All posts by Susan Cobb

VORTEX2 Summary

Preliminary numbers show VORTEX2 intercepted about 30 supercells, and 20 weak or short-lived tornadoes.  Several of the tornadoes with a greater than EF2 ratings were observed by a few teams.  Operations occurred in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.  The fleet of 10 mobile radars and dozens of other instrumented vehicles were driven over 15,000 miles each.  Up to 75 hotel rooms were booked each night, housing up to 150 people at times.

Several intercepts included the operation of the Unmanned Aerial System, an instrumented remote control airplane that was flown through different parts of the storm.

Researchers feel VORTEX2 was successful, but the number of tornadoes during both years of the project were below average.  “We certainly sampled the most typical type of tornadic events, rather than the big tornados.  In the long run, this could turn out to be even more useful data,” reflects Lou Wicker, NSSL researcher and VORTEX2 steering committee member.

Analysis of the vast amounts of data now begins.  “Data from the original VORTEX experiment was still being discussed and published for 5-7 years after it ended.  I expect that to be the same here, at the very least,” says Wicker.

Researchers hope they will be able to have a VORTEX3 in another decade, but anticipate smaller efforts in the meantime.

VORTEX2 was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and NOAA.

13 June 2010

Hotel location:  Liberal, KS

Intercept location:  Booker, TX

Data was collected on a long-lived tornadic supercell that developed in the northeastern Texas Panhandle and moved into the Oklahoma Panhandle.  At least three tornadoes are known to have occurred within this storm.  The first was the most significant and had the best data collection with mobile mesonet transects while dual-Doppler data was being collected simultaneously.  TTU Ka-Band captured tornado scale vortices and the developing and mature tornado.  The Sticknets had one of their best deployments, and all other radars and instrument teams reported good deployments.

10 June 2010

Hotel location:  Chadron, NE

Intercept location:  Last Chance, CO

Two supercells were intercepted.  The first was non-tornadic but was sampled well by the mobile mesonet.

Second cell formed south.  A tornado was observed for 8 minutes, but data collection was hampered by lack of roads.  A second tornado occurred shortly after for 5 minutes.  Dual-Doppler data was collected.  The Unmanned Aerial System was successfully flown through the rear-flank gust front and the rear-flank downdraft.  Six pre-storm and 15 in-storm balloons were launched.

7 June 2010

Hotel location:  Ft. Morgan, CO

Intercept location:  Scottsbluff/Mitchell, NE

Two tornadic supercells in the Nebraska panhandle.  The first increased in speed and moved out of reach of the VORTEX2 array except for Sticknet.  A tornado was produced just east of the Sticknet, and was observed from a distance both by SMART radars and DOW6. Two mobile mesonets sampled the post-hook echo outflow of the storm, but could not get close enough to the circulation center.

The second high-precipitation supercell developed west of the first and tracked southeast through Scottsbluff.  A weak, brief tornado formed just east of Scottsbluff, observed by NOXP and DOW7.  Mobile mesonet collected data in the rear flank outflow and the outflow forth and forward of the mesocyclone.  Baseball sized hail suffered in the hook echo.

25 May 2010

Hotel location:  Loveland, CO

Intercept location:  Tribune, KS

VORTEX2 deployed on a cyclic, weakly tornadic supercell in western Kansas.  Among the test cases sampled in VORTEX2 given the simultaneous collection of storm-scale and mesocyclone-scale dual-Doppler radar observations, along with in-situ measurements.  The target storm emerged from a cluster of storms that developed along the KS-CO border southwest of Sharon Springs, KS.  Landspouts were observed by some teams early in the evolution. Mesocyclone and storm-scale dual-Doppler data were obtained at the time of the aforementioned mobile mesonet observations.  Sticknet probes also had a successful deployment.  W-band captured tornadogenesis and TTUKaBand captured tornado-scale vortices.

