We just finished a fairly lively discussion of the system that is approaching for early Monday. It highlighted a lot of the issues we deal with in VORTEX-SE.
Of course, the first thing we try to assess is tornado potential, because if there isn’t at least some potential, there’s not much point to operating. It looks like there will be very favorable hodographs in our domain on Monday. The question is: will there be CAPE? It almost certainly will be low CAPE (< 500 J/kg). There was a lot of debate about whether potentially buoyant air would move this far north ahead of the early-Monday system, and debate about whether the air mass could recover after this first round and give a second round of storms later in the day. I think it’s a reasonable hypothesis that tornadoes can occur in nearly zero CAPE as long as the updraft, augmented by the upward forcing associated with very strong environmental wind shear, can extend near the ground.
So after a round of discussion, the researchers generally felt that this is a system we need to look at.
One of the most important items of discussion was a comment made by one of our researchers to the effect of: “Isn’t this exactly what VORTEX-SE is about? The more uncertain situations, and the low-CAPE high-shear situations?” In a broad sense, these are exactly the situations we need to target. The obvious tornado situations are not a big problem in the Southeast… they are well-handled. So as discouraging as busted deployments can be, and as much as everyone would like to observe a tornadic storm, VORTEX-SE has an overriding obligation to develop knowledge to reduce the uncertainty in situations just like the one we are facing Monday.
And this mix of the role of uncertainty, biases, and recent experiences on decision making has to be pretty interesting to our Social and Behavioral Sciences researchers. In a broad sense, our whole social sciences emphasis can be boiled down to how humans, from the forecaster all the way to members of the public, make decisions in the face of uncertainty.