Magazine article Science News

Radar Catches a Tornado in the Act

Magazine article Science News

Radar Catches a Tornado in the Act

Article excerpt

While the hit movie Twister sucks in viewers by the millions with its computer-drawn tornadoes and caricatures of meteorologists, real-life researchers are quietly unraveling the hidden structure of nature's most violent storms. This week, three Oklahoma tornado chasers report that they have captured the most detailed portrait of a twister yet, thanks to a new mobile radar system.

Capable of "seeing" the winds and debris whipping around in the heart of a storm, the Doppler radar has already confirmed some theories about tornadoes and presented additional puzzles, says Joshua Wurman of the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

"We're the first ones to have taken three-dimensional images of a tornado structure. We see where the maximum winds are and how strong they are. These things have never been measured before because nobody's been able to get up close to a tornado with a radar before," says Wurman, who collaborated with Jerry M. Straka of the University of Oklahoma and Erik N. Rasmussen of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman.

Wurman and his colleagues constructed the Doppler on Wheels radar last spring and have caught three tornadoes so far. They describe measurements of one storm in the June 21 Science. Despite the preliminary nature of their work, it is already garnering accolades from fellow tornado researchers. "I view this study and this research as worthy of the meteorological equivalent of a Nobel prize. These gentlemen risked life and limb to get this radar within striking distance of a tornado," comments Joseph H. Golden, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Md. Golden initiated NOAA's tornado chase project in 1972, when he worked at the agency's severe storms lab. The scientific descendant of Golden's program was a mission called VORTEX, which ran during 1994 and 1995. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.