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Tornado-chasing meteorologist shows off mobile-radar truck at OMSI

by: David F. Ashton Inside the DOW (“Doppler On Wheels”) mobile weather radar truck’s cab, severe weather scientist Dr. Karen Kosiba works at an information-gathering station.

It wasn't the threat of an impending tornado that brought 'DOW 7' - a huge mobile weather radar truck - to Inner Southeast Portland earlier this summer. Although its dish antenna was turning, and an information-gathering pod was activated, this massive scientific information gathering device was visiting for a different purpose.

'We're here at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) for the opening of the IMAX motion picture 'Tornado Alley' - and we'll give folks a first-hand look at one of the main tools that we use to learn more about severe storms and tornados,' explained Dr. Karen Kosiba, of the Center for Weather Research.

For several years before she earned her advanced degree in atmospheric sciences, Kosiba volunteered on storm-chasing crews studying severe weather.

'Our not-for-profit company, funded mostly by the National Science Foundation, operates three of these mobile radar trucks as a national resource,' disclosed Kosiba. 'But we also do our own research, which is often tornado research.'

For several years, the organization was associated with the TV show 'Storm Chasers' on the Discovery Channel. 'They were along on our big project, called 'Vortex 2', which had more than 120 scientists out in 50 vehicles studying how tornadoes form, how they do damage, and what the structure of the winds is, inside tornados.'

Also alongside, documenting tornados with the group, was IMAX filmmaker Sean Casey. 'When he first started doing it, he hooked up with our group to more effectively chase tornadoes, while shooting footage for this feature documentary film.'

The result of Casey's efforts takes audiences along on 'heart-pounding mission to experience a tornado's destructive power, while gathering the most comprehensive extreme weather data ever collected,' OMSI's spokesperson, Debra Sonner explained. 'On our five-story high OMNIMAX screen, Portland audiences will see an IMAX film that captures nature's power in an immersive, eye-of-the-storm cinema experience.'

Asked why she occasionally puts herself in harm's way while chasing severe weather, Kosiba replied, 'I really like it. It's a great field, and really exciting. It's a diverse job; you get to study things that others don't ever get to see.'

For information on tickets and showtimes for the movie, call 503/797-4640, or go online to: www.omsi.edu/visit/omnimax .