Posted in Climatology, EDUCATION, NORTH AMERICA

(A preview of) Meteorology and Myth Part VII: “The Dead Man Walking”

Today I will share yet another avenue of my research in my “Meteorology and Myth” science education series.

There is room for more research on multiple vortex tornados. I would like to find a good student to work with me on this chapter.

Multiple vortex tornados contain several small but intense vortices revolving around the main tornado funnel cloud. These should not be confused with double (or other multiple) tornados produced by the same supercell thunderstorm.

Multiple vortex tornados produce some spooky images. The individual vortices seems to kick around as if they are alive. Our imaginations sometimes see a human-like figure.

The tornado vortex on the right appears to be “walking away”. The “Dead Man Walking” image in the poster is a still photo of the May 27, 1997 F-5 Tornado which killed 27 people in Jerrell, Texas. The tornado started out as a small rope, but grew into a large, multiple-vortex monster as it slowly walked across the landscape. I will share a documentary of that terrible day.

There is also another documentary worth viewing about this tornado.

YouTube user Antarctic Vortex has posted the full TLC Channel documentary. It is an important part of pop cultural history as well. It looks like the video was transferred from an old VHS tape recording. You can see the tracking lines at various points. Furthermore, the commercial breaks have been retained. This video is about a terrible, tragic event, but it was amusing to see the anachronisms about sharing photographs on America Online, or shopping at Blockbuster stores. The Native American legend is mentioned at time 16 minutes in, as a frightening moment is recreated in the documentary. It also includes a still frame of the “Dead Man Walking” image.

Look for an update to this chapter of Meteorology and Myth later in the 2020-21 academic year.


Agee, E. M., J. T. Snow, and P. R. Clare, 1976: Multiple Vortex Features in the Tornado Cyclone and the Occurrence of Tornado Families. Mon. Wea. Rev., 104, 552–563,<0552:MVFITT>2.0.CO;2.

Clay, Nolan. 2013. “Oklahoma storms: Amateur storm chaser took photo of tornado that killed him”. The Oklahoman. June 4, 2013.

NOAA Storm Prediction Center. 2020. National Severe Storm Laboratory Public Domain Tornado Images. Accessed June 1, 2020.

Wurman, J., 2002: The Multiple-Vortex Structure of a Tornado. Weather and Forecasting, 17, 473–505,<0473:TMVSOA>2.0.CO;2.

Wurman, J., K. Kosiba, P. Robinson, and T. Marshall, 2014: The Role of Multiple-Vortex Tornado Structure in Causing Storm Researcher Fatalities. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Societ., 95, 31–45,

Posted in Climatology, EDUCATION, NORTH AMERICA

(A preview of) Meteorology and Myth Part VI: Satan’s Winds

My series continues with another topic: “Satan’s Winds”.  I put together this conference poster draft. Now I am just waiting to find an outlet for it. Most conferences I attend have canceled their in-person meetings, and are converting to “online conferences” and “virtual sessions”.

I think that this would be a good topic for an undergraduate student to present at a local or regional conference. I need a student to “take the ball and run with it”, and to conduct a thorough literature review.

I know what you are going to say – it is not SATAN — it is Santa Ana — as in the canyon named after the Mexican General. Actually … there is some debate about the origin of the name. You will just have to wait until you hear my explanation. The Santa Anas are certainly a devil of a problem though. Please view this short documentary from KCET Online about the history and importance of Santa Ana.

I also found out that several California pop groups have recorded songs using Santa Ana winds as a theme. The Beach Boys for example. There is a humorous music clip from the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” which sings the problems associated with the devil wind in the style of Franky Valli.

At least the cancellation of so many conferences cannot be blamed on Santa Ana. Look for more updates on this project this fall.


Abatzoglou, J. T., R. Barbero, and N. J. Nauslar, 2013: Diagnosing Santa Ana winds in Southern California with synoptic-scale analysis. Weather Forecasting, 28, 704–710.

Cao, Y., and R. G. Fovell, 2016: Downslope windstorms of San Diego County. Part I: A case study. Monthly Weather Review. 144, 529–552.

Durran, D. R., 1990: Mountain waves and downslope winds. Atmospheric Processes over Complex Terrain, Meteorological Monographs, No. 45, American Meteorological Society, 59–81.

Guzman Morales, J., A. Gershunov, J. Theiss, H. Li, and D. Cayan, 2016: Santa Ana Winds of Southern California: Their climatology, extremes, and behavior spanning six and a half decades. Geophysical Research Letters, 43, 2827–2834.

Masters, Nathan. 2012. “SoCal’s Devil Winds: The Santa Anas in Historical Photos and Literature”. KCET, October 25, 2012.

Needham, John. 1988. “The Devil Winds Made Me Do It : Santa Anas Are Enough to Make Anyone’s Hair Stand on End”. Los Angeles Times. March 12, 1988.

Rolinski, T., S.B. Capps, and W. Zhuang, 2019: Santa Ana Winds: A Descriptive Climatology. Weather and Forecasting, 34, 257–275.



(A preview of) Meteorology and Myth Part 5: The Legacy of “Huricán” — A Carib God of Evil

I wanted to share a preview of another chapter in my ongoing science education series “Meteorology and Myth”. The fifth part considers the hurricane gods of the Caribbean Basin.

Mesoamerican history contains many stories of local and regional deities. The native peoples of the Caribbean had to deal with destructive hurricanes occasionally. To the peoples of the Caribbean, Yucatan Peninsula and Gulf of Mexico coasts, hurricanes are nothing but destructive. It is not surprising that hurricane gods would be considered evil, vengeful deities.

