Into the Storm: A book review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:42 PM GMT on February 25, 2011

Share this Blog
6
+

"Matt's compact Jeep became impossible to handle. Water rose on the road. We saw a family hiding in the nook of an overpass and decided that joining them was our best chance to escape danger. We parked the car and ran. Then the tornado ground straight in our direction. Thick tree branches snapped like bread sticks and made gunshot-style sounds that pierced the tornado's baritone howl. Mud flew everywhere. Air getting sucked into the tornado rushed through every seam in the overpass."

Meteorologist Reed Timmer, star of Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers, and writer Andrew Tilin have teamed up to write a highly entertaining and solidly educational book that is filled with gripping stories like this, detailing Timmer's amazing career as a storm-chasing meteorologist. Into the Storm begins in 1998, when Timmer enrolled as an undergraduate in the University of Oklahoma's meteorology program. His early chase stories leave one marveling that he is still alive, as his strong obsession to experience and learn about severe storms was not accompanied by much knowledge or common sense. The excerpt above is an account of his chase of the infamous F5 Bridge Creek, Oklahoma tornado of May 3, 1999--the strongest tornado ever measured, with Doppler-estimated winds of 302 mph. Timmer lucked out, as the tornado made a sudden turn and spared him its full fury. He goes on to explain in detail how taking shelter under an overpass in a tornado is a bad idea (the overpass can magnify the winds, you've elevated yourself into a region where surface friction is not slowing down the winds as much, and you're exposed to flying debris.)

Timmer's narrative of his encounter with the Bridge Creek tornado sets the tone for the book--chase stories interwoven with meteorological education. The meteorology is described in a way that a high school-educated person can understand, and is generally accurate and well-done (one exception: he fails to go into enough detail on how hurricanes get their energy, merely saying they get it from warm ocean waters.) Mixed in with the chase stories and meteorology lessons are details of Timmer's personal life, his past, and feelings about his severe weather fascination. These add a very human touch to the book that will make it appealing to a wide audience. A center eight-page section of color photos enhances the presentation, though I would have liked to see more photos illustrating the University of Oklahoma, the Storm Prediction Center, and the locations of the two dramatic hurricane chases told in the book. His chase stories of Hurricane Katrina (where he weathered the storm at the jail house in Slidell after getting arrested as a suspected looter), and Hurricane Floyd (where he spent the storm in a mobile home near the eyewall), are eye-poppingly insane. He also talks a good deal about the dilemma faced by many meteorologists--how to reconcile our passion for storms with the great suffering and destruction they wreak. He opens the book thusly:

"It's an interesting proposition, seeking happiness from tornadoes. For those few of us who are unquestionably mesmerized by them, chasing tornadoes can be the most fantastic experience in the world. Tornado chasing taxes your intellect and puts you at one with incredible, spectacular forces of nature. Chasing is also a fix for any adrenaline junkie and, if you do it often enough, can become your career. But an obsession with stalking tornadoes can kill or maim you too, and even if chasing doesn't leave you with physical scars or a need for crutches, it's hard to escape unscathed. You'll witness death and destruction of property that sickens your stomach and saddens your heart. Your family will worry about you. Significant others will tire of playing second fiddle. Peers will disagree with the way you chase, and you'll lose friends to your obsession."

Timmer achieves some degree of relief from this dilemma by realizing that storm chasers do a public service by calling in reports that lead to more accurate tornado warnings, saving lives. He is also dedicated to collecting data for tornado research using video and instrumented chase vehicles. Still, the dilemma of attempting to gain happiness from tornadoes is one Timmer does not entirely have the answers to, giving this book a human element often lacking in books written by scientists. I recommend Into the Storm to both scientists and non-scientists; the stories are amazing, and the science is presented in a non-obtrusive way that does not slow down the book, but instead enhances it. Teaching meteorology using stories is a great way to educate people, and Timmer has done a great service to the field of meteorology by writing this book. Three and a half out of four stars. Into the Storm is $16.33 (hardback) from amazon.com. The amazon website and Timmer's tornadovideos.net website also have a spectacular 2-minute video clip highlighting some of the chases documented in the book.

This review will appear later this year in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, and is Copyright 2011 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be "fair use" under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC ?108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS's permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at (http://www.ametsoc.org/) or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or copyright@ametsoc.org.

Wunderground hiring a climate scientist
Weather Underground, Inc. is seeking a full-time scientist with excellent communication and programming skills to improve our climate change and meteorology education web pages. Initial task: use downscaled climate model output to generate "far-future" forecasts. The position requires an M.S. or Ph.D. in meteorology. Consult our employment web page for a full job description and application info. The increase in significant weather events over the past year has kept me tied up blogging, giving me little time to work on expanding the content of our climate change and weather education web pages. It is time to get some help!

