Rocket Man is Back

Someone told me that our favorite "life-saving" scientist is back on track to start shooting toy rockets from the TIV. In an effort to be fair, I thought I'd ask some of the scientists on ST if this "critical" research is genuine or just a gimmick to legitimize the pursuit? I have never seen a peer-reviewed paper published in a major publication from the last go-around. I know Accu-Wx's name is involved, so I'm assuming it's genuine or they would not be tempting the same fate as TWC for reckless liability involving a bogus pursuit that would be easily attacked by lawyers.

Mark Blue

Staff member
Feb 19, 2007
Most of the footage I’ve seen lead me to believe there is a lot of trial and error involved in deploying those devices. It looks like a lion’s share of them blow about 1/4 or maybe 1/2 mile before they crash land in a field. It seems like the low level winds are impossible to penetrate much at all in the vertical. I’d venture a guess that if they had multiple successful test cases with data included we would have heard more by now. But I’m no scientist, I’m just an average Joe on the outside looking in and I think they have a ways to go.
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I was thinking the same thing, maybe igniting a fire, which would be a big problem legally, especially if the fire injured someone or damaged property. I've also noticed a reluctance for scientists to chastise each other, even if a project is bogus. Not being a scientist, maybe that's protocol or maybe its because most meteorology scientists originate from OU?
May 18, 2013
My gut says it is a publicity stunt, but science is full of discovery's by people bucking the conventional wisdom of the day and trying crazy things. I think the theory behind using rockets is that you can aim and shoot them into a tornado that you can't access via road and where balloons are unlikely to survive to make it to the target. Will it work and produce worth while science? Probably not - but if you don't try, you don't really know.
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Sep 7, 2013
Strasburg, CO
What would happen if someone used a real proper guided missile for this prospect? Say I hopped out of my KIA Sorento with a shoulder launched TOW missile, could that be guided into a tornado?

(More curiosity than sarcasm, but not by much.)

Dave C

Jun 5, 2013
Won't name names or entities but after being previously involved in early stages of a weather instrumentation project in an engineering capacity, and talking with a member of one of the key groups doing legit science out there, it would seem that throwing or launching objects into tornadoes and mesocyclones is not high on the list of valuable data gathering. The risk vs. reward doesn't add up, but that is where the adrenaline and glamor seem to be.

Multi-point observations in near proximity by various visual and sensor means is of interest to legit science, however, and you'll note a few groups out there are concentrating on that and doing it reasonably safely and professionally. Not saying a probe or rocket can not get some valuable data, but in my experience the vast majority of people doing 'science' lack the background or temperament to be doing it and are skipping most of the steps to validate instrument fidelity, safety, etc. I'm not here to judge individuals, but would like to see people who say they are passionate about science stop acting like they are in Twister or trying to copy Tim Samaras or getting caught up in personality or media hype. Science has never been about any of that stuff and it is disciplined and open to change for a reason.

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
Westminster, CO
I believe it to be a stunt. Other scientists who I know to be legitimate are all using UAVs or balloons.

It's good the guy has found his "niche" in this world as a celebrity scientist (kinda like, say, Al Roker, but I don't want to throw others whom I do not know under the bus with RT), but I certainly hope he does not represent himself as a legitimate researcher or someone who is doing anything but serving the public for entertainment purposes. I have little to no regard for his scientific output, especially since I have yet to see a publication with his name on it in a respectable journal since he finished his PhD. Granted, it is possible he has published in an obscure journal (or in a predatory one), but I have not seen it, and I'm sure he would emphasize any articles he did get published.
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Apr 23, 2010
Now, a long time ago, I had this idea of something like a snail that would have one of those ESTES rockets with cameras in a steel tube that would fire up-ward into the center of a passing tornado.

But drones do seem to be better.

I wonder about something like the old Mogol balloon--where you have a balloon chain with drones interspersed along a vertical line between the balloons. Long/tall enough, it may intertwine with the tornado, allowing the whole funnel to be surrounded in a helix.

That would cost some money--but might be well worth it--to look at horizontal vortices, etc.
(Not referring to your post specifically Jeff)

Some of the scientists can correct me here, but I believe it's imperative to have calibrated instrumentation. This was always a problem with the show people, as I don't believe such unverified data using non-calibrated methods is "official" in a scientific world? Thanks.
As a side note Warren F; remember some university students in that documentary you were in - some twenty years ago - were shooting off rockets to trigger lightning strikes?
Little fuzzy on the details; but were those rockets getting the desired strikes via wire or vapor trails from the rocket - or both?
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As a side note Warren F; remember some university srudents in that documentary you were in - some twenty years ago - were shooting off rockets to trigger lightning strikes?
Little fuzzy on the details; but were those rockets getting the desired strikes via wire or vapor trails from the rocket - or both?
I vaguely remember that. I was not connected with them as they were from a University in Florida if I remember right. They were using the rockets to trigger lightning in Florida for research?
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Sep 15, 2005
Troy, NY
I remember seeing this guy try to shoot rockets into a tornado maybe a few decades ago from a plane in a video. Heres some info:

Apr 23, 2010
That was Sterling Colgate. He was a of Bernard Vonnegut's work.
Stirling Colgate Papers

Footage is in Grazulis' Tornado Video Classics

He is re-releasing his book

No need to wonder, some information can be found here (as a starter) Lightning Research Laboratory (UF)
That is Uman's bunch

I remember footage where one student was blowing air into a tube by mouth in order to fire a rocket.
Don’t Try This at Home: Making Lightning Bolts With Rockets
Rocket Triggered Lightning

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