Unprecedented international tornado study begins

An international team of researchers are embarking on what has been described as the most ambitious tornado study in history.

An array of instruments will be deployed across the US Great Plains, where violent twisters are more common than anywhere else on the planet. It is hoped that the data gathered will improve tornado warnings and forecasts.

More than 100 scientists will be involved in the study, which will continue until the middle of June…

The study, Vortex2, will use a range of enhanced mobile radars and other weather-sensing equipment in order to build up a comprehensive picture of the zones where tornadoes develop.

Researchers say that rapidly changing contrasts in wind and temperatures in an area just a few miles across can spawn a tornado in a matter of minutes.

But, they added, only a small percentage of “supercell storms” generate twisters, and standard observing networks and radars struggle to pick up the atmospheric conditions that lead to the formation of a tornado…

The study area stretches from West Texas to south-west Minnesota, covering more than 900 miles.

The researchers will not have a fixed base, spending the entire six weeks on the road following outbreaks of severe weather.

Surrounded by pilots in this family, you know I had to get this post up for the weekend.

Though, frankly, as someone who used to live on the road – in later years in regions including part of Tornado Alley – I’m as interested as any of the usual weather geeks in the family.

Temperatures continue to rise at the Top of the World

The roof of the world is heating up, according to a report today that said temperatures in Tibet soared last year to the highest level since records began.

Adding to the fierce international debate about the impact of climate change on the Himalayas, the state-run China Daily noted that the average temperature in Tibet in 2009 was 5.9C, 1.5 degrees higher than “normal”…

The average rose in both summer and winter, which is unusual as most of mountain warming has previously been observed in the winter.

A monitoring station at the foot of Mt Everest also recorded a new record high temperature of 25.8 degrees, which was 0.7C warmer than the previous peak.

Amid the worst drought in decades, Lhasa experienced its first temperature above 30C since records began in 1961, the report said. Rainfall in Tibet fell to its lowest level in 39 years, affecting nearly 30,000 hectares of cropland – an eighth of Tibet’s arable land…

While Talking Heads, bush-league skeptics and politicians get their shorts bunched over single paragraphs within 3000-page reports, change continues apace. Another example of the egregious nature of the human species – unwilling to face up to realistic concerns when it seems easier and cheaper to stick their heads wherever they’re most comfortable.

Maybe next year people will worry. Or the year after…