Matthew says: "Charles Gafford lives in Moore, Oklahoma and held his smartphone out the window of his shelter to film up-close footage of the May 20th tornado." (Via Laughing Squid)
National Geographic News has an interview with Tim Samaras — an engineer, a scientist who studies severe storm systems, and a tornado chaser
. Not all chasers are professionals like this. For many people, it's a hobby often motivated by a desire to help keep other people safe. Personally, I see a lot of similarities between hobbyist tornado chasers and the HAM radio folks — in fact, there's a lot of overlap between the two communities. And, as Samaras explains, if you want to get involved, there's training you really ought to do first
. — Maggie
Scientific American has a great video that quickly explains the basics of tornado formation — facts that also help explain why some parts of the country, including Oklahoma, are more prone to tornadoes than others. You'll also learn about worst tornado in recorded history, which killed more than 700 people.
The photo above was taken near Moore, Oklahoma yesterday. My father lives in Oklahoma City (thankfully, outside the path of this monster), and this shot comes from a friend of a friend of his, who wished to remain anonymous.
Chris Tangey took this intense image of a tornado sucking a brushfire into the sky near Alice Springs, Australia. From The Australian:
"There was no wind where we were, and yet you had this tornado," Tangey says.
For him, it sounded "like a fighter jet"; for (firefighter Ashley) Severin, it was like "standing behind a 747". "I've never seen anything like it. I just thought the ground was going to start trembling," Severin says. "The noise it was making, the speed, the red flames in the centre of it. It was like a kaleidoscope show."
"Alice dust devils pack a gullet full of flames"
John Nelson—the data visualization designer responsible for that global map of earthquakes I posted last week—has also made a strangely beautiful map showing every tornado to hit the U.S. between 1950 and 2011.
Part of what makes this map interesting is that it shows not only the touchdown location, but also the path of the tornado as it moved. Better yet, Nelson has several other related maps that break the data down in different ways. For instance, if you look at the tornado map broken down by seasonality, you can see a really amazing pattern, where what constitutes "Tornado Alley" appears to move northward over the course of the year. In December, January, and February, the bulk of tornadoes have been centered on south and south-central states like Mississippi, Texas and Kentucky. In peak tornado season—March, April, and May—the southern states are still affected, but the reach of the tornadoes has extended north and west. By June, July, and August, most of the tornado activity is happening in states like Michigan and Minnesota.
Another interesting thing I spotted on these maps: There's a hole in tornado activity centered on West Virginia. All around the state, there's a history of tornadoes. In the Mountain State, though, the number of tornadoes drops off precipitously. I'm really curious what's causing that, or whether it's a flaw in the data.
Compare tornado habits throughout the seasons
Compare tornado numbers by F-scale
Compare tornado history before and after the historically devastating 2011 season.
Watch an animation of tornadoes by year