Quality, not quantity

Yesterday is already wrapping up to be one of my best chases in years. I witnessed two long-lived tornadoes – one at 6:30 p.m. CDT near Rozel, Kansas, and the second at about 8:00 p.m. just north of Sanford, Kansas (which we watched from less than a mile away). I shot more than 40 minutes of video and boatloads of stills, and it is going to be some time before I can sort through and upload the highlights. Unfortunately we have learned that one of the tornadoes destroyed a home in Rozel, and our hearts go out to the victims as they begin to put their lives back together.

Today is also shaping up to be a big chase / tornado outbreak day, and we have some crucial decisions to make. So for now I will just leave you with a teaser. Stay safe today in OK, KS, and MO!

Sanford, Kansas tornado at about 8:06 p.m. on 18 May 2013.

Sanford, Kansas tornado at about 8:06 p.m. on 18 May 2013.

Fun with a Texas dust devil

The Texas panhandle was crawling with dust devils near yesterday afternoon’s dryline. We were en route back from Boulder, when one of them passed over U. S. Hwy. 87 in front of our car. My husband grabbed my Sony Bloggie 3D and shot this as the dust devil passed over him. He complained for about an hour afterward that he itched from the tumbleweeds scratching against his bare legs!

2013-04-17: Wall clouds in SW OK

KFDR reflectivity image of the Faxton storm

Cutting south across the forward flank of the first Faxton, OK storm on April 17.

It was my first day back at work after a long week of travel that spanned nearly 15 degrees of longitude. (More on that later.) I went into work extra early, and managed to scramble a chase partner (Gerry C.). We departed the NWC just after 2 p.m., and headed southwest on I-44. We initially targeted a storm west of Anadarko, OK, only to abandon it quickly when its high cloud base made frontal undercut evident.

Next, we cut across the forward flank of a tornado-warned supercell passing over KFDR, intercepting it near Cache, OK. Sitting on top of a hill on Cache Road just north of Faxton, OK, we observed a wall cloud to our distant southwest that extended a few enticing purple scud fingers. However, it quickly filled from behind with emerald green and gusted out toward us.

Faxton, OK Wall Cloud

Faxton, OK wall cloud about 5 p.m. CDT, as seen from Cache, OK

We escaped east toward Lawton with numerous other chasers, but were overtaken by the advancing core. A few nickel-sized hailstones thumped against my roof. I dropped a few miles south on SW 82nd Street and allowed the Faxton storm’s hook to pass by us to the north.

By this point, it was evident that a second supercell – following an almost identical track over KFDR and Manitou, OK – was now the tail end Charlie and the preferred target. Proceeding west along Baseline Rd., we stopped near the intersection with Indiahoma Rd. where we had a good view toward the west and a new wall cloud. Unfortunately, that wall cloud met the same fate as the last one – after rotating lazily, it grew increasingly Z-shaped as an advancing gust front pushed it out from behind.

It was growing darker, and we both needed to return home for logistical reasons. As we merged back onto I-44 at Lawton, we heard a spotter report of a tornado near Ft. Sill, a few miles to our northwest. Our view was blocked by trees, but we could see a dark lowering beneath the cloud base in that direction. We pulled off I-44 for a few minutes to observe, but never saw a tornado or the reported power flashes. We missed the Grandfield tornado, which happened even farther to our southwest, after dark.

By then, the southwest-to-northeast oriented line of supercells was now situated over I-44, signifying a slow and messy return drive. Lou W., who had been nowcasting for us via text message from back in Norman, suggested that we drive straight east through Duncan to I-35, and return to Norman that way. It added about 30 miles to our drive length, but was precipitation-free for all but the last 10 miles. We took the Lindsey Street exit just as our old target storms congealed into a mini-bow. The next morning, my home rain gauge had 2.1 inches of refreshing rain in it.

For your amusement, here’s a video clip from Chris Novy showing spotter network activity during the 17 April event. Despite the number of glowing green ants, we didn’t run into any horde-related issues. We found decent parking spaces and observed safe driving habits all around.

