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Monday, June 15, 2009

Tornado Experiment Causes A Swirl Of Interest

So … for my first blog I weighed a few potential topics, amongst them being tornadoes. “You live in Arizona,” you say, “why write about tornadoes?”

The “why” (make that “why’s”) are many. There’s my personal interest with severe weather, Arizona’s modest, but relatively tame, tornado history and the recent conclusion of the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2) spring tour through the Central Plains.

VORTEX2 is a field study project sponsored through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) intended to further scientific understanding of “tornadogenesis” and increase warning times.

Apart from measurements and readings, VORTEX2 earned national publicity and yielded some striking stills and on-scene footage, including video of a June 5, 2009, tornado near La Grange, Wyo.

In Arizona, tornadoes aren’t what you’d call a major threat, but they happen on occasion. A query of the NOAA National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) produces 214 reported tornadoes between January 1, 1950, and February 28, 2009. All but a dozen measured F1 (weak), F0 (gale) or lower on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EFS).

The most severe and rarest of tornadoes are F5s. It was an F5 with winds up to 205 mph and measuring over a mile wide that destroyed over 90 percent of the city and killed 11 people in Greensburg, Kan., in early May 2007. Check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Photo Library for more photos from Greensburg and other disaster.

Should you be interested, tornado preparedness and safety information is readily available on the Web, including on just in case arizona and sites administered by the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), and the FEMA.

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