Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No one ever said this was easy.....

Hello out there in blogger land! The last week or so has been weird for the V2 team. And has proved just how much we still need to learn. And has shown just how difficult this project can be.

The federal government (and you as taxpayers!) have charged us with finding out everything we can about tornadoes, how and why they form. The problem is in the logistics. These days, with so many chasers, and the abundance of media, and cell phones, and cell internet, seeing a tornado is not as hard as it used to be. But making meaningful deployments of instruments to collect valuable data to understand tornadoes is incredibly difficult. Because V2 is so huge, we need a long lead time (~1 hour), and a good road network (we're trying to get 50 vehicles to sample a single storm) in order to carry out our objectives. And in the Plains, where the weather is volatile, this is a daunting task.

We've been at this for 31 days, and have collected a few great datasets. But we've also collected a bunch of mediocre ones as well, where storms were dissipating as they crossed the instruments, or made an unexpected turn, or didn't make the turn we thought they would, and just skirted the edge of the arrays. There's also the cases where the storms were really good (when I say good, a non-meteorologist would say bad), but moving so quickly and were so violent that we could not get a full array of instruments in position without sacrificing our own safety.

And at some point, we all reach a breaking point, just physically and mentally exhausted. 31 days of sharing hotels, driving late at night, staying up to fix instruments, eating fast food or missing lunch or dinner altogether, visiting the laundromat in our "free" time. On a few rare occasions, the project leaders have decided to give us a down day, to let us all regroup, and remedy any instrument issues. We have missed a few events because of this, but I think they were keeping our well-being in mind. We can't always drive 5 hours to operate, operate for 5 hours, then drive another 6 to get back in position for the next day. We can do it occasionally, but not multiple days in a row, we just run out of awake and alert people to drive. Missing events leads to some frustrated people. But then again, 4 hours of sleep 4 days in a row also leads to some grumpy people, so there's always a trade-off! After no real operations for the last several days, I am hopeful that we're all rested and prepared for these last 2 weeks. With only 2 weeks left, I think the crews are ready to just push through til the end.

Here's hoping that yesterday's decision to forego operations to give us a better chance (position) for today will work out for us....no one ever said this was easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

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