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Science Nation: Doppler on Wheels--The Biggest 'Dish' on the Road

4 minutes

(Describer) Streams of light collide to create a globe filled with water. Title: Science Nation. In a rain storm, a vehicle follows a truck carrying a large flat device on a pedestal.

[rain pattering]

(male narrator) This is Doppler On Wheels, or DOW. Rugged, mobile, radar unit that does its best work in dangerous places.

(male) The back is the real action and Doppler On Wheels. That's the biggest dish we can get down the road.

(Describer) Satellite dishes turn on other trucks.

(narrator) With support from the National Science Foundation, meteorologist Josh Wurman and his team at the Center for Severe Weather Research study hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards from the inside.

(male) During its first weeks of operation, it revolutionized how we think about observing phenomenon of this type: hurricanes, tornadoes, nighttime convection. But the first time we intercepted a major tornado and got about 2 or 3 kilometers from it and took slices through that tornado, map out the wind, see the debris cloud, everybody was extremely excited.

(Describer) Images show pixilated debris spraying from orange columns.

(narrator) When severe weather threatens, team members coordinate a fleet of storm-chasing vehicles from this compact control room inside the DOW. Others are on POD duty.

(male) These are portable, rugged, weather stations.

(Describer) One is a couple feet tall.

If a tornado is coming towards us, we drive on a road and drop 24 of them in front of the tornado.

(Describer) A vehicle drives through rain on flat land under grey and white skies.

[radio] It's 3 kilometers from the DOW.

(narrator) This kind of work will get the adrenaline pumping.

(male) There's a natural tension between being ambitious, trying to get close to the storm, and keeping our crew safe. But the balance is always towards safety. This is not a movie, where if we get data, great, but we might die.

(narrator) The images they capture will blow you away.

(Describer) The roof and columns of a pavilion are lifted up.

(male) By mapping winds and seeing exactly which gusts knocked down this building, we learn more about what winds do which kinds of damage.

(Describer) The roof is crushed.

(narrator) One DOW was on Cape Cod during the brutal winter of 2015, riding out a blizzard.

(female) We're mapping out fine details or mapping out stuff below normal radar, between different observation stations,

(Describer) Karen Kosiba:

looking where the heaviest snow is, looking at transitions between rain and snow.

(Describer) A car drives by a small plane.

(narrator) Home base is at the Boulder, Colorado Airport. Is that two? I'm counting it as one.

(Describer) Inside, Wurman discusses an image on a laptop with a woman.

(narrator) Collecting data is just the start. Analysis can take years. What they are learning will help save lives.

(male) We contribute knowledge which makes warnings better than a 13-minute average warning time for tornadoes, what it is currently, can increase to 15, 18, or 20. Those few minutes make a difference. They've deployed all over, tornado alley to Alaska and Hawaii, and weathered many a storm, going through 200 tornadoes and more than a few windshields. All to keep us safer during dangerous storms.

(Describer) A globe turns beside the title.

For Science Nation, I'm Miles O'Brien.

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For nearly a decade, with support from the National Science Foundation, Doppler on Wheels (DOW) has been doing its best work in dangerous weather to gather scientific data about wind, rain, and snow. Meteorologist Josh Wurman and his team at the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colorado coordinate a fleet of storm-chasing vehicles from a compact control room inside one of the DOW trucks. From thunderstorms to blizzards, hurricanes to tornadoes, DOW is providing extensive and detailed information that may ultimately improve warning systems and weather prediction. Part of the National Science Foundation Series “Science Nation.”

Media Details

Runtime: 4 minutes

Science Nation
Episode 1
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 4
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 5
4 minutes
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Science Nation
Episode 6
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 7
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 8
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 9
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 10
4 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12