Tweaking Twisters

Nationwide study of tornadoes has local twist

By Whitney Southwick
|  Monday, May 11, 2009  |  Updated 2:15 PM PDT
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Tweaking Twisters

Getty Images/National Geographic Creative

A tornado touches down in the distance.

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Operation VORTEX-2, also know as V2, is underway in the heart of tornado alley - Norman, Oklahoma. The nationwide, collaborative project has one and only one goal: to discover what really makes a twister tick.  It's the biggest, most ambitious attempt ever to study and try to understand all the fundamental elements of these deadly and destructive storms.

While San Diego may not have any of the "super-sized" tornadoes like the mid section of the country we do have our share of smaller, less destructive twisters that usually crop up along with big, wet,  winter storms.  And the guy in charge of our local office of the National Weather Service in Rancho Bernardo knows as much about these babies as anyone else.  Jim Purpura is a native of Chicago and one-time Warning Coordinator at the NWS office in Norman, Oklahoma.  For the next month, Jim is back in Oklahoma lending his expertise and handling the media for the project.

More than 50 scientists and expert meteorologists are in Norman, using 40 research vehicles equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that will allow them to "get up close and personal" with super-cell thunderstorms, which are the producers of tornadoes.  The $12-million project is funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation.  Ten universities and three non-profit organizations are also involved.

Findings from the month-long study will be released in a few months at Penn State University.

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