Second year of tornado research focused on the southeast underway

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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (WDEF) — The southeastern United States sees a disproportionately larger number of deadly tornadoes so meteorologists, researchers, and social scientists are working together to study severe weather in the southeast.

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The project is called Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast – or VORTEX-SE. The researchers are now in their second spring of gathering data.

VORTEX-SE aims to better understand of how tornadoes form and move in the southeast as well as improve early warnings of severe weather.

The research involves more than 20 research institutions, 40 scientists, and $10 million in funding. One research group out of the University of Alabama at Huntsville is focused on Sand Mountain and why a disproportionately large number of tornadoes occur on the mountain.

The researchers came together for a media day on Tuesday at the Huntsville Airport to show off some of the equipment being used to collect data.

Equipment like the octocopter is used to collect temperature and humidity data in the air ahead of a storm. It is operated by NOAA’s Atmospheric Turbulence Division out of Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Radars, mobile weather stations, weather balloons, and mounted GoPro cameras are some of the other tools being used in the research. Also being put to use is the NOAA P-3 aircraft – the aircraft that flies into hurricanes with the Hurricane Hunters.

Outside of tropical weather season, the aircraft is sent on other environmental missions like VORTEX-SE.

For more information on the on-going scientific research, visit the VORTEX Southeast website.