March 18, 2011
One year ago, more than 100 scientists and 40 support vehicles embarked on the most ambitious effort ever to understand the origin and evolutions of tornadoes. Among them was a Texas Tech University group of 18 faculty, staff and students led by Christopher Weiss, associate professor of atmospheric science. Together, they experienced the strength of nature’s forces, while gathering the most comprehensive severe weather data ever collected.
The project was known as Verification of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment2 or VORTEX2. The purpose – to discover the origins of tornadoes in order to better predict when and where storms will pop up, determine how severe they will be, and in turn, improve alert systems by increasing warning times. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contributed more than $10 million toward this effort.
A 70 mm camera also came along for the ride, and the end result is a heart-pounding science adventure now showing on the big screen in “Tornado Alley.” In it, viewers will see the beauty and power of Earth’s most extreme weather phenomena.
Weiss can speak to the current scientific understanding regarding why tornadoes form and intensify, as well as how the structure of the tornado relates to the observed damage seen at the ground.
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CONTACT: Chris Weiss, associate professor, Atmospheric Sciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-4712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.