Kind of an Odd Musing

Mar 23, 2009
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Ypsilanti, MI
Driving home from Lansing this evening, I drove by a construction site with night lights blazing. I was reminded of the searchlights employed during the Second World War for spotting enemy aircraft. I wondered if any public safety had ever used searchlights for spotting storms?

I wonder if that would work? I'm not suggesting chasers or spotters start shining tornadoes...pulling a large trailer in severe weather doesn't strike me as something I would wish to do. But how about an emergency services vehicle going on station with one?
 
Mar 17, 2009
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Manhattan, KS
I have often wondered about night vision goggles or infrared goggles. I'm sure they have been tried but have wondered if they would work. Problem i could see with light intensification gear is them overloading during a lightning flash. Infared i could see not working well because of lack of temperature differnce between rain and clouds.
 
Ive seen funnels gently illuminated by the lights of a small town, im sure the searchlight would work but the area you could illuminate would be fairly small. Perhaps a cheaper (less equipment) solution would be a flare gun. Just get fairly close, make sure your in the inflow and fire a longer duration non-colored flare?

This is the best that i could find, red color and only 7 Second duration but an impressive 450 feet: http://www.orionsignals.com/applications/marine/product/101.html

I would like to think there is a solution, but the search light would certainly do the job.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Mar 23, 2009
226
10
11
Ypsilanti, MI
Ive seen funnels gently illuminated by the lights of a small town, im sure the searchlight would work but the area you could illuminate would be fairly small. Perhaps a cheaper (less equipment) solution would be a flare gun. Just get fairly close, make sure your in the inflow and fire a longer duration non-colored flare?

This is the best that i could find, red color and only 7 Second duration but an impressive 450 feet: http://www.orionsignals.com/applications/marine/product/101.html

I would like to think there is a solution, but the search light would certainly do the job.
Perhaps something like a parachute flare from WW2...
 
Mar 16, 2012
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Lenexa, KS
I don't know about search lights, but Thermal Imaging Cameras are amazing. I work as a firefighter in Overland Park, KS and responded many years ago to a reported lightning strike to the residence. While using the TIC to look at the roof of the house, I was shocked at how well I could see the cloud structure. One bit of caution, just as Jason wondered above, lightning bolts are VERY bright! I could see the cloud structure at least 1/2-1 mile away with the TIC.
Unfortunately I don't have one I can chase with, but I'd love to try it some day!
 

Zach Young

What about infraSOUND detectors? Surely strong tornadoes emit a distinct audio signature that might be detected at night. This solution might also work in a situation where the tornado is rain-wrapped....
 
Mar 16, 2012
30
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Lenexa, KS
That is brilliant. I did a little searching and located the NOAA Earth System Research Lab on their Infrasonics Program What is the latest in tornado researching technology?http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/programs/infrasound/
Here is a summary listed on their site.

ETL is currently working on a system for detecting very low frequency sounds from tornadoes as a system complementary to Doppler radar. It continues to show promise as a technique for filling detection gaps and improving prediction times. This is a "work in progress". NOAA supports or has supported a number of other technologies, including:

A seismic detection technique to warn of and locate tornado touchdown points.
An electromagnetic detection technique (with a hope that something like a low-cost tornado "smoke alarm" could evolve)
A pressure detector prototype suitable for large scale deployment in tornado prone areas to provide needed knowledge about the cores of tornadoes.


Infrasonics is the study of sound below the range of human hearing. These low-frequency sounds are produced by a variety of geophysical processes including earthquakes, severe weather, volcanic activity, geomagnetic activity, ocean waves, avalanches, turbulence aloft, and meteors and by some man-made sources such as aircraft and explosions.

Infrasonic and near-infrasonic sound may provide advanced warning and monitoring of these extreme events.

What about infraSOUND detectors? Surely strong tornadoes emit a distinct audio signature that might be detected at night. This solution might also work in a situation where the tornado is rain-wrapped....
 
Feb 9, 2007
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Southern Illinois
www.youtube.com
I have often wondered about night vision goggles or infrared goggles. I'm sure they have been tried but have wondered if they would work. Problem i could see with light intensification gear is them overloading during a lightning flash. Infared i could see not working well because of lack of temperature differnce between rain and clouds.
If it could work, night vision of some sort would be an excellent idea! I mean it is 2012, we should have something to see them in the dark by now :)
 
I also always wondered about a microphone array. Supposedly dogs and other animals can "sense" a tornado's approach. I wondered if they can hear it, and if the tornado emits a frequency outside of human hearing range. If it was a higher frequency, it would likely get damped pretty quickly, so I wonder if there is a low frequency component...
 
