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VORTEX2 2009 Operations Summary

Preliminary numbers are emerging from VORTEX2 2009, the largest tornado field experiment in history. The Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment – 2 (VORTEX2) is focused on gathering data to answer detailed questions about how, when and why tornadoes form.

VORTEX2 research vehicles each logged over 10,000 miles visiting nine states (Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa). Data was collected on 19 days out of 35. Teams deployed on 17 supercell thunderstorms and 12 ordinary storms.

On June 5, 2009, VORTEX2 collected data on a significant tornado in Goshen County, Wyoming. Researchers claim this tornado is now the best-documented tornado in history, with comprehensive data collection beginning before the tornado formed and continuing through its demise.

Scientists had hoped to deploy on five tornadic storms this year, but 2009 was a historically low tornado year in the VORTEX2 domain. NOAA NSSL scientists used the opportunity to refine deployment strategies, and felt by the last week all teams had learned to work together to cover a storm effectively.

At the conclusion of 2009 operations, Principal Investigators met to identify issues to address by 2010 operations, tentatively scheduled for May 1-June 15, 2010.

NOAA NSSL used VORTEX2 as an opportunity to reach out to the public through social networking. Over 6,000 people are fans of the VORTEX2 Facebook page and over 1,900 are following VORTEX2 on Twitter.

Background: VORTEX2 is supported by NOAA and the National Science Foundation. Nearly 100 scientists, students and staff took part in the experiment, which ran from May 10, 2009 through June 13, 2009.

Significance: VORTEX2 will give researchers a better understanding of tornadoes and should help increase warning time for those in the path of these deadly storms.