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Largest High-Tech Tornado Chase Set To Begin

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the just-a-big-blowhard dept.

Toys 112

coondoggie writes "Next month, with the help of a variety of high-tech gear, researchers will begin a wide-ranging project to better understand the origin, structure and evolution of tornadoes. The National Science Foundation has given $9.1 million to the project called Vortex2 (of course it has a convoluted backronym), which will take place from May 10-June 13. Researchers say Vortex2 is the largest attempt in history to study tornadoes, and will involve more than 50 scientists, 40 research vehicles, and 10 mobile radars, and will cover 900 square miles in southern South Dakota, western Iowa, eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, the Texas panhandle, and western Oklahoma."

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Dorthy? (4, Funny)

flipper9 (109877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493785)

Will this be the Dorthy I or the Dorthy II?

Re:Dorthy? (0)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493955)

It's "Dorothy", dammit! Aside from the obligatory Wizard of Oz reference, what the hell are you talking about?

Re:Dorthy? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27493985)

old movie reference, "Twister", to a device used to study a tornado.

Re:Dorthy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27495659)

old?

Get the hell of my lawn, youngster!

Re:Dorthy? (4, Informative)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494039)

Dorthy was the name of the contraption that they wanted to get up into the tornato in the movie "Twister". It looked like the cylinder shaped Coke Ice-coolers that you can find near the cash register, except it was all silver colored, and filled with many small cubes (or spheres, can't recall) that would transmit data when the whole thing got picked up and started swirling around...

Re:Dorthy? (3, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494199)

They should have made it cow shaped. In the movie, the cows had no problem getting picked up by tornados.

Re:Dorthy? (1)

polymeris (902231) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495893)

Consider a spherical isotropic homogeneous cow... it would have quite low drag coefficient.

Re:Dorthy? (2, Interesting)

Sonri (900181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494545)

Actually, the real thing was called TOTO, TOtable Tornado Observatory. They apparently didn't work (they couldn't position it properly, the best try just blew it over instead of picking it up) and were retired in 1987, according to Wikipedia. It was, however, named after the little dog.

Re:Dorthy? (1)

projektdotnet (1061236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494951)

Dorothy was a bunch of spheres whereas Dr miller's team had the cubes in their version of dorothy....but I digress.

Re:Dorthy? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27494109)

Who the fuck are you talking to you argumentative odious little turd?

listen smartass, try watching more movies or shut the fuck up

Re:Dorthy? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27493993)

This post is dedicated to all the black, gay men who made this very post possible.

Thank you.

Re:Dorthy? (0, Offtopic)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494221)

More importantly, does this mean Van Halen [wikipedia.org] is getting back together?

Re:Dorthy? (1)

clam666 (1178429) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495057)

I appreciate any waste of time and money to study and find out about things like this.

I'm not a jacked-up-storm-chasin'-girl gettin'-scientist, but I'd think when it comes to tornados, a few things would be relevant to the average person, and the rest not very relevant. Among the relevant:

  1. Stay away from them because...
  2. ...You can't do anything about them.
  3. Everyone who lives in tornado alley has known for a long time what to do when a twister is-a-comin'

Among the not so relevant things

  1. Mean, median, standard deviation, etc. regarding wind speed, temperature, moisture, pressure, etc.
  2. As interesting as those few variables are you still can't do anything about it, nor can you predict at all what will happen, where it will go, etc.

Of course, I'm a neo-luddite, so what do I know.

Change! (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495537)

You're a new luddite? Don't you know how dangerous those are?

Re:Dorthy? (5, Informative)

Rock Chalk Jayhawk (1443729) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495883)

Right now, tornado (and severe thunderstorm) warnings are issued when one of two things happens:

1) A tornado or a funnel cloud is spotted
2) Doppler radar indicates strong rotation and the forecaster believes a tornado is possible or likely

It's always better to detect the tornado vortex signature on radar before a tornado actually develops. There is some lead time, should a tornado actually develop, and people have time to take cover. But the bottom line is that we still warn based on observations, not on a forecast.

A fundamental reason for conducting VORTEX2 is to investigate tornado formation to understand why some supercell thunderstorms are tornadic while others are not. One reason that has been suggested is that warmer rear flank downdrafts are more favorable than colder rear flank downdrafts for tornadogenesis. Physical reasons for this have been proposed, but at this time it still remains untested.

