Hunting Tornadoes For the past two years Dr. Bruce Morgan has spent a portion of each spring zigzagging across Oklahoma's checkerboard of farms and oil fields ... searching. In the spring of 1973 he found what he was looking for-a powerful storm which spawned a tornado before his eyes. "lt was a very peculiar sight," Morgan recalled. The sun was shining where we were. There was no sound; we couldn't hear anything. Very light debris-tiny pieces of paper-floated down, blowing in the wind like snow. Three miles away from us this 3,000-foot tornado looking something like a gigantic ice-cream cone was smashing through Union City, Oklahoma. This big white column was just grinding its way across the ground." Morgan and a three-person team from the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) lettuce recorded the tornado on film and made qualitative scientific observations. The team shot more than 40,000 frames of film by the time the funnel finished its I0-mile path of destruction and curled back up into the clouds. After targeting a region and obtaining a detailed forecast from the National Severe Storms Forecasting Center in Kansas City, the team drove to that area and positioned itself on the southeastern edge of the storm, the traditional spawning site for tornadoes. As the team chased a storm, often 300 miles in a day, it received updated weather information via radio-telephone from the NSSL base. Although it was a record lean year for tornadoes, the storm-tracking unit went out I8 times during the first spring and monitored 14 storms, two of which produced small tornadoes, It was enough of a success to convince NOAA to renew the project for another year. The next spring, the storm trackers had more severe weather than they could handle. The United States received the deficit of tornadoes plus a few extra. Tornadoes formed at a record rate throughout the entire country. For Morgan and the other members of the chase crew, the successful tracking and photographing of the Union City tornado was the highlight of the season. They believe much valuable scientific information can be culled from the Union City film. For example, the tornado's size versus time can be reconstructed and compared to the various computer models which have been developed. [image] *** WEATHER FORECASTING BY SATELLITE AND COMPUTER Almost 15 years ago, April l, 1960, a new era in meteorology began with the launching by NASA from Cape Canaveral of the world's first weather satellite TIROS-1 (Television Infared Observation Satellite). Today a facsmile of the day's weather by satellite (ESSA Series) is transmitted by computer to the data center at the Environmental Science Services Administration at Suitland, MD. (Photo courtesy NASA). 51 [image] Minis monitor weather at nuclear power sites The Atomic Energy Commission requires that proposed nuclear power-station sites he monitored for weather conditions two years before the start of construction. all during construction and for two years after the beginning of operation. A computer-based system, operated by Digital Graphics Inc.. Rockville, Md., has been monitoring five unattended sites since January in accordance with AEC requirements. At each site 32 weather-monitor ing instruments, installed on a 400-ft tower, are sampled once every 15 minutes by an on-site minicomputer-a Varian 620/L. In addition to gathering data, the computer checks the quality of data to indicate instrument malfunctions. At four-hour intervals, each remote site is contacted via commercial telephone lines by a central Varian 73 minicomputer, which gathers the data. The central computer also resets the clock at the site, clears the memory and can provide program updates. It will print an alarm message if any instruments appear to be malfunctioning. At infrequent intervals, the central computer serves as a timesharing terminal for a large computer, transmitting many months' worth of processed weather data. The large computer is then used to simulate conditions such as probable vapor drift from at cooling tower or accidental nuclear-particle release.