Posted at 8:22 AM on June 10, 2009
by Paul Huttner
It only took 5 weeks.
The largest most sophisticated tornado hunting armada in history, which had been skunked for over a month, finally scored a direct hit last Friday. VORTEX2 intercepted a tornadic supercell near La Grange, Wyoming. The tornado was on the ground for 20 minutes. VORTEX2 instruments captured data from about 20 minutes before the tornado formed, through the life cycle of the tornado.
As researcher Josh Wurman blogged, it is believed to be the most data rich tornado in history. An array of mobile dopplers, mesonets and other deployable instruments captured the tornado in great detail.
It was a lucky break for Vortex2 that the tornado formed that day. The project has faced what is arguably one of the quietest tornado seasons in decades. It figures, you put over 10 million bucks and 100 scientists on the road and you get a bust year. Last May and June produced over 750 tornadoes in the USA. This year numbers are less than half that.
VORTEX2 has crossed the plains in search of tornadoes for over 5 weeks now. While Friday's intercept may yield valuable data, there is no doubt in my mind that this has been a disappointing start to the project. The researchers had hoped for many more tornadic encounters.
There is still a slight risk of severe storms in the Southern Plains this week. Let's hope VORTEX2 is there if and when tornadoes touch down.
Posted at 3:34 PM on June 10, 2009
by Paul Huttner
It's nice to see the sun peeking out this afternoon. Enjoy more of the same in the coming days.
I get a lot of questions from listeners about weather. Here are some of the more recent and common questions and a few answers.
Q: How do you read a surface weather map?
A: Check out this station model key.
Q: How do weather balloons work?
A: They are launched twice daily from all over the globe. There are not nearly enough to sample the entire atmosphere. Supplemental data is provided from weather satellites, ship and aircraft reports and the surface observing network.
Q: How do I read radar?
A: Very carefully. There have been a number of instances of inexperienced weather people reporting things on radar that are not there, or are mountains, insects, birds, inversions or some other anomaly. There's a lot you can learn from radar, but I don't read the X-Rays my doctor takes, and I don't recommend relying on the radar observations of amateurs.
The roses in the weather lab garden are ready to bust with a new crop of flowers. It looks like perfect rose weather in the next week. Sweet corn is emerging from the veggie garden. I wonder if it will be "knee high by the 4th of July?"
Enjoy our improving weather picture the rest of the week and into the weekend.