Non-radar, non-eyeball tornado/severe storm sensors

Scott Udell

I was wondering if any scientific chasers, or those with a scientific bent, have used any instruments other than Mark I Eyeball and various flavors of radar to observer a tornado or severe storm? I saw the thread on using infrared (, understand that a seismograph (a "snail"?) has been deployed in a tornado's path (anyone know the results?), and I think I've heard of other auditory tests, but was wondering what else may have been applied?

Here are some ideas I've had (some reasonable, some out there):

* Spectroscopic analysis (esp. real time). Are atmospheric gasses homogenously distributed in tornados/severe storms, or not? Could spectroscopy (sp?) be used to aid in measurements of wind speeds? Or would condensation/dust/dirt/debris make hash of any readings?

* How about LIDAR (I understand that's laser rader?). Or just bouncing laser off a tornado, with other sensors to detect beam scatter? Don't know enough about this to know if you could get any data out of it.

* Okay, now we get a bit out there: how about particle beams, perhaps as a way to measure interior wind speeds? (Could a particle beam punch a tornado/storm?) I know there's an issue with particle charge interacting with atmospheric charge (especially in a storm!), but I recall research into using some kind of laser (?) to punch a neutrally charged tunnel through atmosphere through which you could send a particle beam (this was proposed for space-based SDI/Star Wars weapons, actually). Perhaps you could try setting up the tunnel, sending in your particle beam (or your laser), then switching off the beam that makes the tunnel. Then measure the speed with which the air rotation closes off the tunnel and starts scattering the beam to get an idea of wind speeds? Like I said, perhaps far fetched and impossible, but fun to think about!

Any other possibilities? Any sensor technologies used that I didn't mention?
So far, various radar systems, including mobile C-band (e.g. SMART-Rs), X-band (e.g. DOWs), and W-band (e.g. Bluestein's / UMASS radar), seem to be the most popular method for remote sensing and investigation of supercells, mesocyclones, and tornadoes (depending upon radar wavelength). As you mentioned, there is another active post regarding InfraSound, which is investigating low-frequency sound emissions from tornadoes. There have been in-situ measurements lately as well, mainly from Tim Samaras and his turtles. In addition, I know Howie Bluestein was experimenting with infrared imagery in an attempt, I believe, to investigate heat distribution in and around a tornado. Robin Tanamachi worked with the IR camera last year, so perhaps she can comment on this technology. I'm sure there are other projects going on, but the above mentioned are the ones that are coming to mind right now.
Dr. Al Bedard did a neat presentation on infrasound detection of tornadoes (that is, sound waves just outside our hearing range) during the storm chaser convention in Denver. There are several different locations where these detectors are located. I copied down the URL from the slides in his presentation :))). You can view the data from these sites here:

Myself, I'm curious if anyone has ever viewed a supercell or a tornado through a spectroscope. Ever since experimenting with these in chemistry class with different types of lights (neon, xenon, argon, etc.), I've often wondered if specific light signatures are evident in strong supercells prior to producing tornadoes. I'm especially interested what the greenish tinge looks like in storms heavy with hail. If anyone is willing to test this out for me, I'll glady make a spectrometer and send it your way! :D
I've always wondered that if someone used an infrared camera on the same wavelength as the infrared cameras on weather satellites that are used to monitor clouds (at night) and moisture, maybe one could see a condensation funnel at night. Of course, the rain behind the tornado might drown out the image, but I think it may just work (maybe). It might be worth a shot, if not to just rule it out.
It seems thermal imaging would be pretty good. Since tornadoes have quite a pressure drop, air moving at a high rate of speed would likely generate cold air, just like air flowing from an air compressor. But then again, I wonder if the center of the tornado would actually produce heat, because it's highly compressed air? So, maybe it's heat on the inside, cold on the outside where the condensed air is?