Monday, May 3, 2010

Greetings all! My name is Christopher Weiss, an Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas Tech University, and one of the Principal Investigators for the VORTEX2 Project. I have a great crew of ~20 faculty, staff and students behind me out here in the field, many of which you have already heard from in previous posts.

We have science objectives that look to be satisfied with the wealth of instrumentation available in VORTEX2. Texas Tech, specifically, has two primary platforms. The first of these is dubbed "StickNet", and array of 24 in situ observation probes, which are deployed in the path of supercell thunderstorms, hopefully capturing key thermodynamic and kinematic gradients in the immediate vicinity of developing tornadoes. Texas Tech also boasts two high-frequency mobile Doppler radars - the TTUKa radars - which are charged with the remote sensing of tornado structure from a distance of about 1.5-2 km ideally. These radars feature a particularly narrow beam, about half degree wide, which allows for resolute data collection very close to the ground, where scientists believe some of the keys to tornado genesis, maintenance and destructive potential are located.

One of my main responsibilities for the field phase of the project is related to the coordination of the instruments. Specifically, I am tasked with aligning the four StickNet vehicles in such a manner to deploy our complement of probes in a safe and efficient manner. The operations plan calls for a lead time of ~60 minutes to run the entire deployment properly. Often, owing to uncertainty in the evolution of the storm or poor road networks, we have a little less time than desired, but still manage to gather scientifically meaningful data safely. The task can be stressful at times, but I find it helpful to draw on past experience in the field (this season is my 12th consecutive).

Another of my responsibilities is to look after the general well being of the crew. In a seven-week project like this, there are bound to be a few illnesses and minor injuries. Beyond physical ailments, though, this type of time commitment comes with a wealth of peaks and valleys in team morale. Though I am far from a cheerleader, I feel it is important to keep the team focused through those rough periods.

We just hit the road today and are currently sitting in northwest Oklahoma for the evening. We do not anticipate a particularly active start to this second year of VORTEX2. Perhaps conditions will slowly improve through the next few days. Many of us actually prefer this type of start - there is a fair amount of spin up necessary to be effective once the real storm intercept opportunities appear later.

Certainly will be more later - I will try to share some of the successes and struggles we encounter through the season.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck to you and your team, Chris! Wish I could be there with all of you.