A storm observer’s pledge

Inspired some behavior I’ve witnessed on YouTube recently…

As a research meteorologist, storm chaser, and an admirer of the atmosphere, I hereby pledge that:

  • I will conduct myself professionally, regardless of whether or not I am observing a storm as a duty of my employment.
  • I will obey all federal, state, and local laws.
  • I will never misrepresent who I am or in what capacity I am observing a storm. I will never impersonate a law enforcement officer or emergency responder.
  • I will conduct myself safely and ethically, even if doing so costs me a “money shot.”
  • I will report promptly any hazardous conditions that I observe to the NWS, and share my insights with local authorities.
  • I will never willfully imperil myself or others, thereby diverting emergency resources from the local population.
  • I will not operate a handheld camera while driving. I will ask my chase partner(s) to take images and video for me.
  • I will never exploit tornado victims for personal gain.
  • I will not cheer on a tornado, since I can never know what’s beneath it.
  • I will admit promptly to my mistakes, and offer explanation and redress.

2001-06-11: My first tornado, Benson, Minnesota

The “my first tornado” meme circulating on Facebook prompted me to dust off my first chase log book and relive the Benson, Minnesota tornado – my first ever. I kept an astonishing amount of detail, and it helped me reconstruct the chase. On subsequent chases, I’ve usually been in the driver’s seat and not kept such detailed logs. But when you’re packed in the back of a van with a dozen other students, there’s not much else to do besides observe and record.

AOS 455 students work to free Van #2 from Kansas mud.

Dr. Tripoli and his AOS 455 students work to free UW Van #2 from Kansas mud. A copy of this photo is still up on the wall of the AOS department at 1225 W Dayton Street.

In spring 2001, I had a freshly-printed B.S. diploma from the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Atmospheric and Oceanic Science department in hand, and taken a job as a research intern at the Space Science & Engineering Center on Dayton St. I decided to enroll (as a “super senior”) in the biennial summer course AOS 455: Severe Storms Forecasting, taught by Dr. Greg Tripoli. After a couple of weeks in the classroom reviewing mesoscale meteorology, we piled into two white university vans and spent 10 days cruising the Great Plains, chasing turkey towers with Josh Wurman & Co. (who were then rolling in DOW2 and DOW3), sampling the local cuisine (ahem, Taco Tico), pushing the vans out of the greasy red mud, and taking in local sights (e.g., “No trespassing” signs riddled with bullet holes, and a storage facility eloquently named U-STUF-IT). This newly-minted meteorologist from the Midwest found plenty of warmth and charm in the rolling Plains. I distinctly remember watching majestic bubbling cumulus from a parking lot in Harper, Kansas one afternoon, surrounded by fields of waving wheat. I took a deep breath of balmy Gulf air, felt the wind tickle my short hair, and thought to myself, “You know, I could get used to this.”

Near the end of our trip, we migrated back north along I-35 in preparation for our return to Madison. It being early June, the jet stream had begun to migrate north as well. We started off the morning of 11 June in Rochester, Minnesota, and headed north toward St. Cloud. A surface low tracked across northern MN, dragging a cold front behind it, we anticipated the latter would touch off a round of storms in western MN. Wind profiles were marginal, but the air was sticky (72+ F dewpoints, thanks to the exhalations of the corn crop). We banked on the storms generating their own environment.

Radar composite of the upper Midwest on 11 June 2001

This HP supercell in western MN (yellow arrow) produced my first-ever tornado. Radar composite courtesy of UCAR.

We stopped for a couple of hours near Olivia, MN, watching backbuilding pulse storms fire off and scoot by to our north. One by one, they marched away to the east like lemmings and collapsed, much to the consternation of our green group of storm chasers, who were straining at the leash to chase something.

Finally, a new storm west of Willmar began to look better organized. A pay phone call from Dr. Tripoli to nowcasters back in Madison confirmed that was our target. We headed west on U.S. Hwy. 12. As we approached Benson, MN from the east, at around 2015 UTC, we observed a rain-wrapped wall cloud. From our vantage point about 20 miles from Benson, the rain cleared, and in the peach back light of the late afternoon sun, we saw a cloud appendage with a persistent dust whirl beneath it. I had my VHF HT hooked to my belt, and could hear local spotters confirming a tornado in the direction we were looking. I snapped a few pictures before we got back in the van to follow the storm.

