Monday, June 8, 2009

NCSU launches on a severe supercell day

The NSSL2 team fills the balloon:

Matt Morin and Kate Rojowsky, ready for launch:

One of the many large hailstones found on the ground in the wake of the target storm (probably had been melting for 20 minutes or more!):

posted by Matt Parker

VORTEX2 Intercepts Its First Tornado (Posted By David Stark)

On Friday June 5, 2009, The VORTEX2 team intercepted a tornadic supercell near La Grange, Wyoming. The MGUAS teams launched balloons around the storm to observe its inflow environment, forward flank baroclinicity, and rear flank environment. Thankfully, the tornado did not harm anything other than a few trees and several fences. That does make trying to figure out how strong the tornado was more difficult. The National Weather Service did a damage SURVEY and rated it an EF-1 pending data from V2. The Doppler on Wheels data needs to be analzyed further, but it is possible the wind speeds were stronger than what the NWS saw from the little damage the tornado caused. Below are two photos that I took during the intercept. My sounding truck was located approximately 10-15 miles from the tornado.

NSSL2 Hits Dime to Nickel-Sized Hail (Posted By David Stark)

On Thursday, June 4, NSSL2, the sounding truck that I deploy in, ran into lots of hail along Interstate 80 along the Nebraska, Wyoming border. We pulled over to the side of the road until the hail let up and we were able to witness a fascinating rainbow right in front of us. Take a look!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recent Student TV Interview (posted by Casey Letkewicz)

One of the consequences in taking part in a huge project like VORTEX2 is the constant media presence, not only by large stations like the Weather Channel but also the smaller, local stations. Yesterday in Hebron, Nebraska I (Casey Letkewicz) was stopped by a reporter from Lincoln who wanted an interview since V2 was in Nebraska yesterday and for a few days before. It was a pretty basic interview. They wanted to know why we were in Nebraska, what the goals of V2 are, and they also wanted to know a little bit about our mobile soundings team. Here's the link to the story on their website, including video:

One of the guys I was with was also snapped a picture of the interview (props goes to Mike Daniels from EOL for the image):

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Weak, Short Lived Convection Intercept (Posted By David Stark)

Since the weather pattern is not conducive to producing supercells and tornadoes, we targeted some much weaker convection in southwestern Nebraska and northeastern Colorado today. More ordinary convection is not the target of VORTEX2, but any scientific data on thunderstorms will go a long way into better understanding the dynamics in and around them. Several of the sounding teams launched balloons early in the afternoon to get a good look at the temperature, moisture, and wind profiles of the troposphere. Below are some photos of our balloon preparations near our target storm.

Ground station to measure 2 meter temperature, humidity and pressure to make sure the radiosonde is close to registering similar data. The radiosonde is placed in the smaller white instrument just off the ground called an aspirator while this test is occuring.

Adam French (NCSU) and Chris Golubeski (NCAR) tie the radiosonde to their balloon.

Casey Letkewicz (NCSU) and Jen Standrige (NCAR) fill their balloon in preparation for a launch under the anvil of the target storm.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Squall Line Deployment (posted by Casey Letkewicz)

Yesterday the balloon team was able to collect some amazing data on a squall line. While squall lines are outside of VORTEX2's direct mission, the data nevertheless will go a long way in helping scientists to better understand thunderstorms. Here's a few pictures of the team launching balloons before and after the line of storms passed through:

Prepping for a launch as the squall line approaches:

Adam French (left) steadying a balloon as it is being filled with helium:

From left to right: George Bryan (NCAR), Matt Morin, Kate Rojowsky, and Tim Lim (NCAR) getting ready to launch:

From left to right: Dr. Parker, George Bryan, Matt Morin, Tim Lim:

It looks like the next several days will not be favorable for chasing, so we are hoping to begin looking at and analyzing all of the data that the team has collected this past week!

Using the balloon bag, with Kate, Dave and Matt M. (Posted by Adam French)

One of the tools that we can employ to effectively launch balloons in windy conditions is a balloon bag. This is essentially a large, heavy duty tarp that has Velcro on the ends so that it can be wrapped into a long tube. You can then place the balloon inside the tube and inflate it. This not only protects the balloon, but also makes it much easier to handle as you maneuver it into position for a launch. In the photos below Kate, Dave and Matt M. (the NSSL2 team) demonstrate how this is done during operations on Friday, 5/15. We were conducting operations ahead of an approaching squall line, and conditions where quite windy, so the bag came in handy.

1) Inspect the bag for any debris such as small stones, twigs or anything else that may burst the balloon. Once inflated the balloons get quite large and can be easily popped.

2) Insert the balloon WELL into the bag. Otherwise it begins to squish out the end and becomes unwieldy, not to mention oddly shaped!

3) Inflate the balloon inside the bag. Safety goggles are a stylish accessory that will protect your eyes from flying latex in the event of a balloon burst.

4) Once the balloon is inflated, attach the radiosonde package that will record the temperature, humidity, wind and pressure data as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere.

5) With the sonde attached and the balloon still in the bag, move to your launch position. The balloon is easier to maneuver when it's inside the bag during windy conditions.

6) Once you're ready to launch have one or two people hold the bag (one of which should also be holding the sonde) while another person grabs the Velcro strip at the top of the bag and quickly rips it off. This allows the bag to open, releasing the balloon.