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 505 - 455

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23Blog Index

Quoting Grothar:


Yo, pot. I became a great-great-great Uncle today. My twin nephew became a great-grandfather. Little girl, Heather, 8 lbs 4oz. Boy, I feel old.

How can your twin be your nephew?
I am trying to come to terms with this peculiar thing.
(if you dont want to respond to this, I will understand)

heheheh
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:

Uh-oh:
Event Description
"Iran has told inspectors it is unloading fuel from its Bushehr nuclear reactor, a sign of major problems, a U.N. nuclear watchdog says. The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report Friday on the Bushehr reactor. The agency said Iranian officials did not explain why they were removing fuel rods. The reactor, completed only recently, was hit by the Stuxnet computer worm, which was specifically designed to target Iran's nuclear program. Russia has called for an investigation of the worm, saying it could have caused a disaster. Several nuclear experts told the Times the trouble at Bushehr could be anything from minor problems to something that would effectively end the reactor's operations. "It could be simple and embarrassing all the way to 'game over,'" said David A. Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists who once worked with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said the problems might show Iran does not have the expertise to operate a nuclear reactor and said a disaster like the explosion at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 might be a possibility."

Source...


Interesting embedded image in the post... How do you do that?

Also, what blog are you posting on Doc M ? A Quote from the most recent of yours ....

"The increase in significant weather events over the past year has kept me tied up blogging,"

Just sayin,,,,, where ? ........



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


Haha. I'm going out to Colorado for snowboarding.
Ah!.I was getting all kinds of confused?.I was like snow in Florida?.But this weather has been strange latley...and wack as well.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Duke Snider passed away today. Most of you may not remember him, but he played when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. A great sportsman.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26557
Quoting Grothar:


Yo, pot. I became a great-great-great Uncle today. My twin nephew became a great-grandfather. Little girl, Heather, 8 lbs 4oz. Boy, I feel old.

Well you are only as old as you feel.
So yer in trouble....

Congratulations all round, on the New One!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Was that Chewbacca piloting the plane?


LOL. Now that's a good lookin' movie!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
Ah ish! I see 3 red squares what does that mean? I thought you lived in Florida?.You mean rain season?


Haha. I'm going out to Colorado for snowboarding.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Along with Hurricane season...We can look forward to this!



Was that Chewbacca piloting the plane?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26557
Quoting Grothar:
Another boring week in Ft. Lauderdale




Can't beat it, huh?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
Good evening Gro....Have you tried new Geritol Ultra.?...Its delicious and nutritious. Made exclusively for the mega ancient being...:)


I think that only works if one has iron-poor blood. I don't think I have any left; just running on fumes these days. How bad is your weather?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26557
Quoting washingtonian115:
(*.*) when is this event suppose to happen?
300 hours or so....
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting pottery:

Greetings, Venerable One.


Yo, pot. I became a great-great-great Uncle today. My twin nephew became a great-grandfather. Little girl, Heather, 8 lbs 4oz. Boy, I feel old.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26557
Quoting Grothar:


Don't forget to wear you goulashes and mittens and drink your cocoa at night.
Good evening Gro....Have you tried new Geritol Ultra.?...Its delicious and nutritious. Made exclusively for the mega ancient being...:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Along with Hurricane season...We can look forward to this!

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11323
Quoting hydrus:
O.K...Feast your eyes on this...
(*.*) when is this event suppose to happen?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Don't forget to wear you goulashes and mittens and drink your cocoa at night.

Greetings, Venerable One.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:


Google informs me that there is a containment vessel.
That is good..But the vessel did not help much with the Chernobyl disaster.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
Ah ish! I see 3 red squares what does that mean?
Quoting caneswatch:


Hey Washington! My snow season begins Thursday ;)
I thought you lived in Florida?.You mean rain season?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
Right now if I hat to rate for another snow event then I think it would be a 2/100.I know snow storms can happen in March(like 2009)but the way this winter has been going....
O.K...Feast your eyes on this...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting hydrus:
Well if it gets to ruttin, break out the fine Colombian. It makes them chuckle every time.

heheheheh
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

... The Tornado Warning for Pike County in west central Illinois... and
northern Pike County in northeast Missouri will expire at 830 PM
CST...

The tornado threat has diminished... therefore the Tornado Warning has
expired. However... a Severe Thunderstorm Warning remains in effect
for the area.

To report severe weather... contact your nearest law enforcement
agency. They will relay your report to the National Weather Service
in St Louis.

