Lenovo PCs Help Storm Chasers

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by Jerry Jackson

If you’ve ever watched the reality TV series Storm Chasers or seen the movie Twister, you know that storm chasers provide vital research on tornadoes, hurricanes and severe weather. More importantly, you know that storm chasers need the latest technology to obtain important data and stay ahead of the storms. This week Lenovo announced a partnership with the Center for Severe Weather Research to equip storm chasers with the latest Lenovo ThinkPad laptops, ThinkCentre desktops, and ThinkVision monitors as part of the VORTEX2 project.

The VORTEX2 project is the largest and most ambitious tornado field research project of its kind. The goal of the project is to improve our ability to forecast the intensity, duration, and size of tornadoes, as well as provide a better understanding of house-level winds during severe storms. The Center for Severe Weather Research now uses Lenovo PCs to help track and store radar data, guide vehicles in the storm, provide weather briefings and analyze data after the field teams have done their jobs.

The VORTEX2 team will focus their storm chasing efforts in “tornado alley” from western Texas all the way into South Dakota. This is a major investment for Lenovo, since the VORTEX2 project includes 40 scientific vehicles, 80 separately placed instruments, 120 scientists and crew, as well as various labs used to process the data after it has been collected.

Lenovo PCs will serve as the heart of information operations for the storm chasers. The specific systems being used include:

ThinkPad T400 laptops — Used in the instrumented Probe and Disdrometer vehicles, these laptops transfer data collected through a dozen weather pods that are placed in the path of the storm. The pods measure weather data, such as wind speed and temperature. The laptops also power diagnostic software used to test and monitor weather stations in the field.

ThinkPad W500 laptops — Attached to mounts inside the Probe and Disdrometer vehicles, these laptops are responsible for navigation, tracking and mapping software.

ThinkPad W700 and W700ds laptops — These laptops are used for housing a variety of radar and mapping applications for analyzing and displaying graphically demanding data and video without being tied to a desk. These laptops are also being used for public presentations by the storm chasers as well as in the field for a first analysis of data.

ThinkPad X200s laptops — The team uses these lightweight and portable laptops to conduct tornado damage assessments.

IdeaPad S10 netbooks — Individual scientists are using these netbooks as a quick and easy way to check Internet weather forecasts and email.

ThinkCentre M58p desktops — The newest Doppler on Wheels, the DOW7, is a mobile radar and serves as a mission control center. Inside is a stack of eight Lenovo desktops that crunch information from the Internet, navigate, translate, and display radar data, and track the entire fleet of storm chasers for the Center for Severe Weather Research. Each PC performs a different function focused on helping run the mobile radar, weather observatory and radar operations.

ThinkVision L2440x and L220x widescreen monitors — Housed inside the DOW6 vehicle, these high resolution displays provide the crew with the latest up-to-date information The monitors also are being used for weather briefings for the team of 120 scientists. The energy efficiency of the monitors is also essential to allowing the DOW6 vehicle to power the computers, monitors, communications, and radar simultaneously.

Check out our video overview of the Vortex2 project when we went on location with the storm chasers in Norman, Oklahoma.

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