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VORTEX2 Research Project to Improve Forecasts of Tornadoes

2010-12-15

A tornadic supercell thunderstorm photographed and sampled by the EC AMMOS team in northern Oklahoma on May 19, 2010. | Photo: David Sills The second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) is the largest and most ambitious field experiment in history to study tornadoes. VORTEX2 is supported mainly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Approximately 130 scientists and students from sixteen universities, several other academic organizations in the United States, Environment Canada and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology participated in the second and final phase of the field work this spring, and a meeting of the principal investigators was scheduled for the fall to review the results.

VORTEX2 used cutting-edge communication and computer technologies to deploy a vehicle-based observational network in and around tornadic and non-tornadic supercell thunderstorms. Environment Canada researchers, David Sills and Neil Taylor, used a vehicle instrumented with a mobile weather station called AMMOS, or Automated Mobile Meteorological Observing System. Parameters collected include temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, pressure, and global positioning, all at one-second intervals. Six other similarly instrumented vehicles from other institutions formed a “mobile mesonet” able to record weather observations in and around tornadic storms, even while driving at highway speeds.

Results from the previous VORTEX field program (in 1994-1995) were shown to have improved U.S. National Weather Service tornado warnings during the late 1990s. It is anticipated that VORTEX2 scientists will develop even more sophisticated conceptual models for the generation and behaviour of tornadoes. These models would be used to create new tornado forecasting techniques and algorithms, which would in turn be used by Environment Canada meteorologists to issue more accurate and timely tornado watches and warnings.

The EC AMMOS team sampling the inflow into a Texas supercell that had just produced a strong tornado. | Photo: David Sills

Contact: David Sills, (905) 833-3905 (ext. 235), Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate