Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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AOSS students chase tornadoes

Posted: June 20, 2013

AOSS students chase tornadoes

“It is one thing to learn about the logistics of a supercell through papers and reading, but to see the features of the storm in person gives you a true perspective of the beasts you are dealing with,” says Morgan Gorris, one of four AOSS students who traveled to Texas Tech in May 2013 for Tornado Camp.

Tornado Camp is the nickname given to a severe weather experiment organized by Professor Derek Posselt and Professor Chris Weiss of Texas Tech. The participants spent about a month driving around the flat plains of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma looking for tornadoes.

Student Trent Frey says one of the best days was their first day. The team left Texas early in the morning to visit Kansas just as storms were popping up.

“We watched one supercell from start until after it dropped a tornado, which really helped me understand the scale of these storms, both in time and space. We saw mammatus clouds in the sunset, a rainbow with lightning all around, and the drive to the hotel was lit up the entire way by lightning off in the distance - so cool.”

For Gorris, seeing a tornado for the first time was the most unforgettable part of the experiment.

“Being in the presence of one of the most beautifully lit tornadoes was breathtaking. It was quite an experience to see such a beautiful tornado for my first tornado.”

Beyond the cool and unforgettable moments, the trip was also an effective educational experience.

“It helped me better understand the conditions needed for optimal storm and tornado formation. I'm looking forward to applying what I learned this summer to my senior classes next year,” Frey says.

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