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TWIRL - Tornadic Winds: In-situ and Radar observation at Low levels

Over the Great Plains, tornadic and nontornadic thunderstorms frequently occur during the spring months. In addition to the hazards posed by tornadoes, these systems often bring with them other forms of severe weather, including flash flooding, damaging winds, and large hail. Scientists from the Center for Severe Weather Research and a team of students and volunteers will be in the field this spring (1 May - 15 June) to collect remotely-sensed and in-situ measurements of low-level tornadic winds and other severe weather features.

  What is TWIRL?

TWIRL is a CSWR project sponsored by the NSF, with the scientific goal of collecting data in and around tornadic and nontornadic supercellular thunderstorm environments in order to learn how tornadoes form, how they produce damage at near-ground levels, and how to better predict them.

TWIRL will utilize three mobile radar trucks, three masted mobile mesonets, and a network of 14 tornado PODs and other instruments to "chase" severe storms this spring. Subsequently, researchers will be able to make 3D maps of the strongest tornado winds near the ground and studies how these winds cause damage.

Major scientific questions include:

- How do tornadic winds vary with height, especially in the lowest 10-20 m above ground level (AGL)?
- What is the depth of the tornado inflow layer and how does it vary with tornado strength and structure?

- What is the relationship between near-surface tornadic winds and the kinematic and thermodynamic structures in the environment surrounding the tornado?

- What observations are needed to improve forecasts of the formation and evolution of tornadoes?

TWIRL will be conducted from 1 May through 15 June 2016, and will be a nomadic project, meaning that scientists, students and their fleet of vehicles and research instruments will be traveling within a domain encompassing much of "Tornado Alley" in the Great Plains and other climatologically-favorable regions in the United States. In all, it's expected that fleet with travel 10,000-15,000 miles across the Plains, from Texas to Dakotas, Colorado to Iowa, chasing supercell thunderstorms producing the most violent tornadoes.

While the DOWs will deploy a mile from tornadoes, scanning rapidly every 7 seconds as they measure unprecedented detail as low as 30 feet above the ground, PODs get run over by the tornadoes, measuring winds 3 feet above the ground. In addition, the three mesonet vehicles (which carry the PODs) will collect data via their masted instruments as they complete transects through various parts of storm environments.

TWIRL participants have already hit the road!

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Field Phases:

1 May - 15 June 2016