The Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast (VORTEX-SE) is a research program designed to understand how environmental factors characteristic of the southeastern United States affect the formation, intensity, structure, and path of tornadoes in this region. VORTEX-SE is also determining the best methods for communicating forecast uncertainty related to these events to the public, and evaluating public response. Previous VORTEX projects were focused on Great Plains events, which by comparison with tornadoes in the southeastern United States, generally form under notably different meteorological conditions, display distinctive tornado climatology (tornadoes in the Southeastern US occur much more frequently at night and in the cool season), and have dissimilar social elements in terms of tornado preparedness, awareness, communications, risk and vulnerability. In fact, the earlier VORTEX projects lacked social science goals related to the communication of tornado warnings and the human response, yet this is recognized as a major need in addressing tornado fatality issues. VORTEX1 and VORTEX2 did not emphasize tornadoes produced by squall lines nor the role of terrain in tornado formation and intensity, both of which are issues believed to be important in the Southeast. Finally, the concept of field operations in VORTEX-SE is dissimilar to that used in previous VORTEX campaigns, which emphasized mobility (including chasing tornadoes), and limited-duration field exercises, whereas a much less mobile but longer-duration observing approach characterizes VORTEX-SE field operations. Thus, in many ways, the VORTEX-SE program represents a new approach to tornado research in general.
Under Congressional mandate, and in coordination with NSF and NASA, NOAA has designed and implemented a plan for VORTEX-SE to produce tangible scientific and technological accomplishments consistent with the level of funding provided for the past two years. We will discuss the project objectives, program management, the roles of the Executive and Scientific Steering Committees, planning and coordination for the 2016 and 2017 field campaigns, the current scientific thrusts as defined by the “Science Roadmap”, and both current and future plans to address current gaps in observing, understanding, prediction, and warning of tornadoes in the southeastern United States.