Texas Tech University

Researchers Collaborating to Study Tornadoes, Improve Forecasts

Amanda Bowman

May 8, 2019

Christopher Weiss will lead a group from the university to work on the TORUS project, which looks at the relationship between supercell thunderstorms and how tornadoes form, to improve forecasts.

Christopher Weiss, a professor of atmospheric science in the Department of Geosciences through the College of Arts & Sciences at Texas Tech University and an affiliate of the university's National Wind Institute (NWI), is leading a group from Texas Tech to collaborate with other scientists and engineers around the country using drones and radars to learn more about supercell thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.

Christopher Weiss
Christopher Weiss

The Targeted Observation by Radars and Unmanned Aircraft Systems of Supercells (TORUS) project is aimed at understanding the relationship between severe thunderstorms and how tornadoes form across the Great Plains, in hopes of improving forecasts.

"We are excited to be a part of this TORUS project," Weiss said. "This will be a pioneering study that ties together mobile radars and unmanned aircraft to give an unprecedented look at the boundaries produced by severe thunderstorms and how they may influence the development of tornadoes."

The TORUS project involves more than 50 researchers using 20 tools to measure the atmosphere, including unmanned aircraft systems, mobile radars, including the NWI's Ka-band Mobile Doppler Radar trucks, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) WP-3D Orion "Hurricane Hunter" aircraft.

Fieldwork will be conducted May 15 to June 16 throughout a 367,000-square-mile area of the Central Great Plains from North Dakota to Texas and from Iowa to Wyoming and Colorado.

Funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation, the project is led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Partner institutions are Texas Tech, the University of Colorado Boulder, NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory, NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies.