25th Conference on Severe Local Storms


A cost-effective photogrammetric and surface data collection research project from 2009-2010 with an emphasis on the 5 June 2009 LaGrange, WY tornado

Daniel R. Cheresnick, Self-Employed, Longmont, CO

During the spring of 2009 funding was attained from the Discovery Channel by research meteorologists to conduct data collection in supercells and tornadoes in exchange for access to the project by the show Storm Chasers. The primary research focus was to attempt collection of photogrammetric data of a tornado using HD video cameras. The project had multiple constraints which needed to be addressed. Collection of research quality data was required, the project needed to be suitable for television filming, and the time for development, purchasing, and construction of equipment was limited. All work was completed with a small fixed budget. The equipment was again used on a limited basis in the spring 2010 without any affiliation to the Discovery Channel.

The project, as it was ultimately designed, combined ideas from previous research projects. Two HD cameras would be used to observe the tornado from different angles simultaneously, one mounted on a deployable probe, the other tripod mounted and collocated with the vehicle. Ideally the probe and tripod would be deployed along a baseline of approximately 1 mile and the tornado would pass between the cameras. The deployable photogrammetric probe was instrumented with an anemometer, barometer, datalogger, and battery pack, and the HD camera was housed under a clear plastic bubble to allow for undistorted visibility and provide protection. This design provided additional data collection options in the event that multiple cameras could not be deployed due to fast moving storms or limited visibility. Additionally, the probe was designed to be robust enough to withstand the direct impact of a moderate strength tornado, yet be easily deployable by a team of two people, even though a direct intercept was not a primary goal.

During the field phase in the spring of 2009, tornado formation was very limited. However on 5 June 2009 a deployment was finally achieved in southeastern Wyoming near the town of LaGrange. Both the probe and tripod-mounted camera were deployed near a tornado as it approached and crossed highway 85. The deployment was a success with all instruments and cameras operating properly and the tornado passed between the cameras. However, the erratic motion of the tornado, the heavy precipitation in the rear flank downdraft, and the rushed probe deployment limited the duration of the data collected. Additionally, the tornado passed within a few hundred feet of the probe which was significantly closer than expected. The video captured and data recorded by the probe on 5 June 2009 will be presented.

The initial field phase of this project was educational. Some ideas were successful and others were not, however the proof of concept was successfully demonstrated. Many new ideas were developed from deployments during the season and were incorporated into 2010 operations. An analysis of the project successes and failures, as well as ideas for future improvements will be discussed.

Poster Session 6, Supercells and Tornadoes Posters I
Tuesday, 12 October 2010, 3:00 PM-4:30 PM, Grand Mesa Ballroom ABC

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