It is hoped that by investigating the storm environment, there will be a better understanding of why some supercell thunderstorms are tornadic while others are not. If the properties of the rear flank downdraft influence the tornado potential, those observations of wind speed, temperature, moisture, and pressure are important. The purpose of understanding why some supercells are tornadic while others are not isn't just for meteorologists to publish papers in journals and get NSF funding. The purpose is to better understand tornado formation in hopes that in the future, tornado warnings are based on forecast tornado potential instead of observing the rotation. If forecasters can predict when tornadic rotation will develop in storms, it will increase the lead time on warnings. It will give people valuable time to alert others of approaching dangerous weather and to take cover.

Re:Dorthy? (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27498163)

I'm not a jacked-up-storm-chasin'-girl gettin'-scientist, but I'd think when it comes to tornados, a few things would be relevant to the average person,

You must be one of those overweight, poorly socialized, lives in his parents' basement type scientists. Then again, it's highly unlike you're a scientist, as you're also posting on slashdot.

What, no discovery special? (1)

ryanguill (988659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493801)

If I wasn't a webdev I think I really would have enjoyed being a storm chaser. Here's hoping they get the interceptions they are after and safe travels all season.

Re:What, no discovery special? (2, Funny)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494041)

You're saying you enjoy being a webdev? Wow

Watch out for (5, Funny)

quangdog (1002624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493805)

The flying cows!

Re:Watch out for (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#27497007)

AIR COW!

Some... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27493809)

...say they those scientists will suck, other say they are just full of air, and yet, this will spin into awesomeness when we finally get to know what is going on inside a tornado and such. Just please don't tell me they are going to get M. Night to work with them, it would definitely be a twist.

Re:Some... (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27498187)

...say they those scientists will suck, other say they are just full of air, and yet, this will spin into awesomeness when we finally get to know what is going on inside a tornado and such. Just please don't tell me they are going to get M. Night to work with them, it would definitely be a twist.

Bravo. That's impressive. What a twist!

We have a cow (2, Funny)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493813)

We've got two cows!

Re:We have a cow (1)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495119)

Actually I think that's the same cow...

Tornado evolution??? (1)

Roadkills-R-Us (122219) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493825)

What do they evolve into? You can just rock me to sleep tonight!

So long as... (2, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493893)

yelling guy [youtube.com] isn't involved, I'll be happy.

$9.1M to teach us... (4, Funny)

sureshot007 (1406703) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493913)

that tornadoes are attracted to mobile homes?

Re:$9.1M to teach us... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494247)

I think it's more to do with if you're dumb enough to live in tornado alley, you're probably too dumb to get a good enough job to afford more than a mobile home.

Re:$9.1M to teach us... (4, Funny)

yodleboy (982200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494501)

"if you're dumb enough to live in tornado alley"

so what you're implying is we should just depopulate large areas of the country because of the risk of a natural/weather disaster? while we're at it let's get everyone off the west coast (earthquakes), hawaii (volcanic eruption), the east coast and gulf (hurricanes), the north and north east (blizzards). looks like the entire country is filled with idiots...

at that point we're either mexican or canadian, pick one.

Re:$9.1M to teach us... (2, Funny)

geobeck (924637) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495035)

looks like the entire country is filled with idiots...

I didn't bother reading the rest of your comment, but that should be modded either +1 Insightful or -1 Obvious. ;)

Re:$9.1M to teach us... (0, Redundant)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494565)

I do not live in Tornado Alley, but I'd like to know where in the world one can live without fear of some natural disaster. In my area it is range fires, earthquakes, and blizzards. Others have hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and landslides. Just curious where the people who aren't "too dumb" live that doesn't have some malady.

Re:$9.1M to teach us... (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494991)

Lets see...

Fires (Rare and nothing too serious)
Earthquakes (No)
Blizzards (Never)
Hurricanes (No)
Volcanoes (No)
Tsunamis (No)
Landslides (Not often, and rare in poulated areas)
Drought (yeah, but good management can deal with that)
Floods (Nothing serious)

Does this count? [wikipedia.org]
If not, welcome to paradise...

Re:$9.1M to teach us... (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27498037)

  Or perhaps that fragile structures are more vulnerable to tornadoes?