7) The balloon will rise out of the bag and it's up, up and away!

NCSU team in action (posted by George Bryan, NCAR)

Yesterday, the NCSU/NCAR team obtained an unprecedented dataset in northern Oklahoma. We collected direct measurements of a mesoscale convective system, including temperature, moisture, and winds over a deep layer (surface to 15 km) with high temporal resolution. Here's a video of a rawinsonde launch by Casey and Dr. Parker.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wolfpack on the weather channel (Posted by Adam French)

The Weather Channel has posted a video about our soundings. The video includes an interview with Dr. Parker, as well as some shots of our practice launch on media day.

First Major Deployment Day Photos (Posted by David Stark)

On May 13, 2009 the NCSU mobile sounding team had our first major deployment day with pre-strom environment soundings as well as storm-scale deployments once a target storm was identified. Here are a few photos taken from one of the teams during the course of the day.

David Stark just before launching a pre-storm environment sounding at 2200 UTC or 5 pm central time

Large 1.5 to 1.75 inch hail found on the grass just outside of Watonga, OK. Photo taken by David Stark.

Developing mammatus clouds under anvil of targeted storm. Photo taken by David Stark

Mature mammatus just before sunset. Photo taken by David Stark

Monday, May 11, 2009

Test Launch Sounding ( Posted by David Stark)

The weather balloon in the team picture in the post below was launched a few minutes after the picture was taken. Below is the sounding plot that was generated. This sounding would be a typical near storm/forward flank sounding which is typically up to 8km.

For reference to those who are not aware... The red dots represent temperature, blue dots represent dew-point, and the blue flags on the right are wind barbs showing wind direction. Wind barbs point in the direction "from" which the wind is blowing. Each short barb represents 5 knots, each long barb 10 knots and pennants represent 50 knots. Pressure is plotted in millibars(red horizontal lines) and temperature is plotted in Celsius ( diagonal blue lines).

team photo (posted by Matt Parker)

(L to R): NC Staters Matt, David, Matt, Kate, Adam, Casey and NCAR scientists Jen, George, Tim, and Bill.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

V2 Operations, Day 1 (Posted by Adam French)

Today was the first official day of operations for VORTEX2. We started the day with a weather briefing at 10am, which confirmed what most of us had already determined: no storms today, so we're staying in Norman. This actually worked out well, as it gave us the opportunity to work out the few remaining kinks in our communications/navigation software, so that by the end of the day everything looks to be ready to roll (knock on wood). We're fully operational now, meaning that we've joined the rest of the armada at a common hotel, and that we're expected to be ready to go by the 10am briefing in the morning. I have to say, we make quite a site with all of our instrumented vehicles and mobile radars parked in front of the hotel!

Hopefully tomorrow we'll finally leave Norman for somewhere with some storms!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

VORTEX2 media day launch (posted by Matt Parker)

Casey Letkewicz, Matt Morin, Kate Rojowsky, David Stark, and Adam French launch a sounding at media day. Red means go!

More Sounding Training (posted by David Stark)

The sounding equipment inside one of the NSSL Trucks

Matt Morin, Tim Lim, Matt Parker, and George Bryan watch as the final stage of preparing the balloon are made before a test launch.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Soundings training (posted by Matt Parker)

Matt Morin and Casey Letkewicz prepare for a balloon launch, with one of the NCAR sounding trucks in the foreground.

Adam French leads a student discussion about the quality of the data being collected.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We've arrived!!!

So the first major hurdle in our VORTEX2 experience has been crossed.....we've made it to Norman, OK! We'll be here for the next several days doing training and preparations, learning how to launch the balloons, getting acquainted with the navigation/radar software, etc.

By and large the trip out was for some police activity on I-40 in OK. It made for some tense moments, as you can see from the picture below, but everything ended without incident and once the police re-opened the highway we were back on our way.

Today we've gotten to see two of our trucks, and have been working on loading software, etc. At this point the plan is to do some practice balloon launches in the next day or so along with taking first aid and CPR classes so we're ready to deal with whatever may arise once we hit the road on Sunday.

Posted by Adam

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Welcome to "Wolfpack in the VORTEX" (posted by Matt Parker)

From May 10-June 15, 2009, our team from NCSU (one faculty member and five students) will be heading to the Great Plains to participate in the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2). The aim of this experiment is to help us better understand how storms produce tornadoes, and in what ways tornado forecasting can be improved. VORTEX2 is a multiple-university multiple-agency field program that will include roughly 40 vehicles and 100 participants from around the country.

Using four vehicles, our NC State team will launch weather balloons near tornadic thunderstorms in order to measure the vertical profiles of temperature, humidity, and winds in the atmosphere. We will be fully mobile; in other words, day by day we will travel to wherever tornadoes are expected in order to make our measurements.

This blog will serve as a communal place at which all NCSU team members (especially the students) can provide updates from the field. Hopefully, you'll get some insight into the ups and downs of an experiment of this kind, you'll see some impressive photos "from the front lines", and you'll have an appreciation for the interesting projects that are available to students who study at NC State!

We will be driving to Oklahoma on May 4th and 5th to prepare the equipment and rendezvous with the other VORTEX2 teams. Stay tuned!