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Tornado intercept vehicles

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 5:24 PM GMT on December 16, 2005

This Sunday, December 18, at 8pm, National Geographic is showing Tornado Intercept. This show highlights the use of the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV), an armored monstrosity designed to be driven into the core of a weak (F-0 through F-1) tornado to collect scientific data, and film it with an IMAX movie camera. The TIV is really a modified 1997 Ford F-450 diesel pickup, engineered by IMAX cinematographers Sean Casey and Greg Eliason. The armor plating, 1/2" thick Lexan windows and other gizmos bring the weight of the vehicle up to 14,000 pounds, but it can still do 90 mph as it speeds off in pursuit of tornadoes. The TIV is equipped with a hydraulic system that lowers the vehicle flush with the ground, minimizing the risk of being overturned as a tornado's winds tear at the vehicle. The team is hoping to release an IMAX movie on tornadoes in 2008.


Figure 1. Sean Casey's "Tornado Intercept Vehicle" (TIV). Image courtesy of George Kourounis of stormchaser.ca.

From what I gather, Sunday's show will not actually show a tornado penetration, and things did not always go smoothly during the chase season of 2005. A chaser journal from their 2005 storm chases reported:

The hood to our TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) slammed into our windshield and then went airborne, that we have now reached our all time low. It's a bit humbling to walk a hundred yards down a highway to pick up pieces of the car you are driving. I tried not to make eye contact with cars as they drove by. We wire the hood back to the car and head toward a storm, not knowing that someone has siphoned our rear tank empty of diesel fuel. (The truck is making a sound like a cross between that of a rattlesnake and a cicada beetle. I'm sensitive to all sounds, smells and vibrations that the vehicle makes since we've had nine breakdowns, including two car fires.)

The Tornado Attack Vehicle
There is another tornado intercept vehicle out there you may have read about, called the TA-1 or Tornado Attack Vehicle. The TA-1 was built by Steve Green, a race car driver from Mooresville, N.C. The TA-1 is a modified Baja trophy truck with armor plating, heavy-duty roll bar, and Lexan bullet-proof windows. It is designed to withstand 240 mph winds, according to Green. The TA-1 made news last year when Green put up a ride into a tornado up for sale on Ebay. Thirteen people bid on the auction, and the top bidder paid $145,000 for the opportunity to be driven into the heart of a tornado. The Tornado Attack web site says they intercepted three tornadoes in 2005, but none of the video footage shows them actually penetrating a tornado, and I don't think this has happened yet.

So, it hasn't happened yet, but the day is soon coming when one of these vehicles will drive into a tornado. I'm sure there will be another majorly hyped television show when it happens, assuming the people doing this don't get killed.


Figure 2. Steve Green's TA-1 "Tornado Attack Vehicle".

Coming Monday and all next week: In depth discussions of the hurricane/global warming connection. I would liked to have posted this discussion during the height of hurricane season, but it has taken a long time to do the research on this needed to really understand what is going on!

Jeff Masters

P.S., just for laughs: Check out what one creative Photoshop user has done to the Tornado Intercept Vehicle, making it into a Chicken Intercept Vehicle.

Tornado

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

That is too cool. Thanks again Doc for the good info. Just what will we think of next!!!

Am I really first? Just in the right place at the right time and goofing off at work today!
lol! Dr. Masters! I see that the TIV is armoured, but to these northern eyes it looks like a Duct Tape Special.... .-)
Dr. Masters, the chaser journal is hilarious!!!
Thank you for everything you do. And merry Christmas and a happy New Year!! (and a little quiet?)
Hello Colby- was it you who posted the chemical swatches in the sky? Why don't you put those back up there. People need to see them.
So, it hasn't happened yet, but the day is soon coming when one of these vehicles will drive into a tornado. I'm sure there will be another majorly hyped television show when it happens, assuming the people doing this don't get killed.

There sure are some crazy people out there.
And I'm one of them!!! Where can I get one of those things?
What a waste of money for armored vehicles! Let's just use graduate students instead.