SB

You took her (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27493921)

.. you damned thieft.

That slight t sound ruined it all for me.

Watch for landspouts too (4, Interesting)

Fastball (91927) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493929)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN2_czSBSD0&NR=1

Watch it all the way through. From 2:10 to the end is breathtaking.

Re:Watch for landspouts too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27495073)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyKB_LjdHlg

The Cow is OK!!

Re:Watch for landspouts too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27495777)

That's not actually a tornado. It's just a dust devil, albeit a large one.

Re:Watch for landspouts too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27499845)

First "dust devil" if seen that reaches into rotating clouds above it. Dust devils don't need a storm to form, we used to chase them across a dusty outback schoolyard and throw paper into them when I was a kid.

TIV (4, Interesting)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493951)

Unless the Tornado Intercept Vehicle is part of the team, it's just a bunch of pansies chasing wind.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_Intercept_Vehicle [wikipedia.org]

Re:TIV (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494299)

Wow, what a big pile of shit. The second edition is extra-retarded, they actually convered a 4x4 to a 6x6 instead of just buying one of the many 6x6s available all over the country. The idea is cool, the implementation is stupid.

Haha (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493961)

Incoming!! Scientists, incoming!!

Re:Haha (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494017)

That's no cow! It's them nerds!!

Kansas? (1)

Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493963)

This is just scientists trying to figure out how to get to the land of Oz.

Re:Kansas? (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494011)

We must not have an Oz gap!

Which will be the first research vehicle (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493969)

to report that it doesn't think it's in Kansas any more?

can't be as cool as this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27493987)

Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling

http://www.amazon.com/Heavy-Weather-Bruce-Sterling/dp/055357292X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239131652&sr=8-4

Am I the only one... (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 5 years ago | (#27493997)

... who read that as a "high-tech tomato chase"?!

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494043)

Yeah.

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494099)

Yes.

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

ID000001 (753578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494469)

no I read it as tomato for a moment too...

900 square miles? (1)

akgooseman (632715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494083)

Over that many states? Not much coverage considering that area is a square only thirty miles on edge. That's smaller than most counties.

Re:900 square miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27494141)

It's not one square area. Multiple areas will be studied, with the sum of those areas being 900 square miles.

Re:900 square miles? (5, Informative)

Rock Chalk Jayhawk (1443729) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494295)

The primary domain of VORTEX2 includes much of several states, and the 900 square miles is clearly a typo. Also, VORTEX2 isn't limited to that domain. If there's tornadic thunderstorms outside of the domain and no good setups within the domain, VORTEX2 could deploy outside of the domain. The primary considerations were the road networks and the lack of trees making observations easier. Areas such as the sandhills of Nebraska are outside of the domain and the road network is limited, but if that's the only thing to chase on the Plains, VORTEX could deploy there. The preferred domain is in western Oklahoma because of the observations available (CASA radars, the OK Mesonet, etc...). But VORTEX2 isn't limited to that region.

Re:900 square miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27495643)

If you look at the NSF article (http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=114491&org=NSF&from=news) it states 900 miles - not square miles.

Re:900 square miles? (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27498193)

  Did the advances in radar technology make the idea of multiple sensor observation obsolete?

  I suspect both would be valuable.

But...

  Interjecting knowledgeable, well thought out commentary into a discussion on slashdot?

  You must be new here ;)

  Thanks, bro.

SB

Tornado Evolution (4, Informative)

Rock Chalk Jayhawk (1443729) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494163)

The purpose of VORTEX2, as some comments have questioned, is to test some theories about the evolution of tornadoes in thunderstorms and why some supercells produce tornadoes while others do not. In a very simplistic explanation of what's going on, vorticity about a horizontal axis is tilted to where vortex lines intersect the ground, thus tilting the rotation into the vertical and transferring the rotation to the surface. Part of the tilting is done by the rear flank downdraft, and part of the tilting is done by the updraft. However, if the rear flank downdraft is too cold, the updraft cannot lift the air in the downdraft too much, and the rotation isn't tilted into the vertical. Present theories suggest that warmer rear flank downdrafts favor tornadogenesis. Here's a link [psu.edu] to a presentation by Dr. Markowski of Penn State about the current theory regarding tornadogenesis. VORTEX2 is an attempt to gather high resolution data sets for many supercells to test the current theory. Obviously there's much more to VORTEX2, including the testing of unmanned aircraft in storm environments. But one major objective is to test the current theory regarding tornadogenesis.

