22 March 2012
Dr. Karen Kosiba, senior research meteorologist for the Center for Severe Weather Research, will be appearing at the Orlando Science Center during the weekend of March 24-25 for the premiere of the giant screen film Tornado Alley. Dr. Kosiba is featured in the movie and will be at the Science Center to participate in panels and presentations.
Enjoy this interview with Dr. Kosiba and have the opportunity to meet her at the Science Center March 24-25. And get caught up in Tornado Alley, premiering this weekend in the Dr. Phillips CineDome!
You are the VORTEX2 scientist responsible for coordinating the placement of the tornado pods – the heavy-based instruments that measure wind velocity and need to be placed right in a tornado’s path. Your efforts helped secure the exceptionally good data catch that was featured at the end of Tornado Alley. Would you say that deployment has been your most successful?
Yeah, considering most of them have been terribly unsuccessful. [LAUGHS] What I mean is that it’s actually remarkably hard to get something hit by a tornado. It really is. Especially something that you can’t keep moving. Something like the TIV has an advantage because it can keep adjusting. And I think if you watch the footage of the TIV, you’ll see that they sometimes adjust a little bit at the last minute. With the pods, you need to get them deployed and then leave. During the intercept you’re talking about, we did a pretty good job getting them in place. But the tornado changed paths right as it was coming towards the road. It moved a little bit to the north of the pods and then a little bit to the south. And by a little bit, I mean a real little bit, like fifty meters or so. We still got good data right around the tornado’s core, but the actual passage of the tornado? It looked so nice at first. It was so linear. And then all of a sudden it made this sharp right turn as it came towards the road. And at a certain point, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can only move the pods back and forth for so long.
Was coordinating the pod drops your main responsibility during VORTEX2?
Yeah, that definitely was my main responsibility. In addition to that, I operated the radar, so I was also making sure I was getting radar data. There are two of us in the radar truck, Josh and me, and our goal is to get the radar up and running and collecting data. Once that’s set, the radar doesn’t need too much babysitting. And then I can start focusing on the pod teams and getting them in the right place and the right position. I’m always hoping there will never be a terrible overlap. It’s a great exercise in multi-tasking.
And how did you get involved with the movie?
I’ve been working with Josh Wurman at the Center for Severe Weather Research since 2004. I started doing volunteer stuff out in the field while I was getting my Ph.D. And Josh and Sean Casey have worked together for years. They did another IMAX film together before this one. So I started working with Josh and, through him, I started working with Sean. Just helping with weather instruments, tracking stuff, you name it.
Was it distracting trying to do your work with the IMAX crews there?
You know, that’s something you start to get used to. There’s always been a film crew out there with us from the time I started doing this. We’ve had the Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers and National Geographic and other kinds of media, too. And I’m more than happy, honestly, to have them out there. All the different forms and flavors. People from different countries. The funny thing about the IMAX crew is you know their film is really, really expensive. Their shots tend to be shorter, like five or six seconds, so when they keep rolling you’re like, uh-oh, this is a real expensive shot coming up right now. It’s very different from the news crews or documentary crews who use digital cameras.
Do you eventually hope to make discoveries that will help lengthen tornado warning times?
That really has to do with identifying stuff we haven’t identified yet, which sounds very vague, I know. It’s like we need to learn more about the science, and once we learn a little bit more about that, we can apply it to forecasting warning signs. But that is still very far down the road, compared to gaining what new knowledge we can get now.