National Geographic Events

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Chasing Tornadoes

  • Date
    January 28, 2013
  • Time 8:00 p.m.
  • Location Austin, TX
  • Price Series packages start at $48.

Past Event

Photo: Tim Samaras
Tim Samaras plants one of his probes in the path of a South Dakota tornado.

Photograph by Carsten Peter

Photo: Tim Samaras

Tim Samaras

Photograph by Mark Thiessen

“Everyone has a passion for something—it just happens that my passion is chasing tornadoes.”—Tim Samaras

Tim Samaras’ harrowing mission: to predict a tornado’s track, arrive before it does, deploy a probe he’s designed directly into the twister’s path—and then get out of the way as fast as he can. He now spends every May and June racing through the Midwest’s Tornado Alley in a van packed with weather recording instruments.

Successful deployments gather the data Samaras needs to model more accurately the deadly winds and predict the tornado’s path. Since the current warnings average a slim 13 minutes, every second counts in the race to save lives. Samaras achieved landmark success in 2004: first on June 11, when he dropped a probe into the path of a tornado tearing through the Iowa countryside. The tornado took the bait, passing within 10 feet of the probe, capturing the closest video footage ever recorded inside a tornado’s center. Two weeks later, in South Dakota, he dropped 3 probes directly in the path of a half-mile wide F4 tornado, containing winds over 200 miles per hour, recording a 100-millibar drop in barometric pressure—the largest in recording history. In May 2009, National Geographic Books released Tornado Hunter, a book about Samaras’ work.

In this riveting presentation Samaras shares dramatic footage from his adventures and the scientific insights his exploits have yielded into these destructive storms.

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Speakers by Location

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