Thursday, May 06, 2010


I call myself a weather geek, but compared to many of my fellow meteorological cohorts, my weather geekiness is mild at best. I don't do my own forecasting (never have, really), and my current profession really doesn't have much to do with the weather at all. I studied pollutant dispersion in grad school, and my job has to do with air quality. Booooring. (Well, I don't find it boring. It's just that air quality doesn't exactly capture the public's imagination like other weather phenomena do. It's not good blog material, and that's why I never talk about my job here.)

But when it comes to the two most interesting weather phenomena - hurricanes and tornadoes - geek me up! For example, the research project VORTEX2 - now in its second year - just started back up this past week. VORTEX2 involves a bunch of meteorologists touring the Great Plains with fancy equipment searching for tornadoes, the goal being to collect as much tornado data as possible for research purposes. Sounds like fun! Road Trips + Weather = Win!

Last year, VORTEX2 was covered in detail by the Weather Channel, and I watched Mike Bettes's on location reports on an almost daily basis. This year, I'll be doing the same, in addition to following a few VORTEX2 participants who are providing live updates on Twitter. And, when the Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers comes back for another season (which I assume it will), I'll watch that, too. I eat this stuff up. And I'm not alone, either - why else would there be so much media coverage?

Makes you wonder why I studied pollutant dispersion in grad school instead of severe storms, doesn't it? If I had chosen a different research path, that could be me out there. I guess I decided early on in my academic career that I would be best served doing nerdy behind-the-scenes, computer intensive work, because that's what I'm best at. I also discovered that the "glory topics" of hurricanes and tornadoes, which tend to garner the most interest among students, didn't have as much available funding and as many open research associate positions as some of your, shall we say, "less sexy" meteorological topics. In other words, if I really wanted to study hurricanes or tornadoes in grad school, I probably would have had to remain a Teaching Assistant (TA) well beyond just my first semester. And as anyone who went to grad school knows, being a TA blows, and the sooner you can stop being a TA, the better. I guess I took the easy way out.

And, besides, it's not like I was going to stay in academia that long anyway - I decided long ago that I didn't want to stay in academia my whole life. I don't regret the decisions I've made, and my life has turned out just fine. However...when I watch the VORTEX2 coverage, I still can't help but think, "That could be me!" (Yes, I know storm chasing isn't all fun and games. It ranges from extremely dangerous to extremely boring, and you have to spend a lot of time in Oklahoma and Kansas. But still...that could be me!)

By the way, tornado chasing is a great way to add to your county map. Case in point: Jeff Frame's county map.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

That IS me!