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Rugged and ready: ThinkPads vital to predicting, monitoring severe storms

Weather has a way of uniting humanity. Families watch lightning storms from darkened porches, and neighbors help one another shovel out after major snowfalls. But weather — especially in the extreme — carries with it an innate danger. Scientists and weather buffs alike are continuously searching for better ways to predict severe storms before they turn deadly.

And that’s exactly what spurred more than 100 scientists at the Center for Severe Weather Research to conduct an unprecedented study in 2009-10 of tornado patterns and behavior across seven states and 500,000 square miles. The Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2, better known as VORTEX2, was a combination of government, academic, nonprofit and international organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

It’s goal? To better predict tornadoes, their intensity, duration and path and in turn, save lives. The largest project of its kind, VORTEX2 cost $11.9 million and collected an unprecedented amount of data.

The team had more than 40 specialty vehicles and 70 pieces of weather equipment designed to get them as close to the storm’s eye as possible, but they also needed to analyze the data quickly and efficiently, no matter how extreme the circumstances.

Enter Lenovo technology.

At the heart of information operations for these storm chasers was the Lenovo ThinkPad, the ThinkCentre desktop, ThinkVision monitors and IdeaPad netbooks. Empowered with the right tools, these storm chasers could crunch millions of megabytes of data right from the field.

Throughout VORTEX2, the equipment stood the test, successfully coordinating people, vehicles and multiples streams of communication.

“This is without a doubt the largest tornado research project ever undertaken with the sheer number of participants, the breadth of organizations involved and the amount of equipment used,” research meteorologist and president of CSWR, Joshua Wurman said at the time.

At the heart of the fleet — the ThinkPads featuring magnesium alloy roll cages, built in fingerprint readers, shock mounted and encrypted hard disk drives were portable and reliable. The ThinkPad T400 was used to test and monitor weather stations in the field and collected data from dozens of pods placed in the storms’ paths and the ThinkPad X200 which is lightweight was carried through debris and used to conduct on-site damage assessments. From inside storm chasing vehicles, the ThinkPad W500 ran navigation, tracking and mapping software and the ThinkPad W700 analyzed and displayed graphic data and video feeds without requiring a desktop. Finally, located on Wurman’s “Doppler on Wheels mobile radar system, was a ThinkCentre M58p which served as mission control.

“To pull off a project of this scale, we needed rugged and reliable PC technology,” Wurman said. “A fleet of Lenovo PCs helped us see further inside the storm and helped bring some predictability to this natural phenomenon.”

And more predictability means more lives saved.

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To learn more about ThinkPads and shop the newest laptops and tablets, visit Lenovo.com.

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