Aug 3, 2009 | 1
The 100-plus researchers who set out earlier this year on the biggest scientific twister hunt in history have returned with few tornado tales to tell.
The VORTEX2 project (the Verification of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment 2) is a two-year, $10.5-million undertaking planned to study tornadoes in hopes of improving early warning systems.
But this first year of study turned out to be an unusually quiet one for twisters. In the first six months of the year, 826 tornadoes were recorded, according to an Associated Press report. That might sound like a ton—even to Dorothy and Toto types. But it’s a good gust fewer than the average for each of the past three years—which is 934—and a lot less than last year, in which 1,304 tornadoes had spun up by June 30.
Jun 9, 2009
Editor’s note: Scientific American contributing editor Christie Nicholson is traveling with nearly 80 scientists conducting the largest tornado study ever completed. Check out her progress and learn about twisters on SciAm’s Twitter feed, and have a look at the photos she's taking along the way.
TOPEKA, Kan. (June 8, 2009)—When I arrived in Colby, Kansas last Thursday to join the VORTEX2 team’s nearly 160 scientists, students and media participating in the largest tornado-spawning storm study in history, the teams were despondent. The jet stream had been unusually displaced far to the north, resulting in one of the more calm seasons in decades. Even potential supercells—storms most likely to produce a twister—were conspicuously lacking.
Jun 3, 2009 | 4
Editor’s note: For the next three days, Scientific American contributing editor Christie Nicholson will be traveling with nearly 80 scientists conducting the largest tornado study ever completed. Check out her progress and learn about twisters on SciAm’s Twitter feed.
DENVER—I’ve just landed at Denver International Airport, and I’m traveling to Kansas to meet up with the largest entourage of storm chasers in history. So at the risk of being insensitive to those who live in Tornado Alley—the area between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains—I’m happy that there are a few severe storms on the horizon.
For the next three days, I’m joining the great tornado hunt, called VORTEX2, a veritable army of 80 scientists and support crew driving 35 trucks across the central Great Plains in tight formation. Imagine the logistics: Pulling up to a gas station for a pit stop becomes a major undertaking.
Apr 10, 2009
Three people died, at least 24 were injured and 100 homes were damaged last night when a tornado tore through Mena, Ark., the Associated Press reports.
The twister touched down about 7:30 p.m. local time (8:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time) in the tiny town of 5,000 in the western part of the state near the Oklahoma border. As the sky turned green, "Me and the dog ran to the bathroom when we saw it on the TV," Rick Lanman, manager of the Mena Airport, told the AP. "It was here in less than a minute."
Tornados are rotating columns of air that reach from thunderstorms to the ground, with wind speeds up to 250 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. The funnel clouds cause on average 70 deaths and 1,500 injuries each year in the U.S.
Apr 7, 2009 | 1
Storm chasers, get your cameras: Tornado season is here. From April to June, more tornadoes spin up across the U.S. than during any other period. And although they've been the topic of both scientific and cinematic fascination for decades, researchers still have a lot to learn about how these deadly storms form.
So starting next month, a nationwide project—known, appropriately, as VORTEX2 (aka the Verification of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment 2)—will begin collecting tornado and storm data from more than 900 square miles (2,330 square kilometers) in seven states (Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas). With a team of more than 50 scientists, it's the largest organized twister investigation ever.
Feb 11, 2009
Eight people are dead after tornadoes swirled through Oklahoma yesterday. The twisters touched down in at least three cities: Lone Grove, Edmond and nearby Oklahoma City. Fourteen people were seriously injured in Lone Grove, the worst-hit city, where all the fatalities occurred.
Tornadoes are common in Oklahoma, but more so in the spring, National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Smith told the Associated Press. Here's why, according to a ScientificAmerican.com Ask the Experts column from 2005 on why Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma get more twisters: Tornadoes form when warm, moist air near the ground collides with dry air higher up. When the winds over the central plains bring these two temperature and moisture patterns together, tornadoes can occur.
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