Storm Observations

Supercell in OklahomaThe entire concept of a mobile weather observation platform was spawned from severe storms research in the southern plains. Originally used by government-sponsored scientists in large field operations, the decreasing cost of reasonable quality platforms has allowed for some highly motivated individuals to purchase and install the equipment with no ties to research projects or private organizations. Of course, one would not spend the money needed for the sensors without having an intense desire to drive thousands of miles to observe storms in the first place. The people involved with MRESS are mostly meteorologists with a great deal of personal and professional storm observing experience. Thus, the sensor package was originally designed for measurements to be taken in close proximity to severe and tornadic storms.

Lightning over Lake Thunderbird MRESS has been designed to observe meteorological quantities on storm and micro-scales. In general, observations of the pre-storm environment don't need to be on such a fine scale, but include relative humidity, wind speed and direction, along with barometric pressure. A high temporal-resolution sonic anemometer in addition to a fast-response thermistor inside an aspirated, but still water-resistant enclosure allows for good identification of small scale boundaries associated with severe storm initiation and evolution as well as probably indicating the likelihood of tornadogenesis. Near-storm observations of the fine-scale pressure field may also have some indication of storm propagation, and can point out intense mesocyclogenesis near or on the fringes of a developing wall-cloud.

In addition to field usage, the data is streamed back to a publicly-accessable server in near-real time for viewing by anyone (typical vehicle-to-server-to-browser observation latency of several seconds). MRESS Hail Damage This would provide one more pre-storm environment or storm-proximity observation in areas that typically contain a sparse network of surface observing stations. The data can be used in real time by weather service offices, or additional storm spotters and chasers. Additionally, the data is archived for later retrieval and use in case studies of unusual or interesting events.

Finally, the biggest reason that drove us to design and implement the MRESS project was to have fun learning something new. After events, we can take stock of what we observed visually and relate it to the data (often in a qualitative sense, but sometimes in a real hard-core quantitative sense). The bottom line is that it is fun, it enriches our chasing experience, and if any good can come from it in operational, scientific, public service, or educational outreach projects, then that's all the better!