Symposium on the Challenges of Severe Convective Storms


Future directions in tornado observational research

Joshua Wurman, Center for Severe Weather Research, Boulder, CO; and E. N. Rasmussen

Future Directions in Tornado Observational Research

In order to confirm or disprove conceptual hypotheses and computational simulations relating to the most pressing questions involved in tornadogenesis, tornado structure, and the relationship between tornadic winds and damage, observations of tornadogenesis, tornado structure, and low level winds in tornadoes are required. The challenge of obtaining these observations has inspired radically new technology and methodology.

The VORTEX program in 1994-5 represented a qualitative change in both the method and technology applied to tornado research. For the first time, mobile instrumented vehicles, mobile radars, aircraft, and deployable in situ instrumentation were tasked to observe both tornadoes and their near-environment. Our understanding of tornado evolution and structure increased significantly due to these efforts.

In the decade since VORTEX, technology and techniques have advanced greatly. Several mobile radars with a variety of capabilities have collected data in tornadic storms with resolutions sometimes approaching 10 m. A rapid-scan mobile radar has increased 3D temporal resolution to O[10s]. Dual-mobile-Doppler data sets have revealed the vector wind structure of tornadic storms. Mobile thermodynamic instrumentation and techniques have advanced. More rugged in situ probes have been developed. Major innovations in UAV technology are poised to permit thermodynamic observations above the ground. Communications systems have advanced to where real-time situational awareness displays are feasible permitting semi-autonomous but efficient deployments of many mobile systems in a single tornadic storm. The combination of 2D/3D radar fields with in situ and mobile thermodynamic data has proven to be feasible and valuable.

The future of tornado observations lies in applying these new, varied, and emerging technologies in coordinated fashions to observe both the dynamic and thermodynamic structure of tornadic storms and tornadoes, at better and better spatial and temporal resolution, and in combining these data with constrained computational models that can simulate unobservable features. The VORTEX2 experiment, proposed for 2008-9, calls for an unprecedented concerted deployment of the most valuable technologies in an intensive effort to characterize tornadic storms and tornadoes.


Session 2, Current Understanding of Supercell Tornadoes and Future Research Directions
Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 3:30 PM-5:30 PM, A410

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