"Boy, do you want your Ph.D.? Go stick this probe inside that tornado!"
there's also the doppler on wheels, they do hurricanes too.
an
organizing 1010 mb low pressure system near 24n27w is producing
moderate scattered showers and 30 kt winds in the NE sector plus
much lighter trades than average S of the low E of 45w. The GFS
strengthens this system slightly and forecast it to slowly move
to the NE over the next couple of days but keeps it
extratropical


her come the Z storm lol
Sorry for that last post. My conection timmed out right when I clicked Post Comment. Anyways thats a cool car. I want to get one of thoes things.
what kind of cool car was that any way?
hahaha that is funny thank dr jeff
88889,
Do you expect zeta to form, and if so, how strong do you think it will get?
wow cool i want to get one of those lol ok mabynot for over 100 grand
I'm w/phelp (virtually speaking): "Do you expect zeta to form, and if so, how strong do you think it will get?" and I'd add where is it going?
hi phelp and ever one

i do not no but it may be a start of it but this is 2005 and we this have 2 more week of it so from now to 2006 i am give this a 30%
an
organizing 1010 mb low pressure system near 24n27w is producing
moderate scattered showers and 30 kt winds in the NE sector plus
much lighter trades than average S of the low E of 45w. The GFS
strengthens this system slightly and forecast it to slowly move
to the NE over the next couple of days but keeps it
extratropical


and it may or may not be come a ts and this will be the last ch to do so
The spring of 2005 will go down in history as one of the most inactive tornado-producing periods in history. In fact, Oklahoma recorded no tornadoes in May, a new record. The best news may be the record low number of deaths from tornadoes -- only five people have died from tornadoes since January 1. This matches the low number set in 2002.
Those vehichles are some of the funniest things I have ever seen!
20. Inyo
one of my friends was telling me that national atmospheric lab (i forgot the name of it) in Boulder, CO is producing an autonamous unmanned aircraft which it will fly into a tornado, using military technology. To me this seems like a much better way to go than driving tin cans into the storm. for one thing no one dies, for another thing i'm sure the tornado is more interesting a few hundred/thousand feet off the ground anyway.
i have up date my blog for the last time in tell june frist come take a look
They must be out of their minds. I would not ride in any vehicle into a tornado. I have seen 18-wheelers carrying 90,000 pounds of load whipped down the road like a piece of tin roof. To fly an airplane into a wall cloud or something is equally mindless.
I've seen the results of too, too many tornados.
I like snowski's idea. What other dumb ways can a grad student earn a PhD?

"What is the boiling point of a grad student?

At what temperature does a grad student spontaneously ignite?

What is the specific gravity of a grad student suspended in water? Magma? Methane? Karo Syrup? Cream gravy?"
The boiling point of a grad student is exactly 2.8 more exams.

I don't know. Heat them up and try it.

It depends on BMI, I would guess that in water it'd be about 2.8 once all oxygen is gone from their bodies.
well sherrib they fly into hurricanes which are like toradoes in a way
Wish I could drive one of those. Here comes Zeta.
Amazing what people design to go storm-chasing. Can this go into hurricanes as well? The winds can pick up and carry just about any weight item...
I don't think we need worry about this system. Too weak, at the moment.
so what this IMAX movie on tornadoes in 2008 going to be all about?
Gables Gal, nice to see you! We have missed you around here! Hope you visit my blog soon and say hello!
Opps. This is a weather blog... in SE Fla, Broward County, nice and muggy and warm here today. May have some showers at some point this weekend.
Leave it to someone to come up with an even heavier car than a Hummer - with the resulting decline in fuel efficiency. That Giant Sucking Sound (the one Ross Perot talked about) is the oil being siphoned out of the ground faster than possible.

These will probably become the top commuting car of 2006. Are they planning on making any Hybrid models available?
Local Forecast is 80% chance of rain today, 100% tonight, and 60% Sunday. Highs in the 50's, lows in the 40's. Gonna make for some nasty shopping weather. UGH. And I gotta get out in it.....
Currents at the Charleston Air Force Base:
Last Update on Dec 17, 10:56 am EST
Mostly Cloudy
51F
(11C) Humidity: 66 %
Wind Speed: NE 8 MPH
Barometer: 30.42" (1030.0 mb)
Dewpoint: 40F (4C)
Wind Chill: 48F (9C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi.



