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Bogdan Antonescu, Hugo M. A. M. Ricketts, and David M. Schultz

Abstract

Alfred Wegener (1880–1930) was a leading geophysicist, atmospheric scientist, and an Arctic explorer who is mainly remembered today for his contributions to the theory of continental drift. Less well known are his contributions to research on tornadoes in Europe. Published 100 years ago, book Wind- und Wasserhosen in Europa (Tornadoes and Waterspouts in Europe) is an impressive synthesis of knowledge on tornadoes and is considered the first modern pan-European tornado climatology, with 258 reports from 1456 to 1913. Unfortunately, Wegener’s book was overlooked after the 1950s amid declining interest in tornadoes by European researchers and meteorologists. The recent revival of tornado studies in Europe invites a reflection on Wegener’s book. Using a relatively small dataset, Wegener was able to describe characteristics of tornadoes (e.g., direction of movement, speed, rotation, formation mechanism), as well as their frequency of occurrence and climatology, comparable with the results from modern tornado climatologies. Wegener’s lasting scientific contributions to tornado research are presented in the context of European research on this topic. Specifically, his book showed the utility of reports from citizen scientists and inspired other researchers, namely, Johannes Letzmann, who continued to study European tornadoes after Wegener’s death.

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Bogdan Antonescu, David M. Schultz, Hugo M. A. M. Ricketts, and Dragoş Ene

Abstract

Tornadoes and waterspouts have long fascinated humankind through their presence in myths and popular beliefs and originally were believed to have supernatural causes. The first theories explaining weather phenomena as having natural causes were proposed by ancient Greek natural philosophers. Aristotle was one of the first natural philosophers to speculate about the formation of tornadoes and waterspouts in Meteorologica (circa 340 BCE). Aristotle believed that tornadoes and waterspouts were associated with the wind trapped inside the cloud and moving in a circular motion. When the wind escapes the cloud, its descending motion carries the cloud with it, leading to the formation of a typhon (i.e., tornado or waterspout). His theories were adopted and further nuanced by other Greek philosophers such as Theophrastus and Epicurus. Aristotle’s ideas also influenced Roman philosophers such as Lucretius, Seneca, and Pliny the Elder, who further developed his ideas and also added their own speculations (e.g., tornadoes do not need a parent cloud). Almost ignored, Meteorologica was translated into Latin in the twelfth century, initially from an Arabic version, leading to much greater influence over the next centuries and into the Renaissance. In the seventeenth century, the first book-length studies on tornadoes and waterspouts were published in Italy and France, marking the beginning of theoretical and observational studies on these phenomena in Europe. Even if speculations about tornadoes and waterspouts proposed by Greek and Roman authors were cited after the nineteenth century only as historical pieces, core ideas of modern theories explaining these vortices can be traced back to this early literature.

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Keith A. Browning, Alan M. Blyth, Peter A. Clark, Ulrich Corsmeier, Cyril J. Morcrette, Judith L. Agnew, Sue P. Ballard, Dave Bamber, Christian Barthlott, Lindsay J. Bennett, Karl M. Beswick, Mark Bitter, Karen E. Bozier, Barbara J. Brooks, Chris G. Collier, Fay Davies, Bernhard Deny, Mark A. Dixon, Thomas Feuerle, Richard M. Forbes, Catherine Gaffard, Malcolm D. Gray, Rolf Hankers, Tim J. Hewison, Norbert Kalthoff, Samiro Khodayar, Martin Kohler, Christoph Kottmeier, Stephan Kraut, Michael Kunz, Darcy N. Ladd, Humphrey W. Lean, Jürgen Lenfant, Zhihong Li, John Marsham, James McGregor, Stephan D. Mobbs, John Nicol, Emily Norton, Douglas J. Parker, Felicity Perry, Markus Ramatschi, Hugo M. A. Ricketts, Nigel M. Roberts, Andrew Russell, Helmut Schulz, Elizabeth C. Slack, Geraint Vaughan, Joe Waight, David P. Wareing, Robert J. Watson, Ann R. Webb, and Andreas Wieser

The Convective Storm Initiation Project (CSIP) is an international project to understand precisely where, when, and how convective clouds form and develop into showers in the mainly maritime environment of southern England. A major aim of CSIP is to compare the results of the very high resolution Met Office weather forecasting model with detailed observations of the early stages of convective clouds and to use the newly gained understanding to improve the predictions of the model.

A large array of ground-based instruments plus two instrumented aircraft, from the U.K. National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) and the German Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK), Karlsruhe, were deployed in southern England, over an area centered on the meteorological radars at Chilbolton, during the summers of 2004 and 2005. In addition to a variety of ground-based remote-sensing instruments, numerous rawinsondes were released at one- to two-hourly intervals from six closely spaced sites. The Met Office weather radar network and Meteosat satellite imagery were used to provide context for the observations made by the instruments deployed during CSIP.

This article presents an overview of the CSIP field campaign and examples from CSIP of the types of convective initiation phenomena that are typical in the United Kingdom. It shows the way in which certain kinds of observational data are able to reveal these phenomena and gives an explanation of how the analyses of data from the field campaign will be used in the development of an improved very high resolution NWP model for operational use.

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