Staring into the Belly of the Tornadic Beast

By Tom Yulsman | June 18, 2013 9:36 pm

I was out in the prairie northeast of Denver today with researchers from the National Severe Storms Laboratory using a drone aircraft to observe developing thunderstorms when we got the news: A tornado had touched at Denver International Airport, about 50 miles to the south of us.

Interestingly, we got the news from Twitter — and that’s where this awesome picture of the twister, which touched down briefly and harmed no one, turned up shortly thereafter:

The team from the severe storms lab, working with students and researchers from the University of Colorados’s Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles, were out with two Dopper on Wheels radar trucks, or DOWs, a van bristling with weather monitoring equipment, a weather balloon, and the drone airplane.

The idea was to use the drone to gather data on the evolution of temperature and moisture near thunderstorms that’s difficult to obtain otherwise, and cross check it with information from the other instruments. The goal: improve forecasting of thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Luckily for the research, the thunderstorm cells that produced the DIA twister moved in our direction. And luckily for all of us, we were close enough to get good data, but no one was ever at risk.

I took a lot of pictures and video and will post some of them in the next day or so. In the meantime, here’s another Twitpic photo of the tornado that touched down at the airport this afternoon:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Atmosphere, select, Top Posts, Weather


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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