...........

Magnitude, that was one of the most out-of-place posts I have EVER seen. There are like two-three of these vehicles in existance, and they're hardly commuter standards (don't look nearly good enough). Not sure if you were being sarcastic on Perot, but he was referring to the National Debt. Hybrid tornado chasing cars? That's my new signature, it's so stupid.
When I saw the picture of that vehicle the one thought that crossed my mind was, "Eat your heart out Batman"
Hey,forecaster Colby!!!!
Due to your comments on my posts before, you are a person that I want to post alot on this subject I WELCOME your views(as long as they are not vicous attacks!!!lol). You are the type of person that I want to challenge & hopefully change your mind. I read alot of your posts during storm season so I can tell your an intelligent person!!!! So I look forward to hearing from u soon!!!
LOL if u dont remember the subject is:
GLOBAL WARMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
37. Inyo
what does driving cars into tornados have to do with global warming? I mean i guess global warming affects tornados but that is a stretch. and the amount of gas used to drive one car which obviously will be destroyed by the first tornado it hits is pretty small
The cars are neat ideas. I think the idea of tornado research is one that needs attention, though I will let those who want to drive into a tornado do the work. I don't like the idea of putting myself in an unpreditable situation. I'll just read the info gathered. The movie sounds like it will be good.

F0-F1 is 40-73-112 mph. From the looks of the vehicles, they should not flip.

I'm getting the same weather as Palmettobug53. I'll wait till later to go shopping. Cold rains are no fun. I prefer snow to this. Zeta???....maybe....maybe not. My guess is a system that will stay extratropical.
correction.."unpredictable situation"..great typo lol.
Inyo,
I was trying to get Colby's attention. I have started a blog on global warming & his views were totally opposite of mine. I am trying to get him to discuss this matter with me so hopefully I can change his mind or he can change mine LOL. I saw he had posted here so I wrote to him hoping he would come to my blog. Hmmmm not sure about the tornados & warming so I WILL keep my mouth shut on this one. But, I can almost bet the farm that somehow down the line the tornadic activity WILL somehow be affected by the warming....Come to think of it, was there not weird tornado activity this fall here in the U.S.??? They said the pattern was like a sprintime tornado pattern!!! But, like I said not sure if this IS from warming cycle. I keep posting that Dr. Masters will be touching on the warming cycle this coming week(hopefully)
LOL & as far as the vehicle.... I think that anybody willing to drive into a tornado is gonna get what's coming to them LOL Seems to me that it's gonna turn into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang LOL!!!!! For those too young, Chitty was a flying car!!!! It would seem alot better to use some kind of drone....car or plane... somethin' Definitely would be alot safer but, what the heck if they get their adrenaline rush this way.... So be it!!!
I wanna see the footage that's for sure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
42. Inyo
well the climate is definitely changing, probably getting warmer. in my opinion it has been more stable than usual for the past few centures, and that is ending. is it caused by humans? i think it was happening anyway but we are making it happen faster. but in any event i expect storms in general to become more severe over time as they are fueled by the energy of the sun and greenhouse warming/climate warming are accentuating this. but i could be wrong and it will be interesting to see what happens

i expect california to get a bit more rain in the next 30 years but with higher fluxuations including higher snow levels and even more severe droughts as well. but its my guess, no better than anyone elses,
I was just being facetious! And that Giant Sucking Sound now has several meanings.

Hopefully the Chicken Intercept Vehicle will come in a Hybrid.

Well, as if next season didn't need to be worse, La Nina has continued developing and now extends roughly halfway across the pacific with temps still cooling.

Hi everyone, got to share this. some of our friends created this today in my blog... it is so cute and funny..
Enjoy!

One the 12 days of Christmas, Gamma's friends all gave to her...

