Researchers from 19 universities in four countries are preparing for a massive $10.5 million tornado chase, LiveScience reports. The project, dubbed VORTEX2 (Verification Of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment), will send 50 scientists in 40 research vehicles chasing super-cell thunderstorms, which tend to generate the nastiest tornadoes, across South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas.
Though scientists know the basics about tornadoes, much about them remains a mystery, including exactly what conditions they develop in and what happens inside of them. The first VORTEX project revealed that the tornadoes happened “on smaller time and space scales than scientists thought,” says one researcher. VORTEX2 aims to craft a better understanding of why twisters form, and how to predict them.