Mar 16, 2004
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New Jersey
That is brilliant. I did a little searching and located the NOAA Earth System Research Lab on their Infrasonics Program What is the latest in tornado researching technology?http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/programs/infrasound/
Here is a summary listed on their site.

ETL is currently working on a system for detecting very low frequency sounds from tornadoes as a system complementary to Doppler radar. It continues to show promise as a technique for filling detection gaps and improving prediction times. This is a "work in progress". NOAA supports or has supported a number of other technologies, including:

A seismic detection technique to warn of and locate tornado touchdown points.
An electromagnetic detection technique (with a hope that something like a low-cost tornado "smoke alarm" could evolve)
A pressure detector prototype suitable for large scale deployment in tornado prone areas to provide needed knowledge about the cores of tornadoes.


Infrasonics is the study of sound below the range of human hearing. These low-frequency sounds are produced by a variety of geophysical processes including earthquakes, severe weather, volcanic activity, geomagnetic activity, ocean waves, avalanches, turbulence aloft, and meteors and by some man-made sources such as aircraft and explosions.

Infrasonic and near-infrasonic sound may provide advanced warning and monitoring of these extreme events.
Someone (Al Bedard, maybe?) gave a presentation on this at the chaser convention a number of years ago.
 
Mar 28, 2009
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Hagerstown MD
I am reminded of Matt Biddle's work with seismic tornado detection, late 90's.
-- Placing geophones near the path, I think.
If I remember correctly, they were actually able to determine that a tornado did have a seismic signature,
but it was drowned out by other "earth noise" as the distance from the storm increased.

It seems to me that if there is a sesimic signature -- there would be a really good chance that
infrasound might yield an analogous signature.

Good thinking, Zach !

Now, this is really off the wall, but has anybody ever tried an "ear to the ground"
when a tornado was close ??

Maybe someone could try this next time. Suddenly, I am super curious to see if
there might be something to listen for.

Thanks for starting this Post, Karen !
 
Mar 23, 2009
226
10
11
Ypsilanti, MI
Now, this is really off the wall, but has anybody ever tried an "ear to the ground"
when a tornado was close ??

Maybe someone could try this next time. Suddenly, I am super curious to see if
there might be something to listen for.

Thanks for starting this Post, Karen !
I would definitely want to keep my eyes on that storm, lol...
 
Aug 16, 2009
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Amarillo, TX
I've always thought about shining one of those military grade lasers (the green ones) into a nighttime tornado. I've proven those things to have a clear beam of light for up to 2 miles. I might have to get one and take it out with me someday.
 
Oct 27, 2011
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Panama City, FL
While a good idea, there are a series of logistical nightmares that would have to be solved first. I had a similar discussion during a class once, and we came up with a bunch of questions, and little in the way of answers.

1. Who is in charge, and runs them? For that matter pays for them? Does local emergency management run them, or does Local LEO, State LEO, Fire? How do you handle/pay for training for the use of generators, and lights? Who repairs them, and maintains them? Do you have a roster of people who are scheduled for shifts? How many back ups do you have per "shift"? When do you activate people?

2. Are they in a fixed location, or do you store them in a central location? If you have them in a fixed location, how do you secure them? If they are in a central location, are they on flatbeds, or small trailers? Are personal vehicles used to tow the trailers, or are city/county vehicles? What type of DL requirements/training to tow them? Where would you set them up? Does the city/county have land to park on, or do you pay a farmer to use field. Will housing areas want them nearby due to noise/light?
 
Nov 6, 2011
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Elmore, AL
In highschool i used one of them light trailers in a prank - hooked it up to my pick up and off we went illuminating the sky - parked it in front of somebody's house - hehe...

I think that it would be a very interesting idea to try - just wear sunglasses and bring bug spray....
 
Nov 6, 2011
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Elmore, AL
Might draw the wrong attention - i would think if people were out driving around at night and seeing such a light - might be drawn in to check it out - would be neat to see if a company who rents them would allow one to be used in an experiment...
 

Patrick Harris

Enthusiast
Jan 27, 2009
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0
Don't know if they worked or not, but I can definitely remember about 40 years ago as a kid in a small town they did use search lights during storms to illuminate the skies watching for tornadoes.
 
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