Christopher Weiss, a professor of atmospheric science in the Department of Geosciences through the College of Arts & Sciences at Texas Tech University and an affiliate of the university’s National Wind Institute (NWI), is leading a group from Texas Tech to collaborate with other scientists and engineers around the country using drones and radars to learn more about supercell thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.

The Targeted Observation by Radars and Unmanned Aircraft Systems of Supercells (TORUS) project is aimed at understanding the relationship between severe thunderstorms and how tornadoes form across the Great Plains, in hopes of improving forecasts.

“We are excited to be a part of this TORUS project,” Weiss said. “This will be a pioneering study that ties together mobile radars and unmanned aircraft to give an unprecedented look at the boundaries produced by severe thunderstorms and how they may influence the development of tornadoes.”

The TORUS project involves more than 50 researchers using 20 tools to measure the atmosphere, including unmanned aircraft systems, mobile radars, including the NWI’s Ka-band Mobile Doppler Radar trucks, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) WP-3D Orion “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft.

Fieldwork will be conducted May 15 to June 16 throughout a 367,000-square-mile area of the Central Great Plains from North Dakota to Texas and from Iowa to Wyoming and Colorado.

Funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation, the project is led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Partner institutions are Texas Tech, the University of Colorado Boulder, NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies.

About the National Wind Institute

The National Wind Institute combined the former Wind Science and Engineering (WiSE) research center, which created the first doctorate in wind science and engineering, with the Texas Wind Energy Institute (TWEI), creator of the only bachelor’s degree in wind energy. NWI strengthens Texas Tech’s interdisciplinary approach to all things wind. 

Through NWI, scientists and engineers have collected one of the country’s largest repositories of wind data and helped develop the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale, implemented in 2007 by the National Weather Service.

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CONTACT: Christopher Weiss, professor, Department of Geosciences, College of Arts & Sciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 834-4712 or [email protected]