MAY 13

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by Hummer Storm Chaser

The Chase Procedure

H3T Stormchaser interior nighttime
Dropping pods in Oklahoma
Dropping pods in storm in Oklahoma

Of the ten heavy radar trucks being deployed for VORTEX2, three belong to the Center for Severe Weather Research, which is run by Dr. Josh Wurman, the pioneer of mobile Doppler radar. Two of the CSWR trucks are single-transmitter radars, and the third a “Rapid Scan” multiple transmitter unit (the large square antenna) which has the capability of “raking” the sky with six beams of radar. The result of this new technology, which was first deployed in 2005, is a three-dimensional image of a storm every five to seven seconds, which allows the scientists to see “clear air echoes” which happen just outside of a tornado, says Wurman.

The object of the VORTEX2 mission is to set the radar trucks up on the perimeter of a supercell storm, and use the images to determine where to place the “pods”, the portable instrument units built to withstand a hit by a tornado while recording data in a black box, to be picked up later by the “Probe” vehicles, of which the HUMMER H3T is the sturdiest, most capable version.

In addition, there is a fleet of “Mobile mesonet” vehicles, ranging from minivans from the National Severe Storms Laboratory to the CSWR and other Probe vehicles. These vehicles have mast-mounted anemometers that measure wind speed and direction, a sonic windspeed sensor, as well as shielded tubes that accurately measure local air temperature and humidity.

All of the mobile mesonet data is captured by a data recorder and then read by a laptop in each mesonet vehicle, who’s team downloads the data and passes it by memory stick to a data collector in each group, such as the CSWR, the Navy post-graduate school, the National Severe Storms Laboratory, Texas Tech University, Pennsylvania State University, and other members of VORTEX2. The data is distributed among the participants after it is checked for accuracy.

The data consists of accurate GPS latitude and longitude positions of unmanned sensor pods and manned mesonet vehicles, which lets researchers know the exact boundaries and conditions of, for one example, the edges of the outflows of wind from the front edges of thunderstorms, which is exactly what the VORTEX2 team found on Tuesday, May 12, in northwestern Texas.

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