Interesting Weather Information

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The El Reno, Oklahoma Tornado and a Tale of Many Motives

It was bound to happen. Fate is rarely cheated of the shocking headlines that seemingly happen way more today than they did a few years ago. May 31, 2013 is an example.  It is a day most of us who have spent our adult lives in the weather business will never forget.  In the headlines a Weather Channel meteorologist guides his crew right into an EF5 tornado, the widest ever recorded and  luckily they survive. They accomplished their goal - more viewers.  In the same storm a well respected research storm chaser, his son and another colleague lost their lives when their storm chase SUV became EF5 debris then was crushed, twisted and mangled beyond recognition.

Research storm chaser? I call Tim Samaras that to distinguish media storm chasers in search of viewers and  thrill seeking chasers in search of an adrenaline rush from serious scientists like Tim Samaras.  To be sure, I am not judging any of them. Consenting adults who recognize the danger and accept the risk are free to put themselves in harms way in a free society. I hope all of them always return home safely.

Tim Samaras did something no one else had done.  He placed instrument packages in the direct path of the EF4, Manchester, SD tornado on June 24, 2003. After a decade of trying, that day he scored a direct hit. The results of that dangerous activity are shown below in two graphs.



The top graph shows the 100mb pressure drop as the tornado passed over the instruments. The bottom graph shows a smaller pressure drop in the same tornado at a separate location.

It doesn't look like much but it took Tim Samaras 10 years to score a bulls eye with many close calls along the way. We know much more about tornadoes because he did.

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