18 May, 2010

Hotel location:  Amarillo, TX

Intercept location: Dumas, TX

VORTEX2 intercepted a long-lived supercell in the northern Texas panhandle that developed along a dryline.  The storm produced a number of weak tornadoes.  Mobile mesonets reported good data collection within dual-Doppler coverage, and were able to sample the storm’s outflow and inflow.  The TTU Ka-Band radar had good data collection of the rear-flank downdraft while overlapped with Sticknets.

12 May 2010

Morning location:  Weatherford, OK

Intercept location:  Clinton, OK

VORTEX2 intercepted a high-precipitation supercell in southwest Oklahoma the developed along a dryline.  Storms were moving at 30-35mph to the northeast.  A tornado developed near the northeast edge of dual-Doppler coverage and reportedly crossed I-40 just east of Clinton.  Mobile mesonets and dual-Doppler data were collected for 20 minutes before tornadogenesis.

10 May 2010

Hotel location:  Perry, OK

Intercept location:  Seminole, OK

An outbreak of tornadoes occurred in central and eastern OK.  Supercell motions were very fast, ranging from 50-60mph.  Given the fast motions, it was believed that the best opportunity for useful scientific data collection would be by forming a fixed radar network with six of the mobile radars separated by approximately 30km.  The dual-Doppler region associated with the radar network was oriented parallel to the dryline and centered on I-44 near Stroud, OK.

Numerous cell interactions near OKC and Norman upstream of the radar network resulted in a dominant, eastward moving, cyclically tornadic supercell that traveled from roughly Norman, OK to north of Ft. Smith, AR  along I-40.  Due to the fast moving nature of the storm, it was difficult to obtain coordinated observations.  However, NOXP captured tornadogenesis of EF1 and EF3 tornadoes.  Useful data was also collected from OU-PRIME, the University of Oklahoma polarimetric research radar.  Balloons were launched in the pre-storm, in-storm, and post storm environment.  Photogrammetry conducted damage surveys following the event.

5 June 2009

Hotel location:  Sterling, CO

Intercept location:  La Grange, WY

VORTEX2 targeted a right-moving supercell that formed north of Cheyenne, WY. An X-Band radar was sampling the storm as mobile mesonets took measurements within the hook echo and tornado cyclone.  All radars were deployed at the time of tornadogenesis, and valuable dual-Doppler data was collected.  Sticknets, disdrometers all reported good deployments.  3 pre-storm balloon soundings were taken, and 16 during the storm.  Photogrammetry teams were able to perform analyses on the storm.

This remains the best case.

10.26.10: A different approach to the V2 best cases report

Okay.  I decided to take a different approach to discussing the VORTEX2 best cases.  I will discuss them by day.  Read on to find out why!

After VORTEX2 ended, I attended the American  Meteorological Society Severe Local Storms Conference in Denver, CO October 11-15, 2010.  I listened to every VORTEX2 presentation, and also attended the wrap-up meeting with the teams after the conference ended.

Like any good meteorologist/pseudoscientist, I made a spreadsheet of all the best data collection days mentioned in each presentation.  I listed each instrument and what was good about the data collection day.  I then marked the cases that seemed to have the most complete across-the-board data overall, and tried to summarize the day and the data collection.  IF a day is NOT mentioned, it does not mean data was not collected, or it was not a good day.  For example, there were some days there were great strategies employed to launch balloons in a special array, but not all equipment was in place to make it a banner day.   But, GREAT data was collected that everyone will use.  The Unmanned Aerial System was in an engineering proof-of-concept mission, but the data collection they were able to do was icing on the VORTEX2 cake.  See what I mean I hope?

Also,  it means when you have 90 days in the field, one has to narrow their focus a bit.  Since I am not attached to a team, but the mission, I have done my best to provide a good overview for all teams.  This discussion is not intended to be the official voice or summary of anyone.  Just me.

MY list includes eight days of great data.  I will post these days in chronological order on Monday’s for the next eight weeks.  Please email if you have any further questions.

Daily reports are available on the data catalog at if you desire more information.