Use a tank (4, Funny)

hedleyroos (817147) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494177)

Why don't they just study tornados by driving straight into one with an Abrams or Challenger tank? All the armor research has already been done for the storm chasers. Plus you'll probably get thermal imaging as a freebie.

Re:Use a tank (2, Interesting)

tha_toadman (1266560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494375)

They do have a vehicle for that. It's called the TIV or Tornado Intercept Vehicle. I live in the Midwest (one of the states mentioned above) and we heard (and saw) that the TIV was passing by last May when a F2 tornado tore through city. If your curious, the vehicle is featured on a show called Storm Chasers on Discovery. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_Intercept_Vehicle [wikipedia.org]

Re:Use a tank (3, Funny)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494651)

They do have a vehicle for that. It's called the TIV or Tornado Intercept Vehicle. I live in the Midwest (one of the states mentioned above) and we heard (and saw) that the TIV was passing by last May when a F2 tornado tore through city. If your curious, the vehicle is featured on a show called Storm Chasers on Discovery. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_Intercept_Vehicle [wikipedia.org]

Yeah, but, can you SHOOT the tornado? I don't think so!

Re:Use a tank (1)

tha_toadman (1266560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494905)

Wow...you obviously haven't seen Storm Chasers then. They shot footage in our city with an IMAX camera. Go watch the show.

Re:Use a tank (2, Informative)

Rock Chalk Jayhawk (1443729) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494687)

As another comment has pointed out, the TIV is exactly such a vehicle. The purpose of the vehicle is to attempt to get good observations of near-surface winds in a tornadic vortex. Mobile radars have done a good job of measuring winds at heights of 75 or 100 meters above the surface. But the question is how strong are the winds near the surface where they actually have the potential to do damage.

In addition to the TIV and the DOW (Doppler On Wheels), pods with instruments are also deployed to take observations.

I'm not aware that the TIV will be involved in VORTEX2. However, there will be plenty of mobile radars, including Josh Wurman's DOWs. The pods will also be deployed.

Texas Tech has developed instruments that are referred to as the sticknet, also for taking observations. These are designed to withstand strong winds and remain fastened into the ground.

Another new technology that will be used during some events in VORTEX2 is unmanned aircraft systems. VORTEX2 is one opportunity to demonstrate the usefulness of unmanned aircraft systems in taking observations. And one goal is to get an unmanned aircraft into the rear flank downdraft of a supercell. That's not in the tornado, but it's pretty close.

Re:Use a tank (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494963)

Why don't they just study tornados by driving straight into one with an Abrams or Challenger tank?

because that would be 80% of their budget spent on a single vehicle?

Network World (1)

qpawn (1507885) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494179)

They really know how to spin a story.

Seismometers? (2, Interesting)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494195)

Seismometers just seems a cool way of detecting and confirming tornadoes. http://www.columbusdispatch.com/live/contentbe/dispatch/2006/03/28/20060328-C4-00.html [columbusdispatch.com]

BTW, the Blue Ash tornado they mention actually woke me up. I remember hearing a train-like sound and thinking "I hope that's not a tornado. I don't want to sleep in the bathtub." Turns out the sucker must have been descending as it went over me. Touched down about a mile away, but the path points right back to where I lived.

I was going to say I didn't understand (2, Funny)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494239)

why they need high-tech to study tomatoes when anyone can make a passable BLT. Then I read it again. I do need new glasses.

Re:I was going to say I didn't understand (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494973)

"...n anyone can make a passable BLT"

no, most people can't. Usually the toast is toasted to the consistence of a cracker, the bacon shatters when you try to bit t, and the tomatoes a slimy.

I've pretty much given up on ordering one.

Hardcore Tornado Pr0n! (2, Interesting)

saudadelinux (574392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494327)

I'm all for subtle instruments delicately probing the deepest tornadic secrets; there is much to be learned. But dammit, I want hardcore tornado pr0n! I want the money shots from INSIDE a big, nasty, mile-wide wedge twister! I want on good video, what Will Keller described when he was caught in one. Thermodynamic and microphysical data are great, but GIVE US THE PR0N!!! :D

Re:Hardcore Tornado Pr0n! (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495583)

Mmmm Manchester tornado... [youtube.com]

Is now a good time to mention that I am chasing starting next week with a bunch of veteran chasers armed with SLR and HD cameras?

