Friday, May 21, 2010
A note on chaser convergence
Today has been a PR nightmare for VORTEX2. A video, which I will not link here, surfaced of the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) and its follow vehicles/Discovery Channel presumably passing on a blind hill during Wednesday's massive chaser convergence. This coincided with a somewhat heated beginning to the morning weather briefing, at which Josh Wurman expressed all our frustration with the chaser convergence (see picture). He also made a public statement through The Weather Channel, which in addition to the video has people across the chasing community/internet all in a flurry. Here are my thoughts on Wednesday's chase, the result, and the ongoing aftermath:
1. As you can tell from the photographs, it was physically impossible for VORTEX2 to complete its mission on Wednesday. Our mission necessitates that we be ahead of the storm, while the mission of most of the other chasers is to remain almost parallel to (or on Wednesday, underneath) the mesocyclone. Once 33 turned into a parking lot, mobile mesonet vehicles were unable to complete transects in crucial portions of the storm, the mobile radars were unable to maintain leapfrogging dual-Doppler lobes, and pod deployment teams (me) could not get ahead of the rain-wrapped tornado that was on the ground to deploy our instruments.
2. Amateur and "professional" (whatever that means in this instance) chasers have just as much right to be on the roads as VORTEX2 does. It is a free country, and God bless America you can go pretty much wherever you darn well please. That being said...please let us through. This is not a selfish request. We have one overarching goal: to improve the science of tornado forecasting/understanding. By better understanding tornadic supercells and other storms we can increase forecast times and hopefully save lives. The "save lives" creed might sound trite and overused, but it's the reason we are out here. With literally hundreds of vehicles on the road, things can get dangerous really quickly for all of us, and the "save lives" issue becomes much more immediate. If you are in chase mode, please be the same safe and courteous driver I know you normally are.
3. Sean Casey and the TIV have worked closely with Josh Wurman and CSWR over the years, but the TIV and its follow vehicles are not affiliated with VORTEX2 in any way, shape, or form. The CSWR decals on their vehicles that everyone has pointed out in the chaser video have ended up there from years past while on "Storm Chasers," and do not belong there for this project.
4. Josh Wurman's comments to The Weather Channel probably come off strong to a lot of people and may even infuriate some chasers...but that's just Josh. I think a lot of the backlash at Josh comes from the belief that he's being hypocritical after the TIV video surfaced, but let me reiterate: the TIV is not part of VORTEX2.
I really want to stress that I am not saying the 1147 other chasers on Wednesday's storm had no right to be there: free country, etc. I am pleading, however, for cooperation from the chasing community. I've seen threats to intentionally sabotage the V2 mission in internet comments from chasers, and I shudder to think of the implications those threats have. In addition to making all but last year's Goshen County, WY deployment failures, intentional sabotage of the V2 mission sends the message of "I care more that I am offended at a request to pull over for 30 seconds than I do about the fact that this project is designed to improve life not only for myself and my family, but for all those living with the threat of severe weather." That attitude is frightening to me.
On a happier note, I want to thank those chasers that were truly helpful to our mission on Wednesday. One in particular stopped our probes from going down a dirt road with a bridge out at the end as precipitation made its way towards us. Another saw our probe trying to turn left onto 33 and stopped traffic to let us through. The V2 teams are definitely not the best thing since sliced bread, but it's really uplifting to see support in the field. Thank you to everyone that supports our mission!