Benson, MN tornado of 11 June 2001

My first tornado. We are about 20 mi east of Benson, MN, looking W at 2015 UTC.

We observed a few more wall cloud cycles and dust clouds as we followed the storm back towards Willmar. Tornado warnings followed the storm too, but we never spotted another funnel or tornado. The Benson storm eventually outran us, and we abandoned the chase near Glencoe. I remember making a collect call from a gas station pay phone to my parents in St. Paul, warning them about the approaching hailer. (It did eventually evolve into a mini-bow as it passed over the Twin Cities, and left a fat swath of wind reports across western Wisconsin.) I can’t remember if we drove all the way back to Madison that night or not, but my log book doesn’t have another entry until 14 June.

2012-11-10: The season fizzles to a close

Turkey towers over Greensburg

Turkey towers over Greensburg

Gusty southerly winds threatened to shove our car out of its lane on I-40 just after noon Saturday. We barreled up the Northwest Passage, dodging unusually aggressive tumbleweeds. We arrived in Greensburg, Kansas as the cumuli piled up on the dryline just to our west. “Hurry up and wait” time passed in the parking lot at Dillon’s, where we watched blips bubble and boil in the dry air for over an hour.

This late in the year, sunset comes around 5:30 p.m. local time (versus 9:00 p.m. or even later during May and June). The shorter days not only restrict photography opportunities, but also limit daytime heating and destabilization needed for storms. Today, however, the chief issue was moisture: although deep, dewpoints barely exceeded 55 F east of the dryline. Towers were too skinny, too mushy, too disorganized to garner any serious interest.

Shattuck left split's base

Shattuck left split’s base

A storm finally did materialize east of the dryline near Shattuck, OK, while the storms over Dodge City, KS, stubbornly refused to organize. We dropped back south to the KS/OK border, where the Shattuck storm had split into two moisture-starved miniature supercells. The base of the anticyclonic left split rotated lazily while a possible clear slot tried to cut across the cyclonic shear side (left). We finally stuck a fork in it at dusk.

Unless a miracle occurs, that is likely to be the end of my 2012 chase season!

2012-10-13: Veni, vidi, reliquit

We never even made it to Anadarko yesterday. I woke yesterday to cool temperatures and elevated showers passing through Norman. Not good. Temperatures struggled to get into the 70s all morning as persistent cloud cover and another round of showers kept us from reaching convective temperature.

Anticrepuscular rays converging east of Norman.

Anticrepuscular rays converging east of Norman.

Logistics for the day restricted us to within three hours of Norman, so we focused on looking for isolated convection within a 150-mile radius. Storms began to develop along the Pacific front in western Oklahoma around 1 p.m., and almost immediately lined out. KFDR was down for its dual-pol upgrade, so we had to base our decisions on coarser data from the more distant KTLX. We scoured the kinks and appendages in the line, looking for hints of discretization. Jana B. dropped by in anticipation of a short-fuse departure, and together, we watched the waning minutes of the OU-TX game. An isolated storm went up in the warm sector east of Frederick, OK, and we finally pulled out of the garage around 3:30 p.m.

We arrived in Chickasha, where we had to decide whether to head south on U.S. Hwy. 81 toward our original target, which by then had begun to deteriorate on radar, or west on OK-62 towards Anadarko and a quasi-isolated part of the line that exhibited a mesocyclone. We could see the lowered base of the latter, and we decided to go after it before it raced away to the northeast at 40+ kts.

Stable, stable, stable, north of Verden, OK.

Stable, stable, stable, north of Verden, OK.

As we approached Verden, OK, a solid wall cloud was visible against an emerald green wall of precipitation. We thought we briefly saw a tapered appendage on the north side of the wall cloud. It only lasted about 20 seconds; no one got a picture.

We headed north out of Verden on a paved county line road, watching as RFD precip swallowed the wall cloud. We turned east when the wind-driven precip crossed our road, and subsequently abandoned the storm as it left us behind in a gush of rain-cooled air. With no other viable storms in the area, and the line now fracturing into dozens of weaker cells, we decided to put a fork in it and headed back to Norman.

