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Faculty & Students Skirt Tornadoes

Tornado/Lightning“We’re intercepting the storms, not chasing them,” said Markowski. “Half the time we don’t even see the tornadoes (with our own eyes) because we’re looking at the radars.”

Markowski, a Penn State scientist is part of a team of two faculty and seven students that are researching tornadoes this summer.  A grant from the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has allocated around $9 million for this study.  Using real-time statistics from roving vehicles like temperature and humidity, the team is able to examine the delicate conditions in which tornadoes are formed.

According to Penn State Live, the study (Vortex 2) is “the largest effort ever made to understand tornadoes.”  Work by the team in Tornado Alley will occur from May 10th to June 15 during which time the team will amass quite a bit of data.  Data will be collected through a large assortment of mediums including sensor-laden cars and weather balloons.  In order to process all of the data into meaningful research, the team will be utilizing a supercomputer.

The Vortex 2 project is made up of over 100 scientists and crew, with representatives from Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K., Canada and Australia.  The program is trying to answer the follow questions:

– How, when, and why do tornadoes form? Why some are violent and long lasting while others are weak and short lived?

– What is the structure of tornadoes? How strong are the winds near the ground? How exactly do they do damage?

– How can we learn to forecast tornadoes better? Current warnings have an only 13 minute average lead time and a 70% false alarm rate. Can we make warnings more accurate? Can we warn 30, 45, 60 minutes ahead?

You can check out the Vortex 2 Project Page here.

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About the Author

Steve S.

Steve Sharer is a Security and Risk Analysis major and an overall good guy. He brings Onward State readers enticing posts such as "Question of the Day" and "Campus Explorer" and will continue to do so until he becomes the President of the United States of America in 2024.

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