How do we know when and where ancient hurricanes struck? There is a new field of Earth Science which studies this question – Paleotempestology. Scientists use various “proxy data” to estimate the number, strength, and location of tropical cyclones which ocurred before modern instrumentation. Well, just click on the poster to view full size and read it now to learn more!

This poster is the start of perhaps a conference presentation. I would like to have a student participate and pick up the research from here. As always, I am looking for students who want to work on research projects and individual investigation studies.

Look for more updates this coming academic year.



“Meteorology and Myth — Part II: A Fair Candlemas”

Welcome QR Code readers! If you have scanned the QR Code on my poster or conference presentation, it has brought you here. I am still compiling my full presentation for the SouthEastern Division of the American Association of Geographers Conference, to be held November 24-25, 2019. This post is just a placeholder for the presentation and reference list TBA. In the meantime, enjoy this preview.

I will be continuing my “Meteorology and Myth” Weather-and-Climate Education series this fall with another project on weather lore, this time titled “Meteorology and Myth – Part II: A Fair Candlemas

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSEI teach an introductory course in “Weather and Climate”.  Whenever February 2nd rolls around, a student will  ask if the “Groundhog Day” predictions are true. I used to always answer “NO!” The presence or absence of sunshine on any one particular day can not be used to determine either a shortened or a prolonged winter. Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions are just folksy nonsense.

However, I got to thinking about it … and began to hypothesize that there may be a teaching opportunity in this legend. Although the Groundhog’s prediction does not make meteorological sense in the short term, perhaps there are long-term climatological averages about prolonged-winters and early-springs, which may have allowed the folklore to survive and diffuse.

The purpose of the overall project is to develop general education teaching modules which bridge topics in geography, atmospheric science, history, art, culture and folklore. Students in the arts and humanities often struggle with physical science. Equally, students in Geoscience and other STEM fields often need a greater appreciation for the arts and humanities. The intent is not to have students “prove” whether or not Groundhog Day predictions are true.  Instead, the  goal is for students to have a better understanding of atmospheric circulations, global teleconnections and weather patterns. Secondarily, students should have a better appreciation for folklore, history, culture and environment.



Look for more updates and embellishments later in November!

Posted in MY PHOTOS, OLD RESEARCH, Uncategorized

My entry for the American Meteorological Society T-Shirt design contest 2018

Spoiler Alert: It didn’t win.  I had entered the American Meteorological Society’s annual “T-Shirt Design Contest” last summer. The winner was to be awarded free registration to the Annual Meeting of the AMS that is being held this month. They will  also be selling the shirts — of the winner — at the conference. Here is my design, although I never made it into a real fabric shirt.

I would like to tell you a little bit about how I came to make this design. The t-shirt I designed is just a plain white shirt with black text.  I suppose it could be made in color, but for the purposes of the contest, I just wanted the image to be as clear as possible for the judges.

How did I come up with the idea? I came up with the design from two different ideas. 1) I thought of the National Weather Service map symbols used on the station model on a synoptic weather chart. 2) I also have an interest in Japanese culture and art. (See my current work on Meteorology and Myth.)  The shirt depicts the Japanese kanji for “thunderstorm”.* The Japanese word is raiu.

Background: Kanji symbols are one of the three (maybe four?) methods of writing the Japanese language. There are thousands of kanji symbols. This system differs from our letters in that kanji is a symbolic — or logographic — system. The symbols (or “words” if you will) look like the real things the words represent.

The symbol on the left combines characters for “lightning” on top, with the symbol for “rice field” on the bottom. When the symbol is placed in this context, the symbol no longer means rice field — instead it   means “drumming”.  This is very appropriate! Thunder can sound like the pounding of drums as a thunderstorm approaches the observer. The symbol on the right is the kanji character for “rain”.  Note the symbol includes those four dashes which look rather like rain falling from the flat base of a cloud.  Maybe on to a rice field?

From “The Rising Sky” blog on WordPress.

When you put them together, it “spells” (cough) the Japanese word Raiu – or Thunderstorm. Link: Here is how to pronounce the word “Raiu”.

The other inspiration for my T-shirt design was based on the US National Weather Service symbols used on their synoptic weather charts. Meteorologists place these symbols on a map around a particular station, to represent conditions at a point in time.

Notice that the NWS symbols for thunderstorm, and the various conditions associated with types of thunderstorms storms look like logographic writing.  The basic thunderstorm shorthand symbol is a horizontal line with a perpendicular straight line down on the left side, and a zig-zag line with arrow on the right.  The zig-zag obviously represents a downward lightning path. Perhaps the left line represents the downward rush of rain and cold air, typical of a mature thunderstorm.

Actually, I had thought at first of just using the NWS thunderstorm symbol as the T-shirt design, but then thought the kanji script might be a good conversation starter.  I hope you like my design. Maybe someday I could have the shirt printed out. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might improve the design? Please comment if you want us to order some!

It took the sap about 2:05 to flow through this one.


*References: I found a WordPress blogger who has posted articles about Japanese kanji script. He also posts interesting articles about Japanese culture. I defer to his expertise here.

Weather map symbols:



“Meteorology and Myth: Rationalization of the Thunderstorm and Tornado Deities of Japan” (SEDAAG, 2018).

The following is a paper I read to the 73rd Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers, held November 19 to 20th. The conference was hosted by East Tennessee State University, at the Millenium Center in Johnson City, TN.


Notice: These images are just JPEG files of my original PowerPoint. The Powerpoint had a lot of animated graphics that you miss out on here. Let me know if you want to see the original! — DE