Monday, June 8, 2009

VORTEX2 finally intercepts a tornado

After a long hiatus, we have a new post. Rachel Humphrey, a graduate student at the University of Colorado has written today's post.

I will add a pre-amble. The VORTEX2 fleet made tornado science history a couple days ago. We intercepted a tornadic supercell for nearly an hour, deploying mobile radars, sticknets, disdrometers, mobile mesonets, photogrammetry teams, and in situ tornado pods in an amazing integrated array. Integrated data were collected from about 20 minutes before the tornado formed, through its birth, and almost until it died. Never before has a tornado been studied in nearly as much detail.

Rachel's post:

Subject: It only took about five weeks...

...but today, V2 finally intercepted its first tornadic storm of its 2009 operations.

Our morning started off in Sterling, CO, and we left the hotel around 11:30ish, making our way north into Wyoming (in a similar location to where we chased yesterday, near the border of Wyoming and Nebraska) and opting to neglect the possibility of storm initiation further to the south. We targeted our first storm around 4:00pm local time, and headed towards the area of intercept in southeastern Wyoming. The environmental conditions were conducive to supercellular development (not amazingly great, but certainly better than what we had seen days prior), as there was sufficient shear and moisture present.

Once it became apparent that the targeted storm was more likely to become supercellular (and possibly tornadic) than the other cells in the region (there were two cells to the north of our storm, the topmost moving northeast, the second one down the line moving almost due east, and our storm moving east-southeast), the crew began to deploy their various instruments. The radars all got into position so there would be plenty of overlap for their radar lobes. The Probe vehicles began to get into position to begin their mesonet transects of the storm (as well as the eventual dropping of the PODs). The disdrometer teams began to scout out locations for good deployment sites of our own.

One of the main obstacles to overcome in our deployments was the lack of visibility due to the presence of large bluffs in the local topography. The radars had to find high terrain on which to scan, so as to not interrupt their beams. The Probe teams had to find terrain on which it was safe to deploy and where the PODs would be level and yet also exposed to the winds of whatever was coming their way. For the disdrometers, we had to make sure that we had good radar coverage as well as exposure to the elements. The bluffs were pretty to look at, but they definitely hampered all of our efforts to do that. However, we got it done - all of us - and once everyone put everything where it had to be, we were treated to the sight of a very large tonado that lasted (on the ground) over 20 minutes, snaking silently towards us (we were positioned near DOW 7 on US-85) while we watched in awe.

It's like a cliche scene from a movie: all the practice that we've been doing, all the dry runs, all the pseudo-deployments carried out in non-severe conditions all paid off today, as once the tornado formed, we were able to watch it from a safe distance while it came near (and, in some cases, crossed over) our instruments. Today's mission was a total success. Everyone's spirits were lifted (seriously, it was getting pretty snarky around these here parts), and all the data has been taken off the instruments already (everyone's eager to see what was obtained - after all, this is the biggest instrumented case so far this year!)

After the tornado roped out, we began to head down US-85 to connect up with I-80, with the intention of calling it a day and heading to Kearney, NE for the night (about 4 hours away from wehre we had just watched this amazing storm). However, while we were driving along, a cell to the north of us began to rapidly intensify, and showed signs of rapid rotation beneath its base. As a matter of fact, at times it looked like the entire mesocyclone had simply extended down to the ground! We (CU) headed north out of Chappell, hoping to rendezvous with DOW 6 to get some radar coverage as the core came over us, but that plan didn't exactly work out. For one thing, visibility was really strange beneath that storm, and it wasn't entirely sure that it would be safe for us to deploy in the core. So, we didn't. Though the storm itself was tornado warned, we never got confirmation that it actually produced a tornado, but we couldn't really be sure from where we were...We weren't in a !
position to deploy on it, and since it was becoming dark, the operations were ended for the day. However, on our ride back (we were on the second storm for over an hour, so our departure from the Chappell region was pretty delayed) along I-80, we at times were literally surrounded on three sides with storms which were either tornado- or severe-warned...It made for a very long, very slow, very intense, but very exciting ride back to Kearney tonight/this morning.

Speaking of which, I should wrap this up and get on with the pictures, since today is supposed to be active, as well - barring any wiping out of regional instability as the result of the propagation of an MCS through most of the state of Nebraska...


  1. I'm sure glad there was one you got and it sounds like a lot of info was accumulated. from the weather channel report it was even televised live. I missed it but got to see the rewind of it.
    thanks to you and all the road warriors, your work is appreciated.

  2. GREAT way to start the last week of the season, guys. By all indications, this was, to use a cliche, a "perfect storm" for your purposes, and you were set up perfectly to slice, dice, and julienne it like a set of Ginsu knives. I'm sure you'll still be dissecting this data set ten years down the road--and it looks like it's gonna be a very active final week of the season. Here's wishing you good luck and good hunting. Stay safe!

  3. That is just fantastic video looking up into the funnel with the seperate vortex in the interior. Great job!

  4. Tremendous news! I am sure the data will be of enormous value. I spent five years in Sterling, and it is always a volatile area for storms. Will be on the look out for you in the Central Kansas area this week as the storms are intensifying here this week!

