Texas Tech Wind Researchers Prepare for Nationwide Tornado Project

Team readies army of StickNets and radar vehicles for second phase.

Texas Tech University wind researchers will take part in phase two of the collaborative nationwide project exploring the origins, structure and evolution of tornadoes. The project, Verification of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment2 (VORTEX2 or V2), runs from May 1 through June 15 in the central United States. This spring’s activity is phase two of the largest and most ambitious attempt to study tornadoes in history and will involve about 100 scientists and 40 research vehicles, including 10 mobile radars. Texas Tech returns to the field with its two observing platforms. StickNet represents an array of 24 durable tripoded observation stations, individually deployed in the path of tornado-producing storms to measure the temperature, pressure, humidity and wind. The second platform includes the two TTUKa mobile Doppler radars that will make remote measurements of the horizontal and vertical structure of tornado cyclones. Christopher Weiss, assistant professor of atmospheric science at Texas Tech, will lead a team of 18 faculty, staff and students into the field; six will be with the TTUKa radars, 12 with StickNet. “When the project begins, we will travel wherever conditions are most favorable for tornadoes, anywhere from Texas to South Dakota,” Weiss said. “We will generally have a feel for regions of interest the day before the event, but will not have a specific target until the morning of the potential event.” Scientists will sample the environment of supercell thunderstorms – violent thunderstorms capable of producing damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes – that form over more than 900 miles of the central Great Plains. Areas of focus include southern South Dakota, western Iowa, eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, the Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma. The VORTEX2 project is an outstanding opportunity for student researchers to get hands-on experience in the field, said Tanya Brown, a doctoral candidate in wind science and engineering.  She has been participating in TTU’s severe thunderstorm research efforts since 2007 and will lead one of four StickNet teams in the 2010 phase. “Field research at Texas Tech is unique because of the large participation and responsibility given to the students,” Brown said. “Texas Tech graduate students are more involved in the data collection, analysis, instrumentation and maintenance than at any other university.” Keep up with the Texas Tech team on its blog, view photos on Flickr, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Also, look for the Texas Tech VORTEX 2 team on The Weather Channel beginning May 1, 2010. For a complete list of participating scientists, and to learn more about the experiment, visit the V2 site http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/projects/vortex2/ and the official project website http://www.vortex2.org/. Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu. CONTACT: Chris Weiss, assistant professor of atmospheric science,Texas Tech University, (806) 742-4712, or chris.weiss@ttu.edu.