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The Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment (VORTEX1) project was designed to address research questions relating to tornadogenesis and tornado dynamics.
VORTEX1 took place from 1 April to 15 June in 1994 (VORTEX-94) and 1995 (VORTEX-95). Spreading the operations over two years increased the size of the sample of tornadic storms and allowed for the improvement of technologies and strategies by analyzing the first year data during the off-season. The experiment was held in the southern and central plains states, a region ideal for observing tornadoes and tornadic storms because of the relative frequency, the relative flatness of the terrain, a good road network, and generally good visibility.
The objectives of VORTEX were stated in terms of testable, refutable hypotheses. There were four broad areas covered by the hypotheses
VORTEX1 utilized a suite of aircraft and fixed and mobile ground facilities to support its operations.
The NOAA P-3 aircraft took part in both the 1994 (10 flights) and 1995 (26 flights) field seasons. It was equipped with a Doppler radar, a variety of cloud physics instrumentation, and a NOAA/ETL radiometer.
The NCAR Electra aircraft took part only in the 1995 (15 flights) field season. It was equipped with the ELDORA Doppler radar.
The T-28 armoured aircraft took part in both the 1994 (5 flights) and 1995 (5 flights). Its mission was to penetrate convective clouds and provide in-situ observations of the precipitation particle population in regions simultaneously being scanned by multi-parameter radar. The operations were in loose coordination with VORTEX, but its activities were restricted to within 50 miles of the Cimarron, OK radar. It carried an instrument package to measure temperature, vertical winds, electric fields, water content, etc. It also carried a PMS 2D-P optical probe.
On the ground VORTEX1 had a compliment of mobile radars, mobile mesonets and mobile sounding systems all coordinated by an in field coordination vehicle. The sounding systems were operated by the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and the National Center for Amtospheric Research (NCAR). The mobile mesonet was comprised of cars outfitted with an instrument package collecting location, velocity and meteorological parameters every five seconds. They were deployed in strategic locations around the storms to provide storm-scale surface data.
Further information on VORTEX is available in the overview article published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
All photos copyright University Corporation for Atmospheric Research unless otherwise noted.