Tornadoes & Storm Chasing

The newest Doppler-On-Wheels (DOW) observing the Goshen County, Wyoming tornado on June 5, 2009. The DOWs and VORTEX2 observed this tornado from before birth, through its intensification, until its dissipation. A scientist engaged in photogrammetry research stands behind the DOW. Credit: Herb Stein / CSWR

One of the innovative things that my son’s elementary school does each semester is to create clusters where groups of students will study one topic in-depth for a period of eight weeks.  They meet for an hour each week and prepare interactive presentations that are showcased for parents and teachers.  This spring, Cameron was very excited because they were offering a cluster on severe weather.  Aside from learning about the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, there is no other topic that captures Cam’s attention quite like tornadoes.

When he was two, we checked out a National Geographic DVD at the library about storm chasing that featured a group of Boulder scientists, led by Josh Wurman, tracking and chasing tornado producing storm systems. This group, The Center for Severe Weather Research, is part of team of various research programs that aim to give us a better understanding of severe weather dynamics.   Along with the Boulder team, was Sean Casey and his Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV), who is an IMAX film producer.  The plan was for the TIV (think of a cross between a tank and some type of spaceship) to place itself directly in the path of a tornado and collect scientific data as well as IMAX film footage.  Anyway, Cam was entranced and we ended up buying the DVD.  He’s probably watched it 150 times in the past four years.  So as you can probably guess, he was very excited to learn more about the topic at school.

Press-kit image for the upcoming IMAX movie “Tornado Alley”

After learning that they were going to be studying tornadoes and severe weather at school, I contacted Josh Wurman and inquired if they could send some educational material for the kids.  He ended up doing much more than that.  Much to the delight of 18 five to eight year olds, they actually sent down one of their storm tracking trucks called a Doppler on Wheels (DOW).  Justin Walker and Ab Pfeiffer from the Center for Severe Weather Research spent over an hour educating the kids and showing them their DOW truck.  I hope that the National Science Foundation t-shirt that Justin wore will be remembered by and inspire more than one child.  I can’t thank them enough for coming down and talking with us but hopefully the smiles of wonder in the pics below will be a start.

Justin Walker & Ab Pfeiffer from The Center for Severe Weather Research

Justin Walker & Ab Pfeiffer from The Center for Severe Weather Research

Justin Walker & Ab Pfeiffer from The Center for Severe Weather Research

Justin Walker from The Center for Severe Weather Research

Ab Pfeiffer from The Center for Severe Weather Research

Justin Walker & Ab Pfeiffer from The Center for Severe Weather Research

When I decided to start this blog, it was primarily to share my thoughts about this wonderful state.  Sure we all work and face the trials and tribulations that anyone goes through in life, but I’ve always found that living in Colorado makes the day to day stuff easier to deal with.  I hope that that upbeat Colorado vibe always comes through.

That being said, I actually wrote this post at the end of April as a simple feel good story about a couple of guys from a National Science Foundation research group inspiring a class of young kids.  Simple, clean, and feel good.  However, that was before we experienced the worst month of tornados in recorded history.  That was before Tuscaloosa.  That was before Joplin.  Those events and all the other tornadoes that have affected the lives of thousands this past six weeks have brought a real poignancy about the mission that the people up at the Center for Severe Weather Research are championing.  Here’s to hoping that the knowledge that they, and others like them, gain contributes to saved lives in the future.

Additional Information:

Center for Severe Weather Research based in Boulder: 

National Science Foundation: 

And in IMAX Theares worldwide now,Sean Casey’s Tornado Alley 

Tornado Alley will eventually make it to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science so keep an eye on their schedule:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Vimeo Videos

%d bloggers like this: