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by Hummer Storm Chaser

The VORTEX2 Project Begins

There are about a dozen mobile Doppler radars in the world, and all of them gathered at the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma, today, best-known as the National Severe Storms Laboratory, but the massive seven-story curved brick and concrete building also houses severe storm researchers from the University of Oklahoma’s school of meteorology, various divisions under the federal government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Flying Cow CafĂ©.

They’re all here to announce the beginning of the largest field study project of tornados. “Will or will not a storm drop a damaging tornado? How long will it last, and what impact will it have on lives, people, and businesses? We don’t know that now,” explained Kevin Kelleher, the deputy director of the NSSL. This lab is the only government facility with the core mission of discovering the reasons for the formation and dissipation of tornados.

Today is the beginning of a cooperation of many organizations that will study the same storms simultaneously, and pool their data to learn more. To this end, the National Science Foundation has contributed more than $9 million, and the NOAA has pitched in $2.8 million. NOAA has 18 vehicles, three of them mobile radars, which makes up about a third of the rolling armada that is heading out shortly to map, photograph, image, sense, watch and feel the beginnings, middles and ends of tornados.This project, to last until mid-June, is called VORTEX2, and its goal is to increase the probability of detection of tornados, increase the lead time that tornados can be predicted, and improve the accuracy of warnings.

“Tornados still have a lot of vagueness,” said Josh Wurman, whose Center for Severe Weather Research is supplying three mobile Doppler radar trucks and four “mobile mesonet” vehicles. These are trucks, including a new HUMMER H3T with its unparalleld Adventure off-road package, that will deposit a dozen instrument “pods” in the forward flanks of a storm, and collect the pods after the tornado has passed. “We still don’t understand why some supercells don’t put down tornados. We don’t really understand how wind does damage. Fifteen years ago, VORTEX1 taught us what questions we need to ask,” added Wurman.

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