Cyclone Road


Sunday, September 07, 2008

In Situ Observations of the 21 April 2007 Tulia, Texas Tornado by Scott F. Blair, Derek R. Deroche, Albert E. Pietrycha is now posted to the Electronic Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology. It's available in HTML or as a PDF file. Reviewer comments are also visible on the website.

This paper represents tremendous dedication and effort by Scott and his co-authors over a long period of time and through several profound challenges. We lost Eric while this paper was being composed. What happened last summer made it even more important to Scott that he deliver the data, not only because of the great scientific value, but also because they represent the pinnacle of Eric's commitment to quality instrumentation and data collection. Eric designed his own suite, quality-controlled the system, and assembled high-quality components because it was vitally important to him that his data were accurately gathered and recorded. Less than an hour after the Tulia tornado hit us, as we finished collecting our gear from his totalled Xterra, Eric asked me to turn off the data logger installed in his glove box. I was amazed he'd thought of it given the circumstances. But the scientific benefits of chasing were always on Eric's mind.

This dramatic dataset--a 194 millibar pressure drop during the tornado passage--is the ultimate product of everything Eric valued as a chaser. Scott understood this better than anyone.

As for me, this publication conjures real value from what has always seemed like an arbitrary piece of rotten luck: getting caught by that violent little vortex. Rather than simply re-telling details about the day, now I can point to serious data we captured which were analyzed and processed by meteorologists, the results of which were reviewed by some of the most important tornado scientists in the world. I would not go through the Tulia experience again, obviously, but now it has some worth. Hopefully these data will join a growing set of observations (though without human accompaniment!), to inspire hypotheses and theories we cannot yet imagine. This is what science is about. This would have meant the world to Eric and it does to me, too.

So let me say "thanks" to Scott Blair, Derek Deroche, and Al Peitrycha for their commitment and patience.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Oops. Posted something from the writing blog on the chasing blog. Maybe a Freudian slip. Since I deleted that entry I thought I'd make up for it with something related to chasing. Except that...I got nothing. Didn't chase Gustav, probably will never chase a hurricane unless it's insanely convenient. Don't like being wet for three days. A couple friends are down there in southern Louisiana planting ground sensors and measuring pressure fields, though I don't know what kind of data Gustav will provide given his rapid weakening. I was surprise how fast it went downhill; the environment seemed more supportive a few days ago. So it goes.

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