I wanted to hop on the Hokie Storm Chaser blog and say hello to everyone! Since my two trips out to the Plains with Dave and Kevin, I’ve gotten my BS in atmospheric science from UNC-Asheville and now I’m at Purdue University working toward my PhD. This year I’ll be heading out to the Plains with VORTEX2 (www.vortex2.org) as a navigator for one of the mobile Doppler radars (Doppler on Wheels 6 – DOW6). V2 is aimed at understanding tornadic storms better so we can have better severe storm predictions and save lives and property. There is still much to be learned and many mysteries to be solved surrounding tornadogenesis.
And now a little bit about the mobile radar:
Vortex2 is actually a two year project and so this is my second year out as the navigator for DOW6. As navigator I direct the driver where to go, record our deployment locations, monitor how level the truck is, and take copious amounts notes! The radar itself is situated on the back of a flatbed truck and the whole thing weighs about 26 000 pounds. The truck is an entirely self contained system, meaning that the radar wave transmitter (the thing that makes the radar beam), antenna control, generator, etc… are all located within, or on, the truck. Since we have so much equipment, including many computers, we even have a separate air conditioner built in to keep the radar operator cabin cool.
For those who are exceptionally nerdy and are dying to know, the DOW is an X-band radar, meaning its wavelength is ~3cm (compared to the National Weather Service’s 10cm wavelength for their radars). This allows us to have a much smaller radar dish, which is important for mobility, but still retain good resolution (~1 degree, the same that National Weather Service radars have). Like all things in life, however, this comes at a price. Since the DOW has a shorter wavelength we are much more sensitive to things like attenuation. This means that things like hail can absorb more of the radar beam’s energy and important weather phenomena beyond the hail may be missed! While this can be a problem, it is much more so for the more sensitive radars with wavelength’s <3cm.
Alright, well I need to get packing – I’ve got to get things together to last me from April 26th through June 18th and my flight to meet up with the crew leaves Monday morning! Hopefully I’ll get to run into you all out in Plains, and if you see a big blue truck passing by, don’t forget to wave!