Capturing Groundbreaking Tornado Phenomena Using LabVIEW and NI CompactDAQ
The 2011 TWISTEX probe stands 8 feet high and weighs close to 600 lb. The NI 3110 industrial controller and NI CompactDAQ chassis are mounted inside weatherproof cases in the base of the instrument.
"Using a National Instruments solution for our tornado probe, we quickly designed and built a new probe instrument to sample from multiple sensor types. The flexibility of NI CompactDAQ and LabVIEW gave us the ability to customize our measurement setup so we could focus on what we were measuring, not how we were going to measure it."
- Tim Samaras,
Capturing ground-level dynamic sensor measurements, including the first-ever audio measurements, from within a tornado funnel.
Building a probe that uses NI CompactDAQ hardware, NI LabVIEW software, NI DIAdem software, and an NI 3110 industrial controller to capture, process, and display sound, temperature, air pressure, wind speed, and wind direction from the bottom two meters of a tornado.
Tim Samaras - TWISTEX
TWISTEX is a team of meteorological scientists that specializes in capturing close-in tornado phenomena. We capture measurement data, such as temperature, pressure, wind speed, wind direction, and sound, and send it to researchers at Iowa State University who are working to better understand atmospheric conditions, predict the location and timing of severe weather occurrences, and ultimately save the lives of surrounding civilians. The research team uses our TWISTEX data as a comparison for scale model testing.
The TWISTEX team is divided into two groups: the Mobile Mesonet team and the Probe team. The Mobile Mesonet team surrounds the tornadic storm cells with instrumented vehicles to capture perimeter data that radar cannot measure. The Probe team drops sensor probes in the tornado’s path to collect data from the bottom two meters of the funnel, which is also called the ground boundary layer.
Since 2001, TWISTEX has deployed probes in the path of tornadoes and collected some of the most detailed data from within a tornado funnel that is available today. Over time, the probes, and the resulting data they collect, have become more elaborate and complex. The instrument that was once a small, conical barometric pressure sensor has evolved into an 8-foot-tall, 600-lb instrument that collects data on temperature, humidity, pressure, sound, wind speed, and wind direction. To continue my research, we needed a rugged, stand-alone instrument that could sample these various signals, store the large data sets, and visualize the data in a useful way. This device also needed to be small and portable to be a feasible option. Stand-alone data loggers had performance limitations such as inadequate sample rates and number of channels. We also needed to find a way to quickly compare and correlate the growing data sets.
To bypass these limitations, we updated the 2011 TWISTEX probe instruments to include LabVIEW, the NI 3110 industrial controller, NI CompactDAQ, and DIAdem to combine data acquisition, storage, and analysis into a single rugged instrument that can quickly adapt to future expansion needs. We needed to make these updates quickly to meet a deadline for filming the Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers. Because NI products are so user-friendly, we designed and built the data acquisition portion of the instrument and were on the road in less than one week.
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