Be Prepared: Huge tornado study conducted in the TN Valley - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

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Be Prepared: Huge tornado study conducted in the TN Valley

40 researchers from 20 research entities or universities will travel to Huntsville, in some cases, thousands of miles, several times this spring to conduct this study. (Source: WAFF) 40 researchers from 20 research entities or universities will travel to Huntsville, in some cases, thousands of miles, several times this spring to conduct this study. (Source: WAFF)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

UAH is the home base for the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment, or VORTEX-SE - a 2 month long study on tornadoes that runs through the end of April. 

Learn more about the program here. | MORE: UAH home to 2-month tornado study

40 researchers from 20 research entities or universities will travel to Huntsville, in some cases, thousands of miles, several times this spring to conduct this study. They will deploy approximately 13 vehicles, 3 mobiles radar, and one fixed radar from UAH’s SWIRLL.

The number of killer tornadoes in the southeast is disproportionately large when compared to the overall number of tornadoes throughout the rest of the country. Researchers believe this could largely be caused by sociological factors, like how the public responds to warnings. 

Todd Barron, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Huntsville National Weather Service, is looking forward to applying this research to how warnings are issued “because it doesn’t really matter how many warnings we put out or how accurate they are, if the public isn’t responding correctly, then it doesn’t really matter,” he says.

The two previous VORTEX field campaigns took place in the Great Plains. 

“In many ways, VORTEX-SE represents a new approach to tornado research in general," said project manager Erik Rasmussen.

Conducting this year's project in the southeast, and more specifically, the Tennessee Valley, could be greatly beneficial to better understanding and forecasting for our specific threats.

Their focus will be on learning more about the terrain and topography’s influence on tornado formation and strength, nighttime tornadoes, and spin up tornadoes embedded in a line.

“Compared to chasing in the Plains, that environment is very open country," said Dr. Eric Bruning, a professor at Texas Tech University. "We can operate much closer to storms because we can see the hazards. So here, we’re interested to be observing in this environment with a lot more trees and hills and have an opportunity to figure out how to get as close as possible while still remaining safe.”

This project will also greatly benefit the students involved.

Kate-Lynn Walsh , a senior at the University of Oklahoma, is excited to work with UAH and overcome the challenges that chasing in the Tennessee Valley presents that vastly differs from the Great Plains. 

“I think the biggest challenge will be… in the Plains, it is really flat, and we don’t have trees, and we have a wonderful road network," she said. "The thing I’m slightly worried about is the idea that we could be blocked. There might be something we should be retrieving and be seeing on the radar that maybe we’re not seeing. And we could use that information. So beam blockage is a bit worrying but I think that in working with UAH, they have so much experience, that won’t be as much of an issue.” 

Alex Staarmann, a senior at UAH,  is planning to continue his studies in graduate school at UAH and is looking forward to taking this research with him and that it “will greatly benefit in the long run for getting a job in the future.”


Meteorologist Lauren Jones was able to join the research meteorologists from Texas Tech, UAH, and Purdue for the first day of deployment,
March 1, and assist in some of the equipment set up. You can see photos and information about her ride-along on her Facebook page.


VORTEX-SE activities are being supported by a special Congressional allocation of more than $5 million to NOAA made in 2015. A similar allocation made this year will support additional activities in the spring of 2017.
 
Researchers from the following organizations are participating in VORTEX-SE:
• NOAA Air Resources Laboratory
• NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
• NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
• NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
• NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory
• NOAA National Weather Service
• University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies
• Colorado State University
• Mississippi State University
• NASA
• National Center for Atmospheric Research
• National Science Foundation
• North Carolina State University
• Purdue University
• Texas Tech University
• University of Alabama at Birmingham
• University of Alabama in Huntsville
• University of Georgia
• University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
• University of Louisiana at Monroe
• University of Maryland
• University of Massachusetts
• University of North Carolina at Asheville
• University of Oklahoma
• University of Tennessee

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