Researchers Begin Second Year of Tornado Study in Southeastern United States

The second field observing campaign for the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast (VORTEX-SE) research program, coordinated by the National Severe Storms Laboratory, began March 8 and continues through May 8. A media day will be held at 10 a.m. CDT March 21 at the Signature Flight Support – Huntsville International Airport. Researchers from NSSL, Air Resources Laboratory, University of Alabama – Huntsville and other participants will discuss their operational plans and show some of the vehicles and instruments they are using, including the NOAA P-3 aircraft, mobile radars and research drones.

VORTEX-SE is a research program designed to understand how environmental factors characteristic of the southeastern United States affect the formation, intensity, structure and path of tornadoes in this region. VORTEX-SE will also determine the best methods for communicating forecast uncertainty to the public and evaluate public response related to these events.

This year’s field project will gather data to address two main research topics:

1. How cold air flowing out of a storm influences the development of tornadoes.

2. The role of terrain in tornado formation and how terrain influences wind, temperature and humidity in storm environments.

The ultimate purpose of this research is better forecasts and warnings for the public.
Erik Rasmussen, VORTEX-SE project manager, speaks during media day in 2016, kicking off the spring 2016 field research campaign. Media day for VORTEX-SE’s 2017 spring field research campaign is Tuesday, March 21.
Credit NOAA/Keli Pirtle.