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XKCD Tornado Hunters

VORTEX2: Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment

VORTEX2 Vehicles & Instruments

NOTE: Information about specific vehicle and instrument teams may be found here. Information about the scientific objectives of the various instruments may be found here.

Fleet of chase vehiclesVORTEX2 will take full advantage of cutting-edge remote systems (collecting weather data from a distance), fixed observing systems (collecting data from a permanent location), and in-situ systems (collecting data by being in direct contact with the weather).

The VORTEX2 Operations Center (VOC) will be located at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in the National Weather Center to provide forecast support, logistical coordination, and a safety net for the field crew.

Field command vehicle — NSSL's field command unit (FC) will be used to organize and communicate storm intercept activities in real-time. Weather observations from other mobile instruments, mobile radar data, and location information are broadcast over a mobile digital radio network to the field coordinator. The FC then plots the information and directs team members to ideal field positions. Coordination during field projects is important to collect the most valuable data while keeping participants safe.

Mobile radar photographs

MWR-05XP photo courtesy Jeff Snyder

Mobile radars (10 total):

C band radars are used for short range weather observations and operate on a wavelength of 4–8 cm:

Radar Name Home Organization Description
SMART-R (Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radars) Built in collaboration with NSSL, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and the University of Oklahoma  
SMART-R1   C band (5 cm)
SMART-R2   C band (5 cm), recently upgraded to dual-polarization technology

X-band radars operate on a wavelength of 2.5–4 cm. They are more sensitive and can detect smaller particles including cloud droplets. These radars can also be used to distinguish tornado debris clouds from precipitation:

Radar Name Home Organization Description
DOW (Doppler on Wheels)
DOW 6 and DOW7
CSWR 3 cm
Rapid-DOW CSWR Transmits 12 simultaneous beams to collect samples every 5–10 seconds
NSSL Dual pol
UMASS X-Pol University of Massachusetts 3 cm dual pol

Ka-band radars operate on a wavelength of .75–1.2cm and are even more sensitive:

Radar Name Home Organization Description
TTU-Ka-band Texas Tech University (TTU) 0.75–1.2 cm

W-band radars achieve high sensitivity with small antennas and operate on a 3mm wavelength:

Radar Name Home Organization Description
UMASS-W University of Massachusetts (UMASS) 3 mm, maps the reflectivity and Doppler velocity field at very high resolutions

Mobile phased array radar:

Radar Name Home Organization Description
(Mobile Weather Radar-2005 X-band Phased Array)
CIRPAS (Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Studies), Naval Postgraduate School Will be operated by OU to study tornadoes
Deployable instrumentation images

Deployable instrumentation

Instrument Name Home Organization Description
Tornado PODs (12) CSWR 1 m tower of instruments with a flat base to measure wind velocity and direction at ground level, ideally in the core flow of the tornado
Sticknets (24) TTU 2 m tall tripods to collect complete wind datasets and atmospheric variables
- 14 will measure the atmosphere
- 10 will have the ability to record hail (acoustic) and precipitation
Unmanned instrumented aerial system CU, Rasmussen Systems, OU, University of Nebraska at Lincoln Will be flown across outflow boundaries and beneath the supercell rear flank downdraft to measure pressure, temperature, relative humidity and wind velocities.
MGAUS (Mobile GPS Advanced Upper Air Sounding System) NSSL (2) 130 sondes
NCAR (2) 137 sondes
Mobile ballooning facilities will launch balloons with instruments, or sondes, attached in key parts of the supercell. The sondes will measure temperature, pressure, relative humidity and winds. The data will be transmitted back to the mobile unit even if it is on the road. Will be used to sample the pre-storm environment, refine the V2 forecast target and more.
Mobile Mesonets PSU, using NSSL mobile mesonets Racks of surface weather instruments mounted on the roofs of vehicles to take measurements near storms. The instruments measure temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction, vehicle orientation and precise vehicle location by means of GPS. A special communication system allows the vehicles to automatically report data to a central command vehicle in real time.

- 6 dedicated to surface measurements
- 3 deploying tornado PODS
Particle probe (disdrometers and particle imagers) CU, NSSL, OU Used to measure the particle size distribution and velocity of falling hydrometeors.

- 2 vehicle-mounted particle imagers at approximately 2m above the ground
- 2 manned and 2 unmanned deployable disdrometer platforms
High Resolution DSLR cameras and GPS data loggers (Photogrammetry) Lyndon State and NCAR Collect high-resolution imagery of wall clouds, tornadoes and debris. Photos will be combined and compared with radar data.
Fixed instrumentation images

Fixed instrumentation