Interesting Weather Information

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Severe Storms Rock Stars

Long before the insightful investigations of Ted Fujita led him to develop the F-scale for estimating tornado wind velocities and even longer before scientists, storm adventurers, severe weather rock stars Howie Bluestein and Josh Wurman could see the intricate dance of small vorticies as they merged to form large tornadoes using a doppler-on-wheels (DOW - see videos below) -  there was John Parker Finley.

Tetsuya Theodore "Ted" Fujita in his University if Chicago laboratory.
Howard Bluestein
Josh Wurman and a DOW (Doppler on Wheels)

The middle video shows convergence (red) and vorticity (i.e. spin or rotation outlined in black) . Notice the voticity being imported into the main rotation. Top: Doppler on Wheels view of a tornado. Bottom: Rotation being pulled into a tornado, pay close attention to the left panel. All courtesy

Finley was a rock star severe storm investigator long before rock-and-roll's seminal instrument the electric guitar was possible. He dug deep and demanded perfection. He developed a storm-spotter network and compiled a comprehensive history of tornado touchdowns for the United States - the first tornado climatology in the world.

John Park Finley's map of tornado touchdowns in the United States. from 1760 - 1885. Notice how the heart of  Tornado Alley, present day Oklahoma, then Indian Territory, lacks tornado reports. This problem still plagues researchers. We have to adjust for population density before we take the reports seriously. The lack of tornadoes where the Appalachian Mountains are is a combination of both low population density and real lower tornado touchdown occurence.

Finley's contour map of tornado occurrence and again the Indian Territory lacks reports, but if you take into account what we know today you can see where Tornado Alley is.

Finley advocated insurance against tornado damage, offered advice on staying safe and presented plans for what he called a "tornado cave". In fact Finley along with the Burlington Insurance Company in Iowa sponsored a contest for the best design of a tornado cave. The contest was won by architect John R. Church of Rochester, NY out of a total of 122 entries. 

The prize was $200 which in 2013 dollars is $4250.

Finley also gave advice on tornado safety after reviewing many tornado touchdown sites. Take a look at the diagram below.

In addition he tried to understand how tornadoes work.

John Park Finley, a severe storms rock star long before that title made any sense.

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