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Hurricane Hunter Aircraft Used to Research Tornadoes

19 Jul 2018, 8:22 am

[Researchers in front of a mobile radar unit and the NOAAP-3 airplane used in VORTEX-Southeast.]


NOAA researchers from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory had a different view of tornadoes this spring — flying high above them in a NOAA P-3 “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft.

WP-3D Orion NOAA42 time lapse video in front of tornado-producing thunderstorm

Time lapse video of WP-3D Orion #NOAA42 flying in front of a tornado-producing thunderstorm in northern Alabama yesterday. This flight was part of the VORTEX-SE mission, which is a research project to better understand how environmental factors characteristic of the southeastern U.S. affect the formation, intensity, structure, and path of tornadoes in this region.Learn more about this important mission here: Credit: Michael McAlister, NOAA

Posted by The NOAA Hurricane Hunters on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

[Time lapse video of WP-3D Orion #NOAA42 flying in front of a tornado-producing thunderstorm in northern Alabama on March 20th]

During the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast project, or VORTEX-SE, scientists collected data on several isolated supercells and large convective systems during a short time span with airborne Doppler radars mounted on the P-3, a lidar operated by the University of Wyoming, and ground based mobile and fixed radars. NSSL scientist Conrad Ziegler recently presented preliminary findings from the project.

NOAA42 Cockpit Video VORTEX 19Mar2018

Cockpit video from inside WP-3D Orion #NOAA42 from yesterday's flight around severe weather in Alabama. VORTEX-SE is just one of the many scientific research flights that the #NOAA Hurricane Hunters conduct during the off-season. Learn more about the VORTEX-SE project here: credit: LT Kevin Doremus, NOAA

Posted by The NOAA Hurricane Hunters on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

[Cockpit video from inside WP-3D Orion #NOAA42 from a flight around severe weather in Alabama from March 20th.]

From early March to mid April, the researchers concentrated observations on severe weather processes in supercells. They conducted missions with the NOAA P-3 on eight days and gathered data on a total of 10 tornadoes from four supercell thunderstorms. This spring also provided the first opportunity to combine observations from the P-3’s airborne radars with other ground-based radar measurements of the same storms. The result and goal was to derive a more accurate and detailed storm airflow analyses.

On April 13, 2018 — the last P-3 mission day before the end of the project — Ziegler, along with colleague Kim Elmore and a team of researchers, followed a single cycling supercell storm for over two hours observing the growth, maturity, and decay of three different tornadoes.

Use of the P-3 allowed researchers to position themselves closer to storms in a safe way while retrieving higher resolution radar scans and images of a tornado’s life cycle. They were able to fully analyse the atmosphere’s features without impeding terrain to achieve the ultimate goal of better understanding the growth of intense low-level storm rotations that typically accompany severe weather.

Edited for WeatherNation by Meteorologist Mace Michaels

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