VORTEX SE: Supported Research 2018

Physical Science Projects

Exploration of terrain effects on tornado and supercell dynamics in the southeast United States

Lead investigators: David Bodine and Anthony Reinhart, University of Oklahoma; Frank Lombardo, University of Illinois

Goal: This work will explore how complex terrain and land use in the Southeast U.S. likely affect tornado and severe storm evolution through idealized and real tornado-scale and storm-scale numerical simulations. In particular, numerical simulations are needed to understand physical processes associated with terrain effects and how these processes can be observed in future VORTEX-SE field campaigns. Collaborative research work includes a collaboration between meteorologists and engineers to use the numerical simulations to assess tornado risk and improve building codes and standards.

An investigation of the effects of complex topography on storm environments, near-surface wind profiles in and near storms, and tornado vulnerability in the southeastern U.S., using existing data and observations from the VORTEX-Southeast field campaign

Lead investigators: Paul Markowski and Yvette Richardson, Penn State University

Goal: This work seeks to advance our understanding of the effects of complex terrain on storm environments, the characteristics of near-surface vertical wind profiles within and near convective storms, and tornado vulnerability.

VORTEX-SE: Improving radar wind retrievals and understanding local environmental influences on downdraft processes in potentially tornadic storms in the Southeast United States

Lead investigators: Joshua Wurman, Karen Kosiba, and Jim Marquis, Center for Severe Weather Research

Goal: This research will extend our analyses of the kinematic and thermodynamic variability of the environment ahead of potentially tornadic storms and investigate how the interactions between the near-storm environment and storm outflow contribute to tornadogenesis and evolution over the complex terrain of the Southeast U.S.

Evaluation and optimization of two new scale-aware PBL schemes within WRF for the prediction of day- and night-time storm environment and tornadic storms during VORTEX-SE

Lead investigators: Ming Xue, Xiao-Ming Hu, Youngsun Jung, Keith Brewster, University of Oklahoma

Goal: The ability of numerical weather prediction (NWP) models to accurately predict the near-ground atmospheric structure directly impacts the model’s ability to accurately predict convective storms, including their initiation, development, organization, and mode of convection. This study aims to improve the performance of NWP models near the ground in the complex terrain and land use conditions of the Southeast U.S.

Understanding PBL evolution and surface-driven circulations with simulations and VORTEX-SE observations

Lead investigators: Glen Romine, Ryan Sobash, George Bryan, NCAR; Mike Coniglio, NSSL

Goal: This research will 1) investigate numerical prediction model forecast performance focused on the evolution of the pre-convective near-ground airmass for southeastern U.S. severe weather events characterized by rapid increases in low-level shear and instability, and 2) examine, through both real-data and idealized simulations, terrain-driven and inhomogeneous surface circulations across the VORTEX-SE domain and their impact on moisture transport and convection.

Modulation of convective-draft characteristics and subsequent tornado intensity by the environmental wind and thermodynamics within the Southeast U.S.

Lead investigators: Robert Trapp, University of Illinois

Goal: Despite significant advancements over the past several decades in the understanding of tornado formation, predictions of whether such tornadoes will necessarily become strong or violent are still not very skillful. This is especially the case in the high-shear, low-CAPE environments of the Southeast U.S. This project will develop a new Doppler radar data set and use numerical simulations to advance hypothesized links between tornado intensity and convective-draft characteristics.

VORTEX-SE: Insights into the structure and predictability of southeastern U.S. tornadic storms afforded by intensive observation and high-resolution numerical modeling

Lead investigators: Chris Weiss, Eric Bruning, Johannes Dahl, Texas Tech University; David Dowell, Curtis Alexander, NOAA/ESRL

Goal: This research extends previous VORTEX-SE findings to better understand the role and predictability of environmental and storm-scale influences on the evolution of tornadoes in the Southeast. The size and magnitude of outflow regions in these severe thunderstorms, in particular, will be analyzed. Methods will include direct incorporation of obtained surface data into high-resolution numerical models and identification of variance in key state variables across an ensemble of simulations that have the most impact on low-level rotation in these storms.

Continuing observations of potentially tornadic storms in Northern Alabama

Lead investigators: Kevin Knupp, University of Alabama at Huntsville

Goal: This work is aimed at providing long-term observations of the environments that support tornadic storms in northern Alabama, and make special observations of any tornadic storms that do occur in this region on a year-round basis. An emphasis will be placed on boundary layer characteristics associated with cold-season QLCSs, both tornadic and non-tornadic, Multiple-Doppler radar data, profiler data, and sounding data will be analyzed to gain an understanding of these storms.

Evaluating scale-aware stochastic PBL schemes in the southeast

Lead investigators: NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, Earth System Research Laboratory, and Air Resources Laboratory

Goal: This is a collaborative research project among several laboratories in the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research office. The goal is to combine observations of the lower part of the atmosphere with state-of-the-art schemes to forecast this important atmospheric layer. This should result in improved forecasts, as well as to identify important aspects and phenomena for which new observations will be required in order to make further significant forecast improvements.

Social, Behavioral, and Economic Science Projects

How forecasters decide to warn: Insights on tornado risk communication from the Southeast U.S.

Lead investigators: Brooke Liu and Anita Atwell Seate, University of Maryland

Goal: The primary objective is to understand how NWS forecasters make decisions, where they need more information, how they share information, and how they build relationships with local partners and community members in light of today’s competitive media environment. Further, the differences between NWS forecasters in terms of their risk communication decision-making processes will be explored.

Using vulnerability as empirical data to improve forecast and warning services

Lead investigators: Daphne LaDue and Jack Friedman, University of Oklahoma; Laura Myers, University of Alabama

Goal: This research project will analyze and bring together knowledge generated by the investigators (as well as extant databases) on spatially-specific vulnerabilities across the Huntsville NWS Forecast Office county warning area in order to develop a Brief Vulnerability Overview Tool (BVOT) for use by NWS operational forecasters to assess social and environmental vulnerabilities in their county warning area.

Understanding and enhancing public interpretation and use of probabilistic tornado warnings in the southeastern United States

Lead investigators: Sonia Savelli, Susan Joslyn, University of Washington; Julie Demuth, Rebecca Morss, NCAR

Goal: This project will employ a combination of behavioral-experimental and semi-structured interview methods to evaluate how members of the public interpret and use different forms of probabilistic tornado threat information, including uncertainty visualizations, with a focus on the Southeastern United States. Our findings will be used by the research team, in conjunction with NOAA collaborators, to develop recommendations for improving communication of probabilistic tornado forecast and warning information.

Tornadoes and mobile homes: An inter-science approach to reducing vulnerabilities and improving capacities for the southeast’s most susceptible population

Lead investigators: Stephen Strade, Villanova University; Walker Ashley, University of Northern Illinois; Kim Klockow, University of Oklahoma

Goal: This research will study mobile home distribution and the adaptive capacity of mobile home residents living in various settings, coupling this analysis with the socioeconomic vulnerabilities of these residents to better understand tornado disaster impacts and strategies for overcoming them.

Improving accessibility and comprehension of tornado warnings in the Southeast for the deaf, blind, and deaf-blind

Lead investigators: Kathleen Sherman-Morris, Mississippi State University; Jason Senkbiel, Darrin Griffin, University of Alabama

Goal: This project will investigate the communication of tornado warning information among individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing (HoH), Blind, Low Vision (LV), and Deaf-Blind. It aims to improve our understanding of the sociological, linguistic, and cultural factors that influence how individuals from specific vulnerable groups receive, process, and respond to tornado information.