typical of May...
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DRAK
What does that mean?
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The GFSx shows the Blurb too.

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Quoting IKE:
Check out the 12Z CMC.

WATCH OUT SOUTH FLORIDA!


LOL. The GFS wants to form a closed low within the baroclinic zone around the same area.
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hooray We will now see a less active season
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168. IKE
Check out the 12Z CMC.

WATCH OUT SOUTH FLORIDA!
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Quoting Skyepony:
Close to land but a little rotation.

That would be perfect.. someone asked the other day where they figured the first one would form.. plus or minus 5 degrees.

That is almost the exact spot I picked :)


317. Orcasystems 1:32 AM GMT on May 05, 2009

Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
maybe i should make a prize for the person who gets within 5 degrees of where the first storm officially forms....

Lol! love the answer KEH... sounds good to me!



12N 81W
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
160. Skyepony

They have gone to a newer version for that doldrum field Link
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If the Nino 3.4 region keeps warming like that the CFS may be right:
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164. IKE
12Z ECMWF
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Nino 3.4 region is at +0.2C
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162. Skyepony (Mod)
Close to land but a little rotation.
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Thanks Ike!
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160. Skyepony (Mod)
Doldrums preseason would be bad.. We're doing okay. Been like this awhile. Sometimes a little more just off Africa. No wonder the invests are where they are either.


Here's the anomolies. The caribbean is cooler than normal & well north of there is warmer than normal.
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159. IKE
Quoting TXGulfCoast:
Ike - What do the values mean? What is considered "high" (low chance of development) or "low" (high chance of development)?


I think it's anything above 20 knots is high or a lower chance.

Below 20, down to 0 brings a higher chance of development.

Here's a link Scroll down to...Rules of Thumb. It explains it.
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Where have you been hiding... everyone is slowly coming back online :)
winter hibernation ala So. Fla..
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Tracking some Breaking news on "Possible Wing Root Damage to Atlantis"..

During their first full day in orbit, Atlantis' crew used a laser-tipped boom to look for damage to the orbiter.

Early results from the 10-hour-long inspection revealed revealed the shuttle was in good overall shape. But the survey did uncover a 53cm (21in) line of chips on thick tiles lining Atlantis' starboard side.

The damage is located where the right wing joins the shuttle's fuselage. Nasa said the chips could be related to a debris event detected by the wing's leading edge sensors 104-106 seconds into the lift-off.

Story here
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Ike - What do the values mean? What is considered "high" (low chance of development) or "low" (high chance of development)?
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Blog Refresh
Mirror Site

Daily Area of Interest
Click to enlarge
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting foggymyst:
Hello to all.. Hi Orca. Someone send So.Fl a bit a rain!


Where have you been hiding... everyone is slowly coming back online :)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
One of the reasons we haven't had an early start with the last MJO phase: vertical wind shear is having a hard time even stay around climatological values. Shear is expected to be 2-4m/s faster this season.
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152. IKE
Quoting TXGulfCoast:
Can someone please list the shear value rankings? High, Med., Low. Thanks!


Here's the shear.....

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Can someone please list the shear value rankings? High, Med., Low. Thanks!
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150. IKE
Quoting Drakoen:


Yes we do and sometimes the slow seasons are the worst. ie. 2004


Exactly.
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Rogersville residents didn't know siren warned of tornado


Associated Press
Originally published 09:14 a.m., May 12, 2009
Updated 09:14 a.m., May 12, 2009

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. - A fire official in Rogersville says many people didn't recognize a long wail of the department's whistle as being a tornado warning.

The alarm was sounded Friday after two funnel clouds were sighted in the area and the signal lasted three minutes.

Assistant Fire Chief David Jackson told the Kingsport Times-News that it had been so long since a warning had been needed that many residents had no idea what the signal was.

There was no evidence on Monday that either funnel reached the ground, but a photo taken by the fire department clearly showed one overhead.

Jackson issued a public safety announcement, saying area fire departments will sound their fire whistles continuously for three minutes any time a tornado warning is needed.

More details as they develop online and in Wednesday's News Sentinel.
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Quoting IKE:
I must have hurricanelover236 on ignore.

We go through this every year on here...someone saying it will be a "slow season".

stormtop should be on here before long saying the same thing.


Yes we do and sometimes the slow seasons are the worst. ie. 2004
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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.