NOAA To Swarm Around Tornadoes This Spring

April 29, 2009

NOAA-supported researchers will be chasing tornadoes around the central US from May 10 to June 13, in an effort to learn more about how tornadoes work, and better predict them and their paths. The effort offers an opportunity to cover the onrushing tornado season up close and personal.

The research project, dubbed VORTEX2 (Verification of Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment2; VORTEX1 was in 1994-1995) will occur in at least 7 states (CO, IA, KS, NE, OK, SD, and TX), with possible spillover into MN, MO, and NM, depending on where the storms go. About 50 researchers will take part, scrambling around in about 40 vehicles. All the vehicles will move around together, following one storm system after another. Researchers hail from some of the states involved, as well as IL, IN, MA, NC, PA, and VT, along with Australia and Canada.

There will be a media event May 8, 10 am-noon, in Norman, OK, during which you can check out the chase vehicles and interview researchers. During the research phase, the initial plan is to provide one media car to carry journalists. Exactly where that vehicle goes will depend in part on the interests of the journalists. The location of the storm chasers should be roughly known a few days in advance, so you can then make quick arrangements to join them. For more information on participating in the field, contact NOAA's Keli Tarp, 405-325-6933, cell 405-203-4839.

There are no current plans to provide a real-time way of following the researchers in the field, via audio or video feeds. However, they do plan to regularly provide text and photos on the VORTEX2 site and on Facebook (search for VORTEX2), and via Twitter. In addition, the Weather Channel likely will be providing extensive coverage.

The second phase of VORTEX2 is tentatively scheduled for May 1-June 15, 2010.

(Photo by Terra Thompson, NOAA NSSL)