Re:Hardcore Tornado Pr0n! (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495661)

Oblig XKCD:
http://xkcd.com/305/ [xkcd.com]

$9.1 Million Budget? (1)

EEPS (829675) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494347)

I think the movie twister had a larger budget than this.

Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (3, Informative)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494417)

Tornado 101 for those who are curious, since this always comes up if I travel overseas.

1. Are tornadoes really that dangerous?
Yes that can be very dangerous, capable of rendering concrete building to rubble in seconds. They can rip interstate freeways out of the ground and have been recorded of 1.5 km in size (the small fast moving ones are arguably more dangerous). However they tend to very erratic, they can destroy one house, leave the next door house intact and destroy the one after that. By and large they don't kill huge numbers of people, but they do a lot of damage.

2. Why don't people live away from where tornadoes exist?
Because tornado alley is quite large, much bigger in size than the UK, arguably around Germany in size or larger (depending on how you measure tornado alley). Since your chance of encountering a tornado at your home in any given year is pretty small, people tend to view them about like they do the chances of being struck by lightning. Why abandon the midsection of the country on an oddball chance?

3. Are tornadoes all that dangerous?
Nope, most are small in size and many never even touch down. It's a rare tornado that destroys entire towns.

4. Can they occur at night?
Yup, they definitely can occur at night, (I've encountered one at night and it was pretty freaky).

I'm not a meteorologist or anything, I've just lived through a few and know these questions seem to pop up...

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

Rock Chalk Jayhawk (1443729) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494455)

One correction about #3... The circulation must be present both at the base of the cloud and at the surface. In other words, if it doesn't touch down, it's just a funnel cloud. In order to be a tornado, it must actually touch down. And regarding #2... The population in the Great Plains tends to be relatively sparse compared to other regions of the country. So, people do tend to live in areas where tornadoes are less frequent.

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494697)

Yes you can live away from tornadoes - even in tornado alley. Just don't live in a trailer park. You know that's where the tornado is headed.

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494735)

Adding to #2, tornadoes happen everywhere. They're most common in "tornado alley", but happen quite often in the southeast, too, and also happen up the east coast and in other areas. They're also often spawned by hurricanes when they come ashore...

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494839)

re: 2. Why don't people live away from where tornadoes exist?

Tornadoes can occur anywhere on the globe. They occur in NY, PA, and New England every year.The ones we get are usually much smaller and do not cause as much damage but have caused significant property damage. My parents' property has been hit a couple of times. One tornado just tore off the tops of a couple of trees, and the other just ripped the foliage off of a swath of trees in the woods, crossed the river next door and caused over a quarter of a million dollars damage to our neighbor's property, uprooting many old-growth trees, damaging cars and the roof of the house. They were very, very small tornadoes (may have even just been "down drafts" which up close resembled funnel clouds) and I do not envy anyone who has suffered losses from "real" tornadoes in the midwest. The ones that hit here are just dust devils by comparison. Large dust devils, and unlikely to ever occur again, IMHO.

Even the larger ones that hit the New England region are very small, maybe a couple hundred feet in diameter, and they dissipate very quickly.

I've gone to see the damage local tornadoes have caused and it was impressive to see a path of trees cleared out in the forest on either side of the road, but still, those were small storms.

Oddly enough, we lived miles away from any trailer parks, so I'm mystified as to why tornadoes could even exist in the area. ;)

Why do people live in regions where tornadoes can hit? They can occur ANYWHERE on the planet. The population density is so low out in the plains (ever fly across America? If not, fire up google earth and explore that way, although it just doesn't have the same impact) that it's unlikely that any given point will get hit by a tornado in your lifetime. You probably have a higher chance of hitting the lottery twice than having your home wiped out by a tornado.

Now, granted, in some cases there may be specific geographical features which make tornadoes particularly likely in a given point, just like being in a valley between two hills or mountain ranges can drive weather to extremes, but in most cases you'd be unlikely to experience a tornado.

