Ask Weather Dan: International weather and VORTEX2

Not only do I have a reader question this week, I’ve got information on one of the most ambitious weather research projects in recent history, VORTEX2.

Not only do I have a reader question this week, I’ve got information on one of the most ambitious weather research projects in recent history, VORTEX2.

First, Rebecca writes:

I’m going to Spain in May. What’s the best way to find out about the weather in other countries?

There a handful of sources that do international weather. I haven’t checked any of these for accuracy, so your mileage may vary. A couple of the big players, namely and AccuWeather, provide international forecast information. One of my favorite reference sites is Weather Underground, who provides forecast and satellite information for international locations. It also provides personal weather station information for local sites, very much like it does in the United States. Lonely Planet has some great information about the climatology of Spain (and other countries), and gives you a good overview of what to expect in terms of general weather patterns depending on the time of year you’re visiting.

Most other governments have an organization or bureau similar to the National Weather Service. In Spain, it’s called AEMET; in the United Kingdom it’s the Met Office; in Australia, it’s the creatively-named Bureau of Meteorology. If you’re not going to one of these places, I recommend entering the phrase ” weather service” into your search engine of choice. If you’re traveling to a country where English is not the primary language, often times these organizations will publish their sites in multiple languages, but it’s not a guarantee. The advantage to choosing a national weather bureau is that you’re getting the information from people who are familiar with forecasting in the region and understand some of the meteorological nuances that other commercial services may not.

Have fun in Spain!

VORTEX2 kicks off

This past weekend marked the beginning of the second field research phase of the VORTEX2 project. VORTEX2, which is the second Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment, is a joint research project sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

The project’s goal is to understand how and why tornadoes form and to better grasp the mechanics of tornadoes, so that meteorologists can better forecast tornadoes with a greater lead time, allowing people to take more time to protect life and property.

How do they do this? By taking more than 100 scientists and 40 vehicles, and in a very finely choreographed dance, surround and record measurements from all sides of a tornado through its entire life cycle, from formation to dissipation. The first field phase of VORTEX2 took place in last May and June, where they were able to successfully surround and document an entire tornado in La Grange, Goshen County, Wyoming.
This is footage of that tornado, taken by one of the probe teams. In the video, you’ll hear radio traffic talking about probe teams and pods. The probe teams drive out in front of the developing storm and place pods, which are essentially local instrument packages that record meteorological data once activated. The goal is to place the pods in the path of the tornado and hope that the tornado passes over them, capturing vital data about the winds of the tornado where it meets the ground. The radio also mentions the DOW, which is short for Doppler on Wheels. It’s simply that – a Doppler radar unit mounted on the back of a truck. United States fixed Doppler radar coverage is relatively sparse, so having the mobile Doppler units allows the VORTEX2 researchers to deploy radar units close to a storm and accurate radar information about all layers of the storm.

The data that the pods and DOW units gather are augmented by other methods, including mobile mesonets (auto-mounted weather stations), sticknets (tripod-mounted instrument packages, deployed similarly to pods but not necessarily in the storm’s path), and upper air information gathered by instrument packages attached to weather balloons.

If you’re interested in reading more about VORTEX2, and especially in updates from the field, here are a few great sources. The Weather Channel will be embedded with the project and broadcasting updates from the field. I also suggest checking out the following:

National Severe Storms Laboratory VORTEX2 site

* @TORNADOHUNT – Embedded coverage from The Weather Channel
* @vortex2nssl – National Severe Storms Laboratory
* @vortex2ttu – Texas Tech University
* @VORTEX2NCSU – North Carolina State University
* @MetNightOwl – Mallie Toth, Purdue University
* @tonyreinhart – Tony Reinhart, Texas Tech University
* @ceetkewicz – Casey Letkewicz, North Carolina State University

* Adam French – North Carolina State University
* Casey Burleyson – North Carolina State University
* Casey Letkewicz – North Carolina State University
* Karen Kosiba – Center for Severe Weather Research
* Mallie Toth – Purdue University
* Matthew Rydzik – Pennsylvania State University/University of Wisconsin
* North Carolina State University team

This is by no means an exhaustive list; if you have other links to share, please add them in the comments. I’ll provide updates for the six weeks they’re in the field. Here’s to a safe and successful second round of VORTEX2!

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Weather Dan

Dan Goff is now a two-time former Richmonder, having departed the River City yet again in favor of southwest Virginia, where he is working on degrees in geography and meteorology at Virginia Tech. Have a question about the weather or weather-related phenomena?

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