    PS Matthew says "Hi" and his photo poster looks great framed up!

  5. Hey Josh - good to see you doing great in the field. -Paul Filmer/NSF

  6. Great job josh. hope you got some great data.

  7. Mr. Joshua Wurman!
    For a long time I’d try to contact You! (About 3 Years) I am George from Russia.
    My information for You is that there is no need to dangerous hunting tornado now. Mystery of tornado is disclosed. And after short period of special research for getting the limited table of some special characteristics of environment before tornado strike, will be possible to prediction tornado for much time before, beforehand tornado will strike. And there will be very good opportunity to find the way to protection colonies as a solid unit. I see this methods in the future. I know how. It is not easy, it is costly, but it is possible. I think, as a real scientist You can not ignore such important message and will respond me. All I said is not joke and it is real. You have to believe me. Too much for Yours country depends from this. I’m waiting for respond.
    Sincerely Yours, George Kourakin.
    P.S. I only repeat my message for Your latest post.

  8. Mr. Wurman!
    It is impossible to understand tornado and supercell by accumulating tons of data. I observe your hard and dangerous work for three years. You have much more than enough information, which is not relation with BASIC nature of tornado and cannot help you to understand nature of tornado. And can’t give you answer to the question you formulate. However you’re hunting for more and more data. You’re now go down in mass of data and will be later there. Nothing will substitute positive scientific idea, which you have not at this time. What is because hard, not impossible, to get answer on your basic questions this way. No one gigantic fleet of DOWs and other powerful instruments will help.
    But real answer is simple and vivid as all genius. And can be easy tested.
    Sincerely yours, George.
    PS Excuse me for open message. Your assistant Li Chang didn’t connect me to you by telephone 3 years ago.

  9. Similar triumph such as in "Twister" movie with Helen Hunt!

  10. George,

    Are you going to reveal your secrets? :) I agree with you, that we probably already enough information. Now we just have to figure out what it means.

    You can find my opinions on what causes tornadoes by Googling "Tornadoes: Thermodynamics and Electromagnetism". It is a very controversial theory that I propose, but nevertheless, I will contend that it (and not continued data collection) is the next step.


  11. Charles!
    Thank you. It’s a first replay my message. I wrote to Mr. Wurman, I wrote to Presidents Bush and Obama and I didn’t get any respond. My discovery is not step forward it’s completely done.
    Now is only one problem – to inform about discovery people in authority – scientists and politician to use discovery for peoples benefit. If you have any way to do it,Charles, you have to make it and help your national. Theory you propose is not step in right direction. My discovery is subject of Nobel prize (as one Russian scientist said me), not for discuss in blogs, excuse me. It is widely based, clear, finished and have no need for controversial. Now is time to roll up sleeves and use this discovery to peoples benefit.
    Sincerely yours, George

  12. Charles!
    Data means result of measurements, not theory you present. I do not think that it is continued data collection.

  13. For more information on the origin and transfer of these electromagnetic forces can be found in a forum:

    Along with daily forecast maps generated with this method till May of 2012 at
    Richard Holle

  14. Great story. Congrats to you all. Real science is awesome.

    Weird comments, though. Might want to edit the babble.

  15. If I were to tell you I found the driving forces behind the Rossby Waves, and a method to view the repeating cyclic pattern that lets you forecast tornadoes, and Hurricanes months in advance, so that your chasing is more productive, as well as giving you the key to longer warning lead time. Just read the links I posted above.
    Richard Holle
    2182 Quail Road
    Concordia, Kansas
    Feel free to contact me if you have questions or could arrange a meeting on your turf.

  16. Mr. Obdicut!
    Real science is not awesome, it is clear and simple to understand!!
    Babble is dr. Wurman’s ridiculous theories on tornado forming by serial changing several flows of air in special directions and schedules such as by some program. Who creates this program. May be Lord Creator? He have no another business! ;-) And it is about supercell only. How and why only quarter of them produces tornados, dr. Wurman admits, he doesn’t know. regardless of spectacular waste of money for research. Real discoveries is matter of individual talent, not of trying of collective of long studied, learned people, who work hard on problem because ambition.

  17. Congrats on that tornado. I am an aspiring meteorology student at penn state and was wondering how much will you find out about tornadoes from just the goshen co. storm?

  18. Pair up with the Myth Busters and deploy a remote controled TIV.

    Great for Ratings!

  19. Hey there in the USA!
    Are you all deaf at all?! About 4 years along i'm screaming to all, that mystery of tornado is disclosed at all. From Prezident to researcers and all of bloggers. Real is now not only early prediction - before hours. Real is protection townships and enterprises as a single units. Level of reaction is zero. Jaron_"Jbreezy", You are "an aspiring meteorology student at penn state". Can you here me and to do ask professors about crazy situation? George

  20. Bill Paxton in movie Twister: “… Jonas got himself corporate sponsors.
    He’s in it for the money, not the science.
    He’s got a lot of high-tech gadgets, but he’s got no instincts…”
    And that time, mystery of Tornado is disclosed enough time ago and he knows it…



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