Lat... Lon 3982 9073 3957 9058 3934 9126 3952 9136
time... Mot... loc 0227z 245deg 61kt 3962 9079


Britt

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


Hey Washington! My snow season begins Thursday ;)


Don't forget to wear you goulashes and mittens and drink your cocoa at night.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26557
TVS heading towards St. Louis
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Update time = Mon Feb 28 2:27:43 UTC 2011


MAG UTC DATE-TIME
y/m/d h:m:s LAT
deg LON
deg DEPTH
km Region
MAP 5.0 2011/02/28 02:03:27 32.330 142.371 33.5 IZU ISLANDS, JAPAN REGION
MAP 5.0 2011/02/28 02:03:18 -17.680 -173.940 33.9 TONGA
MAP 6.0 2011/02/28 01:29:26 -37.164 -73.121 16.7 BIO-BIO, CHILE
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
I believe you will have one more snow event.
Right now if I hat to rate for another snow event then I think it would be a 2/100.I know snow storms can happen in March(like 2009)but the way this winter has been going....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
Wussup Hydrus,and Canes and everyone else.My snow season is over and we ended up with a dissapointing 13-14 inches of snow for the season.


Hey Washington! My snow season begins Thursday ;)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Another boring week in Ft. Lauderdale


Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26557
<
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


Not much Hydrus, how've ya been?

I saw those storms, they're looking nasty.
I said this morning. we are still pickin up all the tree branches from last Thursdays blast. I am praying that this will not be a deadly night. We have had our share of fatalities due to severe weather...Especially tornadoes..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting pottery:

Hey!
Dont give my Calabash Tree any ideas.
I have enough troubles already, without a ruttin tree.
Boggles the mind, just thinking about it....
Well if it gets to ruttin, break out the fine Colombian. It makes them chuckle every time.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting washingtonian115:
Wussup Hydrus,and Canes and everyone else.My snow season is over and we ended up with a dissapointing 13-14 inches of snow for the season.
I believe you will have one more snow event.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting pottery:

Not me!
:)
Me either.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Anyone currently under Tornado Warnings?

Not me!
:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Outside chance there was a Chernobyl event in Iran, no real details..


They are supposed to be removing the fuel rods.
"The fuel at Bushehr is being provided by Russia, which built the plant and whose engineers will carry out the unloading, under the supervision of the IAEA."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Wussup Hydrus,and Canes and everyone else.My snow season is over and we ended up with a dissapointing 13-14 inches of snow for the season.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Anyone currently under Tornado Warnings?
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11323
Quoting hydrus:
Just share some of that special South American wine you would not share. It will be as pert as a ruttin buck.

Hey!
Dont give my Calabash Tree any ideas.
I have enough troubles already, without a ruttin tree.
Boggles the mind, just thinking about it....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
Wuzup Canes..We are fixin to get stomped by a buncha super-cell t-storms here on da plateau.


Not much Hydrus, how've ya been?

I saw those storms, they're looking nasty.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pottery:

True!
Maybe it knows exactly what's up, and we are the Confused Ones.
I'll have a word with it, tomorrow.
Just share some of that special South American wine you would not share. It will be as pert as a ruttin buck.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
It this were to pan out, it would be a monster storm with wide spread severe weather...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting hydrus:
NAHH.....Nothing manages its affairs as well as a tree does....Even if it has had to much to drink. lol

True!
Maybe it knows exactly what's up, and we are the Confused Ones.
I'll have a word with it, tomorrow.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


Hey Eyes. You should definitely come to Florida to see all the sharks and gators. You'd really like it LOL
Wuzup Canes..We are fixin to get stomped by a buncha super-cell t-storms here on da plateau.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Look foward to seeing that. Thanks


Hey Eyes. You should definitely come to Florida to see all the sharks and gators. You'd really like it LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pottery:

It does not know it's Feb. It thinks it is still November. It is totally confused......
NAHH.....Nothing manages its affairs as well as a tree does....Even if it has had to much to drink. lol
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting Skyepony:
Outside chance there was a Chernobyl event in Iran, no real details..

Uh-oh:
Event Description
"Iran has told inspectors it is unloading fuel from its Bushehr nuclear reactor, a sign of major problems, a U.N. nuclear watchdog says. The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report Friday on the Bushehr reactor. The agency said Iranian officials did not explain why they were removing fuel rods. The reactor, completed only recently, was hit by the Stuxnet computer worm, which was specifically designed to target Iran's nuclear program. Russia has called for an investigation of the worm, saying it could have caused a disaster. Several nuclear experts told the Times the trouble at Bushehr could be anything from minor problems to something that would effectively end the reactor's operations. "It could be simple and embarrassing all the way to 'game over,'" said David A. Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists who once worked with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said the problems might show Iran does not have the expertise to operate a nuclear reactor and said a disaster like the explosion at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 might be a possibility."

Source...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13579

Viewing: 505 - 455

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.