Tornado Research

Our proposed debut is set for late June of 2026. The project will target primarily late season severe weather events where high amounts of 0-3 KM MLCAPE and surface vorticity are present. We suspect contrary to popular belief, direct observation and data collection of tornadoes may not be required. Our reasoning for this thought process lies in the different ways a vortex can form.

We think the commonly accepted approach to collecting data on tornadoes has run it’s course. That being the utilization of a wide range of instruments recording the near tornado environment. The point of interest here being supercellular tornadogenesis. Questions have arisen regarding the adequacy of data collected and it’s contribution to the prediction of tornadoes. There is no doubt the data collected is of highest quality, most likely the best in the world. However, whether the data actually provide any meaning to the bigger picture is yet to be know.

Using the term “tornado” while descriptive is both simultaneously strict and broad causing unnecessary confusion when referencing vortexes. Supercellular tornadoes, landspouts, waterspouts, etc. They’re all the same. It does not matter what kind of vortex it is. The basic principle of a vortex sustained via updraft applies. Our work will involve stripping back the complexities of typical research and focus on the big picture.

We hypothesize the environmental vorticity layer depth is paramount in vortex generation. Hence it’s supplementary use along side conventional parameters to further aid in the prediction of tornadoes. The term vorticity depth coined by Ty Stevens and Liam Dobson describes vorticity between the surface and Lifting Condensation Level (LCL). How this parameter can be developed and applied operationally is to be determined. The field work conducted will hopefully aid in our product development and search for definitive answers.

Methodology

0-3 km MLCAPE and Vorticity multiparameter from SPC Mesoanalysis

During each Intensive Operation Period (IOP), mobile mesonets and Sparv Embedded Windsonds will be utilized to record surface observations and atmospheric profiles throughout the duration of the event.

Mobile mesonets will record standard atmospheric parameters including temperature, dew point, wind speed, direction, etc. throughout the duration of each IOP. Sparv Embedded Windsonds will be launched strategically throughout operation periods as well. Before convective initiation, several during initiation, and after. Doing so will allow us to observe the temporal evolution of each parameter and how it influences tornadogenesis.

Where our group makes observations is completely contingent upon where the parameter space is. No geographic boundaries are set allowing for a diverse portfolio of data from around the contiguous United States and Canada. While we plan on beginning operations in 2026, the span of this project will most likely take several years.

Our group is set to begin full operation in 2026, however, experimental data collection cannot be ruled out before then. Expect updates following our progress on social media in the very near future. — Stay tuned.


Mobile Mesonets

Measuring the atmosphere accurately while simultaneously in motion is incredibly challenging. This requires the use of special sensor suites called mobile mesonets. These racks augment what would otherwise be stationary weather observations onto that of a moving vehicle (Straka et al. 1996). And all the while mitigating as much of the vehicle modified environment as possible.

Because mobile surface observations are an integral part of our project, ensuring utmost accuracy is largely crucial for its success. Extensive work and research have been done prior to observation periods in the field to assure complete certainty in data integrity. With this said, in doing so a true representation of the environment sampled can be procured.

Each rack will be built with significant influence from a widely accepted flagship design. It originates from the first VORTEX project conducted by the National Severe Storms Laboratory and associated cooperative institutions. The design was conceived 20+ years ago and updated by the NSSL to accommodate refined techniques in data collection. We’ve tweaked their modernized platform slightly to better adhere to our observation requirements.

More information on our mobile mesonets here.


VORTEX 1995-era NSSL Mobile Mesonets
Liam Llewellyn atop modern NSSL Mobile Mesonet

Windsonds

While mobile mesonets will be utilized for surface observations, Sparv Embedded Windsonds will be used to profile the atmosphere. These small form factor radiosondes require only a standard sized party balloon and 8 oz. styrofoam cup. Employing this technology cuts operation costs significantly and nearly eliminates deployment time.

Windsonds will be deployed throughout the span of convective initiation. Before visual signs of instability in the atmosphere. During initiation, launches in rapid succession. And after initiation, as updrafts become rooted within the environment. Doing so will allow us to determine how 0-3 KM MLCAPE and surface based vorticity depth influence tornadogenesis.