A storm system brewing in the Rockies today might trigger an outbreak of deadly tornadoes in the nation's midsection on Friday, according to meteorologists. In case you missed it, read PopSci senior editor Seth Fletcher's piece about how tornadoes form — and how climate change may be making them worse.
On the Labrador Sea, the scientific crew of the research vessel Knorr hunts for underwater storms, sinks a two-mile mooring--and gathers clues to the planet's fate
By Donovan HohnPosted 02.14.2011 at 11:53 am 0 Comments
As we pass through the Strait of Belle Isle and emerge from the shelter of Newfoundland's lee, the first mate pipes instructions from the bridge: Lash down or stow all belongings. Rough weather ahead. Two decks below in the main lab, Amy Bower loads onto her extra-large monitor what appear to be abstract paintings, giant red and orange blobs in a field of yellow, as her computer reads text aloud in a robotic voice. Nose almost touching the screen, she searches for clues in the colorful abstractions, which are in fact oversized topographical maps of the Labrador Sea.
A senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Bower is the chief scientist on the first leg of voyage 192, as it's officially called—a search for the hidden weather that roils beneath the sea. She also happens to suffer from not one but two congenital diseases: macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. She is legally blind. But in her 22 years as an oceanographer, she's confronted winter storms on the North Atlantic and Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. With the help of her computer and other instruments, Bower can see the ocean far more clearly than most of us.
On a rural spread of acreage in South Carolina, insurance companies are looking to cover themselves against losses by knocking down houses. That might sound counterintuitive, but from an engineering standpoint it makes perfect sense. The industry-funded Institute for Business & Home Safety yesterday opened a $40 million, 2,300-square-foot disaster lab yesterday that is among the best in the world, with the ability to subject entire homes to tornado-strength winds or Category 3 hurricanes.
The world's biggest tornado hunt is stuck. I'm at an improvised command center in the conference room of the Holiday Inn Express in Perry, Oklahoma, and 35 scientists are trying to decide where, on this cloudy May morning, to deploy the 50 equipment-laden trucks parked outside. The first major storm system of the expedition is forming southwest of us, in Texas, and it's likely to lead to supercells, massive rotating thunderstorms that may in turn spin off one or more twisters. Very promising. But Lou Wicker, a team leader from the National Severe Storms Laboratory, sees a problem. He looks up from a radar screen. "Fifty miles per hour," he says. Too fast.
Since we're now on the same team as far as corporate ownership goes, we're excited to begin featuring some of Popular Photography's amazing work here PopSci.com, starting with this piece on weather-junkie Jim Reed and the story behind his beautiful photographs. --Eds.
Jim Reed's passion for extreme weather photography has put him in harm's way more than once. Getting fantastic images of nature's most incredible tricks involves a lot more than running head-on into a storm. It takes patience, science and surprisingly few new camera bodies.
In London, Ontario, a team from the University of Western Ontario is bringing a fairy tale to life at the Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes. They don't have a wolf, but in their "Three Little Pigs" project they are literally trying to blow the roof off, subjecting full-scale houses to pressures that simulate wind forces matching those of a Category 5 hurricane: 200 mph. Researchers are looking to find the sources of structural weakness in house construction in order to improve building design in the future.
A storm's radar signature could help scientists better predict twisters
By Gregory MonePosted 02.14.2008 at 11:38 am 1 Comment
In the aftermath of the Feb. 6 tornado, scientists at The University of Alabama, Huntsville have been analyzing radar images of the event, searching for signs that might help them issue faster warnings in the future. The radar signature from debris sucked up into the air is so distinctive that the group thinks it may be able to develop an automated detection system. Essentially, theyd program computers to automatically pick out these signs in the data, and raise a flag immediately.