One live flamingo,
Two green iguanas,
Three French Canadians,
Four Wilma-blown trees,
Five BLOOO-O-O tarps,
Six flowers growing,
Seven piles of debris,
Eight tons of wood chips,
Nine generators humming,
Ten adjusters writing,
Eleven elected officials wailing,
and
Twelve meteorologists from Weatherunderground....

Talk about the need for post Hurricane Season Humor!LOL
La Nina makes me sad cause that means here in sothern Californa the weather becomes so uninteresting.
LOL lightning, and yet for me here in florida, well from june 1st to nov 30th it is anything but boring. not liking the look of the patterns for next year. i am still tirelessly analyzing the forecast weather patterns and ocean states for next year to determine the atlantic and pacific hurricane activity.
What have you come to so far atmos?
My bet he would say something like "because of the strengthening La Nina pattern in the Eastern Pacific this fall/winter this year vertical wind shear in the Alantic will be less then average. Meaning that hurricane activity in the Alantic will be above average again this hurricane season. Wether it will be as active as last season is to early to say."
hey guys

trouper and lightning if you are still here

based on my research this past few weeks looking at the forecast jet stream patterns and ocean states for next year i will say this. because a weak la nina setup has already developed in the western and central pacific, i expect the jet stream to dive down in the eastern pacific this spring, thus cooling the pacific waters further and decreasing the trade winds in the atlantic basin for next summer. this will create the potential for a significantly above average hurricane season in the atlantic basin, and will also produce warmer than average temperatures in the central and eastern united states. of course, there is a long way to go and i will continue to research and analyze these trends vigorously throughout the next few weeks and months. nevertheless, the early evidence suggests a la nina event for this winter and spring.
"The probability of at least two hurricanes striking the U.S. is 24% during El Nio years compared with 48% during neutral years and 70% during La Nia years. Likewise, the probabilities for at least one intense hurricane striking are 19%, 58% and 67% for El Nio, neutral and La Nia years, respectively."
seflagamma,
Just so you know, gamma is a he, not a her.
NHC alternates male and female names. So if Vince (male), Wilma (female), Alpha (male), Beta (female), then Gamma would be male.

Hopefully you are not a girl thinking that you would pick that name assuming Gamma was a female name.
53. Inyo
Actually, Lightning, La Nina is not as a whole not significantly drier than 'El Nada, it only comes off as 'drier than average' because El Nino tweaks the avereage up.

La Nina

El Nino

That massive low offshore looks a bit like the one that caused so much rain in SoCal last year... its jsut too far west. maybe it will get booted over. or maybe not.
i think S cal. will be fine
56. Inyo
of course, if we have a dry year it wont knock us back much since it was so wet last year.
rain rain rain well the mud is back up here in sac being 72% of normal were catching up fast
I am thinking the TIV is sort of like Cantore...I really don't ever want to see either. Usually bad news!
I was only thinking of 1998-99.That year was dry here and I guess it would seam much dryer considering the year before that 1997-98.
seflgamma is from a town called Gamma in South Florida. She picked that name a long time before gamma was a storm, never dreaming that we'd get to a storm with that name!
Posted By: butterflymcb at 1:42 PM GMT on December 19, 2005.
I am thinking the TIV is sort of like Cantore...I really don't ever want to see either. Usually bad news!

what!
The NHC has released its report on hurricane epsilon.
"i expect the jet stream to dive down in the eastern pacific this spring, thus cooling the pacific waters further and decreasing the trade winds in the atlantic basin for next summer. this will create the potential for a significantly above average hurricane season in the atlantic basin," atmos

For Atmos or anyone who knows. What makes the Jet Stream dive down in the eastern pacific this spring? And how does that make a hurricane season more active in the atlantic? Thanks
I know it would be a decrease in shear, my question is when the jet stream dips down like that in the pacifc, what is making it do that? I know its El Nina, but is it due to cooler or warmer temps etc? Thanks again

Have a great Christmas and New Years everyone!
: gippgig can we have a link on the report on hurricane epsilon.

thank you
new blog up
Driving into tornadoes...the next "extreme" sport???