This post sucks and blows
June 8, 2005 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Inside a tornado. It's a technological first. A well-placed probe fitted with 7 video cameras—6 with a 60-degree field-of-view designed to achieve a full 360-degree field-of-view and one pointing upward—captures footage inside a tornado, providing visual data on ground wind speeds where the storm does the greatest damage. And Tim Samaras with his team of storm chasers are there to make it happen.
posted by KevinSkomsvold (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The real question: did Helen Hunt help out in the end?
posted by Mach5 at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2005

More importantly, how did Helen Hunt's shirt stay on in the full force of the Tornado? Just curious.

I clicked the Quick Set Up link first and am not waiting for the Direct Hit to load up. This is very cool stuff, Kevin!

Finally got it to load up and watched it. Very intense stuff but I would have liked to be able to sit on one camera and watch it from that angle. It was hard to follow with the camera always changing.
posted by fenriq at 12:11 PM on June 8, 2005

Great pictures - this makes the storms in the UK look a bit pathetic.
posted by Lanark at 12:12 PM on June 8, 2005

This is why I love the internet.
posted by Alison at 12:18 PM on June 8, 2005

It was funny watching the dude keep readjusting the camera and running back to the truck. I would have had a load in my pants.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:26 PM on June 8, 2005

Got to see Tim Samaras present this at the CPSWS in March. Kudos to him designing a probe that does not get blown away by the tornadic winds, let alone one that takes video and barometric pressure readings.

On the subject of tornadoes, this year has been very subpar for storm chasers. However, keep an eye on the weather Friday and Saturday in "Tornado Alley". It isn't often you see the SPC put a 35% probability on an area three days out.

You'll find lots of great links to tornado video by chasers in the REPORTS found in the Target Area forum at Stormtrack. Like THIS, for instance.
posted by spock at 12:31 PM on June 8, 2005

posted by srboisvert at 12:42 PM on June 8, 2005

This is terrific. I've always been fascinated by tornados and tornado chasers. Thanks for the link.
posted by LeeJay at 12:44 PM on June 8, 2005

Heavy Weather, for your Bruce Sterling called it first fix of the day.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:44 PM on June 8, 2005

very cool
posted by pyramid termite at 12:58 PM on June 8, 2005

More importantly, how did Helen Hunt's shirt stay on in the full force of the Tornado?

madonna tits.
posted by quonsar at 1:00 PM on June 8, 2005

He's been linked here before, but my fav. storm photographer/chaser is Mike Hollingshead. This storm was particularly awesome looking, even sans-tornado. 2004 was a much better year, overall.

The photography at StormEyes is also well worth a visit.
posted by spock at 1:05 PM on June 8, 2005

Didn't see any flying friesian cows ether...

At the risk of sounding like a kill joy, what is the real value of this macho-science?
posted by marvin at 1:27 PM on June 8, 2005

Marvin. Apparently this is the first time that the "inside" of a tornado has been filmed/taped; at least to this extent. My guess is that they will be doing a lot more of these (in this instance it appears the tornado came close but not quite over the camera) to gain a better understanding of tornados in general.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:58 PM on June 8, 2005

marvin writes "At the risk of sounding like a kill joy, what is the real value of this macho-science?"

Tornados are one end point of the weather spectrum with a perfectly calm pleasent temperature and humidity day at the other end. By knowing the end points we can better understand the between.

Besides as science goes this is pretty cheap. Some students; gas; cars; computer time and some whizzy electronics.
posted by Mitheral at 2:12 PM on June 8, 2005

Amazing, although I found the build up and the placement of the cameras more exciting than the "inside of the tornado."
posted by fire&wings at 2:13 PM on June 8, 2005

"macho-science"? I did not realize that science was divided into a macho-to-wimpy spectrum.

Your question, marvin, presupposes that knowledge (in and of itself) has no value. and I disagree with that position. Application of that knowledge must, by definition, come after the knowledge acquisition. There is a great deal that we do not yet know about tornadoes and the storms that produce them, but as our knowledge has improved so has the amount of TIME that can be given between a tornado warning and the tornado being on top of you. So if you value human life, there is a fair amount of "real value" right there.

Tim Samaras' probes are not just for pictures. His first generation probes recorded the barometric pressure of a tornado that destroyed a town in South Dakota (in 2003, I believe). He found the barometric pressure drops from 990-1000 millibars (normal low pressure system) to a ridiculous 100 millibars! No one could say before he deployed a probe in the path of a storm. It is another piece in the puzzle of our growing body of knowledge. Sorry, I can't tell you how it will lead to something you can use like velcro or sumpin'.
posted by spock at 2:17 PM on June 8, 2005

This is cool - thanks for the link.
FWIW, I thought that the video was extremely well-edited. The real-time switching from camera to camera was always extremely clear, and it was pretty easy to orient oneself by the position of the tornado. A nifty device, and well used.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:08 PM on June 8, 2005

I'm certain there is some machismo about it. On the other hand, I think there are some things that we just can't find out about tornados by analyzing damage after the fact (a process made famous by Fujita) or by shooting radio waves at it from a distance. Actually knowing that's going on inside that outer sheath requires dumping something in the path of a tornado.

I think a nice outcome of this research would be information that can be used for tornado-resistant construction.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:24 PM on June 8, 2005

Excellent post, KevinSkomsvold, thanks. Good in-thread contributions too.

The other multimedia clips in the sidebar are very cool too - shows them placing the cameras with a monster F4 right on their tail - only 60 or 70 seconds away. Yikes, yikes!
posted by madamjujujive at 4:31 PM on June 8, 2005

I'm glad I live in a world where someone else does the dangerous tornado investigation work.

Macho, perhaps. Important, definitely. Dangerous, without a doubt.
posted by tommasz at 4:40 PM on June 8, 2005

On the subject of tornadoes, this year has been very subpar for storm chasers. However, keep an eye on the weather Friday and Saturday

Sure hasn't been anything interesting in Eastern OK/Western AR this spring. I'd love to head west tomorrow and hang out in the panhandles but the way my car sucks gas, I haven't been straying far from home. *goes back to playing Fate, tries not to think about storms*
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 7:18 PM on June 8, 2005

OK point taken.

However I do find myself getting testy and irritable with our Discovery Channel indulgence with this kind of telegenic, erm, macho/bravado stuff. The same goes, for example, for the unrelenting prodding and baiting of hapless sharks in the interests of entertain... I mean science. We could be devoting attention to the more insidious and less spectacular things that are conributing to our slow spiral towards the next global wipe-out. But that's less exciting.
posted by marvin at 9:21 PM on June 8, 2005

Lots of people doing that kind of science marvin. The thing is it's just about as exciting as watching paint dry so it doesn't make TV. We do a bit of highway surface materials testing at work and it's interesting for about five minutes.
posted by Mitheral at 9:11 AM on June 9, 2005

marvin: In the past few years Discovery Channel has become less about science and more about chop shops and the like. It's best not to judge anything by how television presents it =P
posted by joquarky at 3:22 PM on June 9, 2005

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