A multicell with a clear slot passes by Norman.

A multicell with a clear slot passes by Norman.

Later that evening, we observed another weakly-rotating, quasi-isolated cell pass north of Norman. A clear slot sliced across the foreground, but that was as good as it got. Sunset treated us to a stunning display of anticrepuscular rays set against mammatus clouds to our east.

In summary, the shear was good, but thanks to the two rounds of morning convection, the CAPE just wasn’t there. At least we didn’t drive very far (< 100 miles)!

New pub

I’ve got a paper in this month’s Monthly Weather Review entitled Mobile, X-band, Polarimetric Doppler Radar Observations of the 4 May 2007 Greensburg, Kansas, Tornadic Supercell. This is the first of two planned papers based on my Ph.D. research, an observational study based on UMass X-Pol data that we collected in the Greensburg storm.

UMass X-Pol on 4 May 2007

UMass X-Pol on 4 May 2007. Had it not been for the blown tire, we might not have collected data in the Greensburg storm.

Operations on 4 May 2007 started off on a low note. Howie, Kery H., and I were driving the UMass X-Pol to Dodge City, Kansas on our first chase of the season, when we blew a tire. With the aid of a good samaritan who just happened to have a spare that was the right size, we limped into Protection, Kansas. Tornado reports near Arnett, OK tempted the rest of our group back south, and we figured we had a bust chase on our hands. As soon as the new tire was on, a storm erupted southwest of Protection, and we decided to collect some “consolation data” in it and shake down the system.

A local sheriff showed us to his favorite storm spotting place on a hill looking over Protection. That road was too muddy for us to use, so we moved about two miles east and deployed on a packed gravel road. As we lost daylight fast, the storm dropped a rotating wall cloud, followed by a brief tornado and an additional funnel cloud to our west. We got volumetric, polarimetric X-band data of all these features. At one point I had to back the truck up to avoid beam blockage from telephone poles along US Hwy. 160, resulting in a small gap in the data.

The Greensburg tornado (#5) illuminated by lightning. These are frame grabs from my handheld video.

The Greensburg tornado (#5) illuminated by lightning. These are frame grabs from my handheld video.

As night fell, we lost visual on the wall cloud, but the radar presentation showed a giant spiraling hook echo. We were certain there must be a tornado occurring, so we kept collecting data. We had barely any reception of weather radio, but between the lightning crackles we could make out a series of urgent tornado warnings on our target storm issuing from the NWS office in Dodge City, including indications of a large tornado. Occasionally, flashes of lightning outlined a large lowering in the cloud base to our north (see images at right). After collecting more than an hour of data, we finally shut the system off around 9:30 p.m., when the deep-cycle marine batteries on board the UMass X-Pol, used to power the antenna pedestal and computer, completely drained.

En route back to Norman around midnight, congratulating ourselves on a great first deployment of the season, my cell phone rang. Chip L. had been chasing with us earlier in the afternoon, but split off after our tire mishap. “Greensburg has been completely destroyed,” he said solemnly. As an EMT, he had gone there to assist, and witnessed near-complete devastation of a town of ~1500. We stopped at a fast food restaurant in Ada, where a TV screen in the corner of the room flickered images that looked like they’d come from a war zone. The remainder of the drive back was much quieter and more somber.

Reflectivity, Doppler velocity, and storm-relative Doppler velocity data in the Greensburg tornado

Reflectivity, Doppler velocity, and storm-relative Doppler velocity data in the Greensburg tornado

Over the next few days, back in Norman, I pored over the data, and it quickly became clear that this would be my dissertation case. We had captured not only the genesis of an EF-5 tornado, but several weaker, antecedent tornadoes. In trying to figure out why the Greensburg storm changed tornado production “modes”, a wealth of information offered itself up, and that information forms the basis for this paper. Other scientists, most notably Jana H., Howie, Mike U., Jeff H., contributed data, discussion, and analysis to the study. Two anonymous reviewers also helped me to sculpt the messy initial version into something clearer and more concise. (Word to the wise: Don’t just copy-and-paste half of your dissertation into a journal template and submit it. I was lucky the first version didn’t get rejected outright!)