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495499)

5. Do tornadoes have an affinity to certain landscape features?
Yes. They are attracted to trailer parks.

Seriously though, I cannot think of a worse structure to put in tornado alley! They are shee metal and/or vinyl and offer no protection. (That being said, 2x4s can be forced through a refrigerator and cinderblock walls, but theya re still better protection because cinderblocks won't collapse.

The best structure is a geodesic dome. There are no walls for the wind to force upon. You see, the first part of building collapse is the roof lifts off. This is what keeps the structure rigid. Once that goes, the force on the vertical walls collapses them and you wind up with catastrophic structural failure.

Whereas with a dome, the wind cannot exert as much force because it flows around the structure, not into it.

Please someone invent a mobile dome.
 

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27497505)

Bah. I'll take a bunker, thankyouverymuch. Now if only I could convince the wife to let me build one...

Think about it: protection from storms and high wind, won't burn down, harder to break into, better insulated, and less disruptive to the local landscape after construction. What's not to like, besides the fact that you can't build one close to sea level?

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27498373)

Someone will park a trailer on it.

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27498655)

Whereas with a dome, the wind cannot exert as much force because it flows around the structure, not into it.

On the lee side of a dome there will still be a big vacuum. You need a teardrop shape to get rid of that vacuum, which is why every type of bird, fish (and man-made counterparts, airplanes and submarines) are basically composed of tear drop cross sections - to minimize drag. You could make a really flat dome such that it was sufficiently teardropped in all directions, but it's not really what we think of as a dome. May as well just build a bunker and be done with it, as another poster suggests.

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27498883)

Actually, since you can't choose the direction of the wind, and the wind constantly changes direction, the teardrop is out of the question.

The weather probes that they lay in the path are dome shaped and require no additional securing. The winds actually create downforce which holds the probes in place.

And I already mentioned one problem with a bunker. Another is that crap can land on top and you're trapped forever.

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 5 years ago | (#27496265)

5. During what season do they show up?
They happen any season, though the highest frequency is during the summer months they have been known to happen even in wintertime, and in those cases are even more dangerous (trying to find a grayish-white funnel with grayish-white clouds and white snow covered ground while snowing is extremely difficult). Basically any combining of cold dry air with warm humid air has a potential for creating tornados and funnel-clouds. In winter, such combinations are often what bring on your basic snow storms.

I don't have any personal experience with winter tornados but I have a few friends who volunteer as tornado spotters and have had several dealings with winter tornados over the years.

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

VoiceOfSanity (716713) | more than 5 years ago | (#27497753)

They happen any season, though the highest frequency is during the summer months they have been known to happen even in wintertime, and in those cases are even more dangerous (trying to find a grayish-white funnel with grayish-white clouds and white snow covered ground while snowing is extremely difficult). Basically any combining of cold dry air with warm humid air has a potential for creating tornados and funnel-clouds. In winter, such combinations are often what bring on your basic snow storms.

In the south, winter is the most dangerous time when it comes to tornadoes. For example, just from February, 2008, there were 12 killer tornadoes with 59 fatalities. Snow had nothing to do with it, there were your average supercell thunderstorms combined with warm, humid air from the Gulf mixing to create a dangerous situation.

Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (1)

VoiceOfSanity (716713) | more than 5 years ago | (#27497697)

A few additional comments from someone who has lived in both Tornado Alley and Hurricane Central (aka the Gulf Coast):

1. Are tornadoes really that dangerous? Yes that can be very dangerous, capable of rendering concrete building to rubble in seconds.

Even an EF0 tornado (which is viewed as incredibly weak) can do substantial damage to small buildings, mobile homes, and vehicles.

However they tend to very erratic, they can destroy one house, leave the next door house intact and destroy the one after that.

Part of that is due to the tornado having multiple vortices, where you can have a weak vortex and inside is a much stronger vortex. See Xenia, Ohio, 1974 for an explanation.

2. Why don't people live away from where tornadoes exist?

The United States just happens to have the exact sort of geographic and weather patterns that are very conducive for tornadoes to spawn. Again, see April, 1974 for an extreme (but surprisingly common) example of a tornado outbreak.

3. Are tornadoes all that dangerous?

All tornadoes have the potential of being dangerous. Even if it's in open farmland, or a forest area, a tornado still can cause damage, and even death. (See Iowa, June 2008 and the death of 4 at a Boy Scout Camp)

4. Can they occur at night?

While tornadoes can occur at any hour of the day, there are two general periods of time when tornadoes are more likely. For what is called Tornado Alley (Texas through the Dakotas) the most likely time is in the afternoon hours into the early evening. But for what might be called Dixie Alley (which is the southestern US) the most likely times are from 10pm to 5am in the mornings.

