StormChaser Reed Timmer

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By Marcus Nash

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Updated: Tue, 28 Jan 2014 10:39:15 EST

His favorite moment is just before he enters the tornado. That’s right, enters the tornado. When one of nature’s most violent storms ravages the earth, Reed Timmer attacks. Driven toward discovery in the “wild west” of meteorology, Timmer is determined to solve the mysteries of tornadoes and hurricanes, his ultimate goal being to collect data that saves lives.

Forty-eight lives were lost on May 3, 1999 in the Moore, Oklahoma F-5 Tornado. Reed Timmer was less than a quarter mile from the beast, filming the whole thing. It wasn’t his first storm chase and certainly would not be his last. Since then, Timmer has chased more than 400 tornadoes and hurricanes, becoming one of the world’s leading experts on severe weather.

For Timmer, it’s more than just experiencing extreme storms. In 2003 he established TornadoVideos.net (TVN), which has become the premier source of weather footage for news and production companies worldwide. Now completing a Ph.D. in meteorology at The University of Oklahoma and starring on Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers, Reed leads his team from TVN into the storm, intercepting the violent winds of tornadoes with their armored tank-like vehicle, the Dominator, in attempt to better understand the complex dynamics behind one of the most powerful atmospheric forces on the planet.

Following his passion for the science of meteorology and unraveling the mysteries behind the complex dynamics of tornadoes, Reed coordinated the construction of two armored research vehicles designed to penetrate the violent winds of strong tornadoes and measure meteorological data inside. Called Dominator 1 and 2, these vehicles are outfitted with state-of-the-art mobile radar for the measurement of updrafts and downdrafts within tornadoes, and also an air cannon system that launches instrumented parachute probes that are carried inside the tornado while measuring temperature, moisture, and pressure. The goal is to create a 3D "X-ray" of a tornado using these armored tornado tanks, and TVN has accomplished at least part of its mission. Timmer became the first to capture HD video from inside a tornado, and recorded a ~170 mph updraft with his mobile radar while inside an EF4 tornado in Minnesota in 2010. After completion of his PhD this winter, Reed plans on publishing this data in a meteorological journal to share with the rest of the scientific community.

Author of the Penguin-published book, Into the Storm, an adrenaline-filled chronicle of his life as an extreme meteorologist, Timmer has built a reputation as a go-to source for news agencies when dangerous weathermakes headlines in the United States. His expertise regularly lands him on top-rated programs such as Larry King Live, Piers Morgan, Anderson Cooper and Good Morning America!; his recent appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno have helped give late-night audiences a better understanding of the tragic 2011 tornado season.

Taking his passion and education on the road, Reed is uniquely qualified to share and comment on the magic and beauty of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, and is equally known for his strong advocacy for extreme weather and disaster education. When he’s not chasing storms, he can often be found in university lecture halls and civic auditoriums speaking on severe weather preparedness and the science of extreme storm chasing.

His favorite part is right before he enters the tornado. It is a beast with mysteries so deep, complexities so subtle, and a puzzle he fully intends to figure out.

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