Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment Southeast
03/01/2016 - 04/15/2018
Southeastern United States
The Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment Southeast (VORTEX-SE) Is a research program designed to understand how environmental factors characteristic of the southeastern United States affect the formation, intensity, structure, and path of tornadoes in this region. VORTEX-SE is also determining the best methods for communicating forecast uncertainty related to these events to the public, and evaluating public response. In many ways, VORTEX-SE represents a new approach to tornado research in general. Previous VORTEX projects were focused on Great Plains events, which by comparison with tornadoes in the southeastern United States, generally form under somewhat different meteorological conditions, display distinctive tornado climatology, and have dissimilar social elements in terms of tornado preparedness, awareness, and communications.
In examining the distribution of tornadoes and tornado deaths in the U.S., Ashley (2007 Weather and Forecasting) found that the number of killer tornadoes in the southeastern U.S. is disproportionately large when compared to the overall number of tornadoes. Ashley attributed this finding to a "unique juxtaposition of a series of physical and sociological variables," including tornadoes at night, in forested areas, prior to the perceived peak of the "tornado season," at a time of year when storms typically have large forward speeds. The study also identified lack of visibility, relatively inadequate shelter, and larger population density as being issues that increase the vulnerability of residents of the southeastern U.S. VORTEX-SE will be the first severe storms experiment that will have a specific emphasis on addressing the sociological factors that contribute to the relatively large tornado mortality in this region of the country. In addition, it is anticipated that VORTEX-SE will involve a series of field campaigns, such as the one described here, to iteratively improve our understanding of the regional peculiarities in the meteorological conditions and storm processes associated with Southeast tornadoes.