I'm not a meteorologist, but I did for a few years study meteorology with an intent to go into the career field.

Fuck Ax fucker (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27494461)

World. GNNA Members my resignation

They can chase it, but they won't catch it . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494479)

. . . I hate to disappoint them. This demonstrates geekdom at its best: doing something dangerous just to get at the bottom of natural phenomena amd understand it. It reminds me of Benjamin Franklin's kite in the thunderstorm.

Welp, these youngen's with their high tech gadgets may chase down a Texas-sized tornado, but they won't be lassoing it up and hauling it back to the ranch.

Kansas Storm Chasing (2, Informative)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494497)

I certainly hope to run into these fine people on the highway. Too bad they probably are going to stay really far west. I'm equipped with 40 mile radar, satellite weather imagery, and a very fast station wagon it all goes in.

Ob. Twister reference (1)

Mr. Firewall (578517) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494769)

Researchers say Vortex2 is the largest attempt in history to study tornadoes, and will involve more than 50 scientists, 40 research vehicles....

...all of which are Dodge Ram pickup trucks, I presume?

What makes a tornado... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27494863)

A tornado exists because even though hot air rises, hot air at near 100% humidity is heavier than the cold air above it.

People that witness tornadoes say it gets real muggy just before the tornado hits. That is the colder less heavy air above the hot air compressing the hot air.

A tipping point happens and the at 100% humidity, the water is squeezed out and it rains.

Without the water in the air, the hot air now becomes lighter than the cold air above and now have to switch places.

As the now colder heavier air sinks through, the warmer air rises up on the outside.

That is why you always see trash picked up from around the outside.

In other news (1)

pha3r0 (1210530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494873)

May set to see the lowest number of weather phenomena in 100 years. Researchers aren't scared.

THe only think that blows qorse then this story (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27494913)

is arriving late after all the puns have been said.

Research is great and everything, but... (1)

shock1970 (1216162) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495075)

until they know enough to make tornados into thrill rides, it's of no interest to me, IMHO.

Re:Research is great and everything, but... (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495605)

Oh, it's a thrill ride. Get on a big storm, and it is hours of adrenalin high. It's also like dancing with electricity. If you don't do things right, it can really hammer your ass. In the early '80s I was able to go out with people from the Severe Storms Lab, and I know of one incident where an individual, who thought all you needed was a fast car, was killed trying to chase the same storm we were on.

Why chase? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495175)

Design your instrument packages to look like mobile homes and let the tornadoes come to you.

Be Careful (1)

castorvx (1424163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495187)

Gotta watch out for the bad guy tornado chasers in the black SUVs.

Better link (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 5 years ago | (#27495841)

Here's a better link [noaa.gov] to what's going on and what instruments are being used. A media day will be held May 8th at the National Weather Center in Norman, Okla. Interested media will have the opportunity to tour VORTEX2 research vehicles and interview VORTEX2 researchers and teams. I worked for about two years at NSSL. I was never a storm chaser, I just help design and build the instrumentation. It was a real hoot - one of the best jobs I've ever had!

Damn (1)

PingXao (153057) | more than 5 years ago | (#27497791)

I thought it meant vxWorks had joined the stimulus software giveaway. Their development environment and cross-compiler suite is called, "Tornado". Too bad.

Storm chasers on Discovery. (1)

Deathlizard (115856) | more than 5 years ago | (#27498211)

As long as this funding gives me a more interesting Storm Chasers [discovery.com] Season, then I'm sold.

Although I wish the show would focus a little more on the science rather than which team member this week is pissed off at Dr. Wurman. [discovery.com]

Can't Wait (1)

LightningJim2 (1149233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27499419)

It's going to be interesting when one of my classes is canceled because my teacher has to go storm chasing for VORTEX2. So will people in my class. I'll hopefully be taking in the storm reports.

900 square miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27499611)

Per the summary they're going to cover 900 square miles. That's a section 30 miles square... in 7 states? And what are the odds of a tornado in a chunk 30 miles on a side? Or is it just another BS summary by you-know-who...

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