Tornado research program, VORTEX-SE, kicks off in Huntsville

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While tornadoes are very common in the Great Plains, they are no stranger to the southeast.  However, current theory states that the process by which tornadoes form -- or tornadogenesis -- often differs in hilly and forested terrain of the southeast compared to the flat lands of the Great Plains.

"Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment-Southeast (VORTEX-SE) is a research program to understand how environmental factors characteristic of the southeastern United States affect the formation, intensity, structure, and path of tornadoes in this region," NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) explains.

In addition, southeastern tornadoes tend to develop at night, when many people are asleep and not monitoring weather alerts. In the southeast, tornadoes can develop year-round, outside of the traditional "tornado season" spring months of March through June. In fact, many deadly twisters touchdown during a second, "Dixie Alley Tornado Season" that peaks in September through January.

"VORTEX-SE will also determine the best methods for communicating forecast uncertainty related to these events to the public, and evaluate public response. In many ways, VORTEX-SE represents a new approach to tornado research in general," writes the NSSL.

After an initial planning meeting that took place in Huntsville in November 2015, the scientists and researchers participating in the VORTEX-SE project kicked off their first field observing campaign Monday at UAHuntsville. This campaign is expected to last through April 2016.

As the field research campaign cranks up, many researchers and atmospheric science programs have been training for the massive project. Below is a preliminary look of their instruments and equipment to be used in VORTEX-SE.

Watch more coverage of the Huntsville kickoff Monday in our newscasts on WHNT News 19 and here on WHNT.com.