VORTEX 2 ( Tornado Research Project )

National Tornado Experiment to Begin in May

VORTEX2 logo.

VORTEX2 is the largest and most ambitious field experiment in history to explore tornadoes.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

A collaborative nationwide project exploring the origins, structure and evolution of tornadoes will occur from May 10 through June 13 in the central United States. The project, Verification of Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment2 (VORTEX2 or V2), is the largest and most ambitious attempt to study tornadoes in history and will involve more than 50 scientists and 40 research vehicles, including 10 mobile radars.

 “Data collected from V2 will help researchers understand how tornadoes form and how the large-scale environment of thunderstorms is related to tornado formation,” according to Louis Wicker, research meteorologist with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory and V2 co-principal investigator.

Scientists will sample the environment of supercell thunderstorms — violent thunderstorms capable of producing damaging winds, large hail, and tornadoes — that form over more than 900 miles of the central Great Plains. Areas of focus include southern South Dakota, western Iowa, eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, the Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma. The V2 Operations Center will be at the National Weather Center in Norman, Okla.


The VORTEX2 teams will be looking to understand how, when and why tornadoes form. 

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Preliminary results from V2 are scheduled for presentation at Penn State University during fall 2009. At that time, organizers will begin planning details of the second phase of V2 scheduled for May 1- June 15, 2010.

V2 is a $11.9 million program funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation, 10 universities, and three non-profit organizations. 

The original VORTEX program, operated in the central Great Plains during 1994 and 1995, documented the entire life cycle of a tornado for the first time in history. Recent improvements in National Weather Service severe weather warning statistics may be partly due to the application of VORTEX findings. V2 will build on the progress made during VORTEX and further improve tornado warnings and short-term severe weather forecasts.

“An important finding from the original VORTEX experiment was that the factors responsible for causing tornadoes happen on smaller time and space scales than scientists had thought,” said Stephan Nelson, NSF program director for physical and dynamic meteorology. “New advances will allow for a more detailed sampling of a storm’s wind, temperature and moisture environment and lead to a better understanding of why tornadoes form – and how they can be more accurately predicted.” 

Map showing study area.

V2 teams will target potentially tornadic supercell thunderstorms on the Central Plains.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Scientists and students throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia that will work with the V2 program include the Center for Severe Weather Research, Rasmussen Systems, NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, OU/NOAA Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, NSF-sponsored National Centers for Atmospheric Research, Penn State University, University of Oklahoma, Texas Tech University, Lyndon State College, University of Colorado, Purdue University, North Carolina State University, University of Illinois, University of Massachusetts, University of Nebraska, Environment Canada, and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

For a complete list of participating scientists, and to learn more about the experiment, visit the V2 site and the official project Web site.

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $6.06 billion. Its funds reach all 50 states through grants to more than 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

My comments: 

I remember the first Vortex Project, back in 1994 and 1995.  The tornado season in 1994 was a complete bust.  No excellent activity, and left only one more year to gather good data.  Tornado season 1995 was spectacular.  The Texas Panhandle was a hotbed of activity in late May and June of 1995 and produced some pretty notable tornadoes.  I have listed a few below:

June 2nd, 1995  Dimmitt, Texas:

June 8th, 1995 Pampa, TX:

June 8th, 1995  Hoover, Texas:


The tornadoes that I have pictured above, allowed VORTEX to gather a ton of quality information.  They were large, slow moving, and rather violent.  June 8th, 1995 is known in the "chaser community" as WedgeFest, referring to the large wedge shaped tornadoes that plagued the Texas Panhandle on that day.  Impressive to say the least...

Will VORTEX 2 be successful?  That is left to seen.  We have not seen as many tornadoes this year, as compared to the last two years.  The fact that La Nina or El Nino will likely not influence this season, may or may not have an impact.  We have been pretty cool through April, and this has limited tornado development in the Plains.  However, May is right around the corner and May is the most active tornado month.  See the graph below:

It will be interesting to see what happens...

Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by MarisolDurham28 Location: http://www.lowest-rate-loans.com on Jun 20, 2010 at 06:11 PM
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  • by George Location: Russia on Dec 27, 2009 at 02:14 PM
    Look - 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 in that time, mystery of Tornado is disclosed enough time ago and he knows it…
  • by Brian Mead Location: Davenport Iowa on Nov 2, 2009 at 05:01 PM
    Not really sure how to contact anyone with my theory, but i may have something that will turn the research upside down as to why some storms produce, and some do not. If interested, please contact me. I am a patent holder, so my research and insight is real. thanks, Brian.
  • by Rick Location: Enid, OK. on May 14, 2009 at 01:40 PM
    You go y'all; being from Ca. I would take a earthquake over a tornado any day.Be carefull and Thank You
  • by Brian Location: Weather Center on May 3, 2009 at 07:11 PM
    The Weather Channel will be travelling with the Vortex 2 entourage this Spring. I believe Mike Bettes will be logging the miles for them. Bottomline...if we have an active Spring in the Plains, there will be a huge number of chasers chasing on any given day. As Tim said, let's hope everyone chases safely as the odds of someone getting hurt this year will be higher than usual. Why you ask? Due to the increased number of chasers that will be chasing this season. Lots of hype going into the season...
  • by Josh Location: 80921 on May 1, 2009 at 11:23 PM
    Hey thanks Brian and Tim, Ill look into the information. I hope we have active season this year! thanks for everything
  • by Tim Location: Colorado Springs on May 1, 2009 at 08:42 PM
    I got off on a bit of a tangent on the last post :) As for VORTEX 2...I'm interested to see the outcome of this massive project. The more data they can pull from the field, the more we can try to understand the mysteries of the genesis of tornadoes. I sincerely hope the sheer number of resources deployed can operate in as safe a manner as possible, especially given the hords of other chasers and locals flocking to storms on the plains. The logistics of it all is amazing. I believe VORTEX2 even has a UAV or two they are authorized to deploy in airspace over northeastern Colorado...that will be an interesting chase vehicle :)
  • by Tim Location: Colorado Springs on May 1, 2009 at 08:37 PM
    I started chasing while attending college in western Kansas, and have continued while living in Michigan, back to KS, and now in Colorado. Brian makes two great points.....educate yourself and keep yourself safe! The internet has made it very easy to access resources to learn a great deal about severe weather, forecasting it, and how to chase safely. Be aware, much of the video and photos you see on sites like tornadovideos.net are shot by folks who have spent a lot of time in the field, and what you don't see are the endless miles and "busts" they've encountered. That's not to say you can't see some AMAZING sights and sounds while watching the weather. Some of my favorite resources include www.stormtrack.org, the College of Dupage meteorology site, the Storm Prediction Center, and of course basic Skywarn training from the NWS is a great place to start learning the basics of storm structure. All in all, be safe, and enjoy one of the best shows Mother Nature provides!
  • by Mark Location: Colorado Springs on Apr 30, 2009 at 09:18 PM
    Maybe we will see some rotation out east this summer, you never know here in Colorado. I can't wait.
  • by Brian Bledsoe Location: Weather Center on Apr 30, 2009 at 07:02 PM
    Josh, you don't really need to do much to be a chaser. However, it does pay to have a good working knowledge of severe weather. That way, you can forecast a good target area ( so you don't waste time ), know what you are looking at, and you can stay out of harms way. Lots of stuff online about chasing and chasers. One of my favorite sites is TornadoVideos.net. Check it out...
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