Josh Clark, Staff Writer

HowStuffWorks 2009

Totable Tornado Observatory: Author's Note

I don't remember how I landed the assignment to write about the Totable Tornado Observatory. I do recall that it sank in very quickly, after just a little bit of preliminary research, that I had seen something like an ode to it in the movie "Twister." I thought it was an interesting homage and gave the movie a bit more weight. In fairly short order, though, I came to like the real story of TOTO more.

The haphazard, kitchen-sink-inclusive design of the TOTO that these highly trained meteorologists had to come up with themselves was almost comical. This thing could use a pressure gauge, I could imagine one meteorologist saying. "Well, put one in there," I could hear another replying. And the name, itself an homage to "The Wizard of Oz," really illuminated the blurred line between hobbyist and scientist among the storm chasing community, which I came to respect.

And I also remember coming to the realization that TOTO's creators came to at some point: How are they going to get the observatory precisely in the path of a tornado? This one turned out to be really interesting and fun to write.

Sources

  • Biggerstaff, Micheal I. The Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teac­hing Radar." National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration. http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/projects/smartradars/pubs/SR-BAMS.pdf
  • Fahrenthold, David A. "More tornadoes, or just better tracking?" Washington Post. May 21, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/05/20/AR2008052001600.html
  • Goodwin, Ellis. "New weather project could help track tornadoes more closely." The Daily Oklahoma. February 26, 2008. http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/news/headlines/2008/toto.html
  • Hare, Michael and Hamlin, Ann. "The study of early architecture in Ireland." Archaeology Data Service. http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/cbaresrep/pdf/060/06012003.pdf
  • Hoadley, David. "Chase 1985: April - the peaks and the troughs." Storm Track. May 31, 1985. http://www.stormtrack.org/archive/0844.htm
  • Williams, Jack. "Doppler radar is a key forecasting tool." USA Today Weather Book. October 28, 2005. http://www.usatoday.com/weather/wdoppler.htm
  • "A day in the life of a stormchaser." PBS. 1997. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/imax/life.html
  • "A steeple of fire in the air," from Joyce, P.W. "The Wonders of Ireland." 1911. http://www.libraryireland.com/Wonders/Steeple-Fire-Air.php
  • "Could hurricanes or tornadoes develop in Europe?" Max-Planck-Institut fur Meteorologie. http://www.mpimet.mpg.de/en/presse/faq-s/kann-es-in-europa-hurrikane-oder-tornados-geben.html
  • "Doppler On Wheels." Center for Severe Weather Research. http://www.cswr.org/dow/DOW.htm
  • "Earliest tornado and waterspout." Tornado and Storm Research Organisation. http://www.torro.org.uk/TORRO/research/whirlextreme.php
  • "NASA technology putting a new twist on early detection of twisters." Marshall Space Flight Center. April 1997. http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/new/tornado.html
  • "The TOTO home page." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/toto.htm
  • "Things that have been deliberately placed in the path of an oncoming tornado (either successfully or not)." Tornado Project. http://www.tornadoproject.com/cellar/curiosity.htm
  • "What do you do with a tornado once you've chased it down? Look inside it." University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. April 10, 2000. http://www.ucar.edu/communications/highlights/1996/programs.html

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