Mr. Tim M. Samaras – Principal Investigator
Mr. Tim Samaras has led, designed, and fielded complex instrumentation research efforts over the past 30 years. More notably he has participated in the TWA crash investigation by performing numerous scale model fuel tank explosions, the Oklahoma City bombing, and studying new techniques of explosive countermeasures. Samaras’ background includes extensive research work in energetic materials including velocity measurement within explosives, blast pressure, high-speed acceleration, and stress/strain measurements. Mr. Samaras is considered an expert in high-speed camera imaging, utilizing photographic techniques that captures imagery to over 1 million frames per second. Samaras’s work has been recognized by The National Geographic Society, which awarded him the honor of ‘Emerging Explorer’ in 2005 for his research studies of tornadoes. Samaras has designed instrumented probes to measure the pressure drop of tornadoes for measurements of tornado strength. These hardened probes are designed to be placed in the paths of tornadoes, thus the tornado passes over the top for numerous precision measurements including static pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction. One such measurement includes a 100 millibar pressure drop in a violent tornado in South Dakota on June 24th, 2003. To date, Samaras is the only individual ever to accomplish this task. In the past few years, he has been the field coordinator for TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in-near Tornadoes EXperiment) in the pursuit of gaining a better understanding of the near-surface internal tornado environment and insight into the thermodynamic and kinematic conditions in the proximity of tornadoes. Samaras has also been heading summer season campaigns to capture lightning on ultra high speed video to better understand the attachment point of the stepped leader/return stroke. Finally, he as recently co-authored with Steven Bechtel the book Tornado Hunter which is published by National Geographic.
Dr. Bruce D. Lee – Investigator
Dr. Lee has two decades experience in the atmospheric sciences with professional positions ranging from a tenured Associate Professor of Meteorology appointment at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) and Visiting Professor appointment at the University of Illinois to his current position as a Senior Atmospheric Scientist at WindLogics Inc. He received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Illinois in 1995 with research investigating nonsupercell tornadogenesis and thunderstorm outflow dynamics utilizing high-resolution numerical simulations. A series of seminal papers from the first ever simulations of nonsupercell tornadogenesis, coauthored with his former advisor and colleague Dr. Robert Wilhelmson, provided a comprehensive understanding of tornadogenesis, maturation and decay in the absence of a mesocyclone. The visualization of this process has received extensive national recognition. While a post-doc at the University of Illinois and during his time on the UNC faculty, Dr. Lee’s research interests broadened to include observational and numerical research on the triggering of deep convection along thunderstorm outflow and other boundaries by flow instabilities, and the processes and consequences of storm interactions on supercell morphology, isolation and tornadogenesis. At UNC, Dr. Lee directed Project ANSWERS 2003 (Analysis of the Near-Surface Wind and Environment along the Rear-flank of Supecells) a mobile mesonet-based project designed to address a number of scientific objectives that involve attributes of the supercell rear-flank downdraft (RFD) and RFD boundary which may influence tornadogenesis, tornado evolution and cyclic tornadogenesis. This tornadogenesis/tornado proximity environment research has continued in subsequent years in sub_ANSWERS 2006 and TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in-near Tornadoes EXperiment). During his time at UNC, Dr. Lee played a leading role in renovating the meteorology program. While his current work in the private sector involves varying aspects of multi-scale meteorological analysis and operational performance analysis, Dr. Lee’s research on the aforementioned severe local storms topics continue. Dr. Lee additionally has nearly 6 years experience as an Aerospace Engineer for Northwest Airlines prior to pursuing graduate education in the atmospheric sciences.
Dr. Catherine A. Finley – Investigator
Dr. Finley’s background includes work in both numerical modeling and observations of severe convective storm, and theoretical dynamics of large-scale atmospheric systems. She completed her Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science in 1998 at Colorado State University where she modeled tornadogenesis in a High Precipitation supercell, and suction vortex development in a simulated tornado. From this work came a seminal paper on numerical modeling of a high-precipitation tornadic supercell – bow echo transition, which led to a better understanding of the role storm interactions play in the transition process. Dr. Finley joined the faculty at the University of Northern Colorado in the fall of 1998, where she played a vital role in revamping and reinvigorating the meteorology program. While at UNC, she continued her modeling research in severe convective storm dynamics and tornadogenesis. Dr. Finley also co-directed Project ANSWERS 2003 (Analysis of the Near-Surface Wind and Environment along the Rear-flank of Supercells), an observational study of the characteristics and morphology of the Rear-flank Downdraft (RDF) which is plays a vital role in tornadogenesis. This observational work to better understand the role that near-surface storm structures play in tornadogenesis has continued in subsequent years with projects sub_ANSWERS 2006 and TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in-near Tornadoes EXperiment). Dr. Finley is currently a Sr. Atmospheric Scientist at WindLogics where she has used her numerical modeling skills to support the wind energy industry, and to develop specialized wind and wind power forecast systems. While at WindLogics, she has continued to pursue both observational and modeling research in severe storm dynamics, and is also serving on several committees within the American Meteorological Society.