- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & Noble
Howard Bluestein describes the sky as one of nature's art museums.
The veteran storm chaser has captured some of the most arresting images the sky has to offer. From tornadoes ripping across the Great Plains to burnt-orange cotton-ball clouds on the underside of a thunderstorm, the photography in Tornado Alley captures weather most people hope never to see.
For Bluestein and other storm chasers, "tornadogenesis" is a cause for celebration. A meteorologist at the University of Oklahoma, Bluestein has spent the last 20 years stalking and studying unpredictable storms. Tornado Alley describes the hazards -- including hailstorms, loose cows, flooded highways, and bad road food -- in following these elusive and violent storms.
Written by an academic who explains tornado dynamics along the way, Tornado Alley isn't a rehash of "Twister" -- the Hollywood movie that Bluestein describes as "a comic-book version of what meteorologists do." Scientists are not suicidal, and they respect the storms by observing them from a safe distance.
The book offers a history of severe weather research, starting in the days when tornado warnings were so inaccurate they were kept secret to avoid alarming the public. With the development of Doppler radar -- especially portable units that can be deployed from airplanes or the side of the road -- tornado research has come a long way.
But scientists still don't know exactly why the funnels form. No instrument that directly measures wind speed has survived in a strong tornado. Meteorologists cannot predict exactly where a severe storm will occur or precisely which ones will form tornadoes. Part of the problem, Bluestein writes, is that it's hard to catch one to study it. Sometimes a research team has to wait three years before it's in the right place at the right time to test a new instrument.
"Storm chasing is like gambling. You risk driving many miles, waiting idly for storms to form, and perhaps neglecting professional duties and personal and social obligations -- all in the faint hope of catching a tornado. Most of the time you lose, but when you win, the memories of those losses quickly fade away," he writes.
Storm researchers try to match visual information captured in photographs and films on the ground with data collected by remote radar networks. For nearly two decades, Bluestein has been in charge of the camera. The book contains the fruits of his research. More than 100 photographs document everything from waterspouts to a monstrous F5 tornado near Red Rock, Oklahoma, in 1991.
For weather geeks and students of meteorology, Tornado Alley offers diagrams and scientific explanations of severe storm behavior. Vicarious thrill seekers can skip to the later chapters, which describe the chase. People who simply like sky watching just have to look at the pictures to be impressed.