anyCLIMBERS from OKALHOMA--your are in thought and prayers..


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Trad climber
Jun 2, 2013 - 10:46pm PT
what is a turtle?
tinker b

the commonwealth
Jun 2, 2013 - 10:58pm PT
i actually read all that.. thanks. i learned a bunch.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 2, 2013 - 11:19pm PT
Thanks for sharing, BASE104 - very interesting stuff. Sorry about the loss of one of the best researchers and his helpers.


A "turtle" is a portable (and rugged) data sensor deployed on the ground.
Tim Samaras, a 45-year-old electronics engineer from Denver, and his storm-chasing partner, Pat Porter, are in a van that carries six probes, often called "turtles"—squat, 45-pound metal disks that look like flying saucers. Through embedded sensors, the probes can measure a tornado's wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature. Samaras's mission, and his passion, is to plant them in the path of the funnel. His hope is that both he and the instruments survive.

photo of Tim Samaras, 2003

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 2, 2013 - 11:42pm PT
It is an aerodynamically and lead weighted thing that had a full suite of instruments. You turn them on, place them along a line if you are lucky enough to have a road, and hope they take a direct hit. They have been through wind tunnels, and won't budge in 250 mph winds. We failed over and over again. We would be on a tornado, but the road system is what it is, and if you don't have a N/S road to place them on, you are hosed. I only saw them deployed twice in over a decade and countless months on these spring field experiments.

Tim Samaras was very commited and extremely good at picking the path. He could safely place them, and on one that took a direct hit, he recorded a 100 millibar pressure drop in 40 seconds. Nobody had seen that data. It affects windspeed (which was also measured), thermodynamics, everything.

It is pretty science intensive. No way could I discuss it here.

There had been modelers who insisted that rising wind inside the center of tornados must have been over 300 or 400 mph. He gathered that data and took care of that end. His data has been used and published over and over again.

It isn't an adrenaline activity. It is usually incredibly boring, disappointing, and frustrating. You can have everything, including the NCAR Electra and P3 hurricane hunters, but if you don't get the right set up, you will get a sunburn over the spring.

We've worked with lots of airplanes which carry really sweet radars to give a 3 dimensional picture of the storm. The coolest is at the S Dakota school of mines. They have an old WW2 era armored airplane and he flys in and out of the updraft, getting clobbered with baseball hail.

One time the NCAR Electra, which is a really large aircraft, hit a downdraft that was so bad that it bent the frame and the back door wouldn't open. That took a ton of money to fix.

On hurricanes, the hurricane hunters would drop sondes on us as we made transects in and out of the eyewall. I don't like hurricanes. They last for days, they are hard on the instruments, and everything gets so wet that it is fungal.

NASA has a couple of new satellites that are seeing detail in hurricanes that will blow your mind. They have high res radar and infrared cameras that show features that nobody knew existed. These features explain why even a relatively small hurricane can cause a lot of damage if it has these features. Nova did a 2 hour special on them a while back. My buddy Jerry is working with the national hurricane center and they are finding out amazing things that nobody knew about from the regular radars.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 2, 2013 - 11:59pm PT
Nobody can believe that Tim was the first chaser fatality. Yeah, he enjoyed the big storms like we all do, but he collaborated with a bunch of researchers and recorded data that had never been seen.

One year our project was called Vortex-RFD. The Vortex field experiments were huge with huge budgets. This year we were trying to measure a downdraft that we were noticing on the back side of the storm, and it was a problem with modeling.

Almost all downdrafts are rain cooled air that is heavier than the surrounding air and just falls to spread out on the ground like pouring syrup but it covered miles.

We discovered that it was hot and moist. That air should not have been falling in the mid troposphere environment, which is usually cold and dry in supercells. That meant that it was adiabatically forced, and solving that was huge. Now it is 10 years old and in all of the papers and models. We spent a whole summer with ten probe vehicles trying to get on the west side of a tornado and measure this. We succeeded and it changed tornado science a lot.

It all comes down to improving warnings and eliminating the warnings when nothing happens. People stop paying attention and the fatality rate was going up.

On the F5 Moore tornado, all of the warnings, including the on-air meteorologists told everyone that this tornado was so powerful that you couldn't sit it out in a closet. They plainly said if you weren't underground, you would die. As I watched it come in, there was nobody outside being an idiot. Everyone had taken shelter, and usually a neighbor has an underground shelter.

I'm getting emails. Signing off.

I will say that I used to run into Tim all over the great plains. We all knew where the tornado risk was, and it was common to run into a friend 600 miles from home, on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

Tim was the best, or I should say, nobody was better.

Trad climber
Jun 3, 2013 - 12:08am PT
condolences. I had no clue about the science.

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 3, 2013 - 12:14am PT
hey there say, base104, i had just read about the loss of this man, tim samaras, and his son--and partner...

was wondering if you knew him, i have not read any more of all this yet, but will do now...

oh, oh my, clint...
i just put the title this way, in case some of
the "this does not pertain to climbing folks' would not think i was
rude, to post it here... :(

wanted the climbers, to know that i was thinking of THEM in a knit-circle-way, too, and not just the folks in oklahoma that i don't know...
they whole state, was on my folks...

:) folks that really know me, surely know i'd never put those folks
aside... :(

god bless... and thanks for noting how it may seem
odd, in the OTHER direction, this time, :)

as to this:
To lose a guy like Tim is mind boggling. I'm going to get the details right now, but the weather channel is covering them right now, and is giving them the credit that they deserve from 25 years of work

thank you so very kindly base104 for all this information and taking time to share it all, and to SHARE also, about tim...
very good stuff to learn, and to cherish, as to his work--even more so, now that he is gone...

thank you...

thanks to clint for posting, i was a tad too late, :)

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 3, 2013 - 01:16am PT
Back in the day, it was mainly all researchers and we traveled wherever the tornadoes were going to happen, from midland texas to south Dakota.

I used to run into Tim and the rest of the gang all of the time, but I doubt he remembers me. We would run into each other in rural Nebraska or any other odd place where storms were going to happen.

I know him a little, but I know more about the data that he had been getting over the last five years. He was finally getting data inside tornadoes, after decades of trying.

I couldn't believe it was him. It defies reality. Chasing sounds dangerous, but it is actually pretty safe. driving on wet roads is the biggest danger.

Trad climber
Jun 3, 2013 - 01:29am PT
driving on wet roads is the biggest danger.

I started to laugh; but upon reflection saw the reality.

Mountain climber
Jun 3, 2013 - 02:29am PT
Man, I thought you worked in oil and gas.

Very sorry about your friend.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 3, 2013 - 10:03am PT
I do work in oil and gas. NSSL would use a few of us because they were having a problem with some of the vehicles getting off mission. We had far more field experience and could get to the right point at the right time to get the required data.

I did it for about ten years. A chaser had never been killed, and we were sure that it would have been the cowboy chasers who are just out there shooting video to peddle.

Time was doing great things. For instance, we kept failing at getting a turtle in a tornado despite years of trying.

He designed a far better model and pulled it off several times. He was closely affiliated with the research community, and his death is a shock.

I still don't know what happened other than the tornado took a huge jog in its path and cut off his bug out route, which we always keep.

Here is a picture of the tornado coming in to Moore, the F5:

Moore F5 tornado approaching Moore, OK. It grew to F5 status when I bu...
Moore F5 tornado approaching Moore, OK. It grew to F5 status when I bugged out south and let it pass.
Credit: BASE104

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