Storm Chasers 2009 what Breakthroughs were Made in Studying Tornadoes

The reality television show, “Storm Chasers” followed two or three teams of individuals who had their unique motivations for putting equipment, life and limb at risk in chasing tornadoes throughout the North American tornado region.  One team supported a filmmaker who specializes in IMAX format scientific and unusual natural phenomena. His goal was to film a tornado from the base and up into the structure of the storm.

Another team supported a young, showy PhD student who was brilliant at finding storms and at taking risks to deploy the latest and greatest in storm measuring and monitoring technology.

Others in the teams were experts in driving throughout the harrowing and often disappointing and heartbreaking areas to capture the storms while maintaining and operating the special vehicles that were involved. Others were experts in using Doppler and other radars to find the indicators that a tornado was likely. And, of course, there were expert camera operators.

One technological development was in the vehiclesthat were used to chase the storms from a position of enhanced protection and safety. The filmmaker had a vehicle that was modified to look like a mini tank! It was heavily armored and had the mechanisms to clamp down to the ground when located properly to film with an IMAX quality camera, up inside of the tornado. But most importantly, the vehicle had the working area for an advanced camera that could film in the highest quality.

Another team had an armored vehicle that could clamp down and offer a modicum of safety, but many of the stormchasers simply rode in regular vehicles that held the probes, specialized wind speed, radar and deployable probes that would provide extremely valuable data for examination and hopefully better warning systems for tornadoes.

With improved vehicles, storm detection, state of the art radar and measuring devices and experience, the teams were able to meet their goals. The IMAX quality film, up and inside of a tornado was caught. Many probes were deployed and recovered to collect valuable wind speed and other data.

But the most spectacular accomplishment was the deployment of a model aircraft with about a 6 foot wingspan that held HDTV cameras and other equipment. The aircraft was deployed form a ground level takeoff, then released plastic balls that held cameras and other equipment and which were attached to tiny parachutes. The “balls” were sucked into the tornado and stayed with it for over ten miles! This was a first in history and contributed incredibly valuable information to scientists who study tornadoes.

And the model plane was retrieved in an excellent landing and recovery, too!