07 Jun 2023
 | 07 Jun 2023

Design and Rocket Deployment of a Trackable Pseudo-Lagrangian Drifter based Meteorological Probe into the Lawrence/Linwood EF4 Tornado and Mesocyclone on 28 May 2019

Reed Timmer, Mark Simpson, Sean Schofer, and Curtis Brooks

Abstract. A custom lightweight, miniaturized, and trackable meteorological probe was launched by a model rocket into the inflow region near an EF4, long-tracked tornado south of Lawrence, Kansas, on 28 May 2019 and sampled tornado core flow. The rocket reached apogee at 439 m AGL, releasing the "pseudo-Lagrangian drifter" by parachute directly into the tornado vortex. The probe reached a velocity of 85.1 m s-1 in the first revolution around the tornado, measured a pressure deficit of -113.5 hPa at 475 m MSL, and sampled a tornadic updraft of 65.0 m s-1. The probe then transitioned to an environment exhibiting more tilted ascent above an altitude of 4,300 m MSL at speeds up to 84.0 m s-1 to a maximum altitude of 11,914 m MSL. 1 Hz pressure, temperature, relative humidity, GPS, acceleration, gyroscope, and magnetometer data for the flight were transmitted in real-time to a ground station until the probe landed 51 km northeast of the launch position. The probe was recovered without damage, which is attributed to the pseudo-Lagrangian Drifter design, and then higher resolution 10 Hz data was downloaded. This novel deployment method and design facilitate data collection in real-time from within tornadoes, the mesocyclone, and downdraft without requiring the probes to be recovered or for researchers to enter the circulation to deploy equipment.

Reed Timmer et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-781', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Jun 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Mark Simpson, 10 Jul 2023
  • AC2: 'Response to Anonymous Referee #2', Mark Simpson, 10 Jul 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-781', Anonymous Referee #3, 28 Sep 2023

Reed Timmer et al.

Data sets

Data Received By The Probe Reed Timmer, Mark Simpson, Sean Schofer, Curtis Brooks

Video supplement

A video animation of the probe trajectory ( and a video recording of the rocket launch ( Reed Timmer, Mark Simpson, Sean Schofer, Curtis Brooks

Reed Timmer et al.


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Short summary
This work discusses a probe launched by a model rocket into an EF4 tornado, and is the first time an airborne probe has directly sampled a tornado. The rocket deployed a parachuted probe recording wind speeds of 306 km h-1 in addition to temperature, humidity, and pressure deficit. Data from the probe was sent in real-time to a receiver in an armored vehicle. Taking measurements directly from inside tornadoes provides new data about this violent phenomena.