In the years since that night, I’ve driven through Greensburg several times, and have been continually amazed by the community’s resilience and resurgence. When the time came, I dedicated my dissertation research to all the victims of the Greensburg tornado. Although improved scientific understanding can never undo the pain to the Greensburg community, I’d like to think that this study was one small, positive thing that came of an otherwise wholly devastating event.

2012-05-30: Paducah, TX landspout

Paducah, TX landspout at about 5: 30 p.m.

Paducah, TX landspout as seen from U.S. Hwy 70 at about 5:32 p.m.


On 30 May 2012, I had the honor of tagging along with the NOXP radar (with my husband Dan D. and Ted M. as crew), operating in support in of the Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry Experiment DC3). Although the morning’s SPC outlook highlighted a SW KS-NW OK corridor for severe thunderstorms, some of the high-res models indicated that there would be an earlier outbreak of storms along the dryline in the E TX PH, in response to a developing cyclone and robust moisture return. Any cold pools laid down by the storms in Texas had the potential to muck up the Oklahoma target.

Horizontal convective roll over Elgin Air Force Base near Altus, OK

HCR over Elgin AFB near Altus, OK

We set out from Norman shortly after lunch and headed southwest to Altus, where we were greeted by some striking horizontal convective rolls (HCRs).

Farther west, storms fired off the dryline and promptly split. Right-movers tracked southeast, prompting the DC3 radars (SR1, SR2, and NOXP, led by Dr. Mike Biggerstaff) to head south out of Altus on U.S. Hwy. 283. A few participants grumbled about the choice to head south rather than take more direct route west. However, the objectives of DC3 are a bit different than in VORTEX2. Priority number one is long-duration, dual-doppler data in convective storms, so the radars set up well in advance and collect as the storms pass by. (Tornadoes are not the main focus of DC3, but they’re considered a nice bonus.)

After crossing the Texas border, thereby committing ourselves to chasing right movers, Dr. Biggerstaff decided to target the southernmost storm in the cluster, which was headed for Paducah, TX, and set up his dual-Doppler lobe on U.S. Hwy. 70 between Crowell and Paducah. As the crew NOXP’s scout vehicle (a mobile mesonet called Scout 3) drove ahead to locate a suitable deployment site and hold it for the radar truck, a few dramatic dust clouds arose on the updraft-downdraft interface, some with gustnadoes and shallow rotation. One dust tube (pictured at top) extended up hundreds of feet, almost touching cloud base. It was unclear whether it as connected to the nearby mesocyclone or shear-induced, so I’ve been calling it a “landspout” in my discussions.

NOXP deployed south of Paducah, TX

NOXP deployed south of Paducah, TX

In Scout 3, Chris S. and Blake A. located a small hilltop side road on which to deploy, and Ted M. backed NOXP into it. I bailed out of the radar operator’s seat and was nearly knocked flat by the gust front. I shot some shaky video as a second, low-contrast landspout erupted out of the field about half a mile to our east, and still another touched down almost on top of Scout 3. Just as NOXP was preparing to start scanning, I heard a sharp thump on the ground next to me, looked down, and saw a baseball-sized hailstone half-coated in red dirt. I dove into Scout 3’s back seat for cover with my camera in hand, with more large hail thumping down around us. Ted M. waved his hand in circles, indicating that we needed to undeploy and escape ASAP, as our target storm had turned hard to the right. Rather than trying to scramble back to NOXP and possibly delay our expedited departure, I simply buckled into my seat in Scout 3, and hitchhiked west with them to Paducah. As Chris put it, “Welcome to NOXP!”

NOXP reflectivity display

The Paducah storm as seen by NOXP radar at about 6:08 p.m. CDT, showing a WEH (at about 40 km range and 60 degrees azimuth) near a report of a rain-wrapped tornado.

Fortunately, both Scout 3 and NOXP escaped any direct hits from the sporadic, fist-sized hail stones, and were able redeploy on U.S. Hwy. 83 about 12 miles south of Paducah. When NOXP finally started scanning again, an velocity couplet and weak-echo hole were evident on the display. We strained and squinted, but could not make out any evidence of a tornado in the murk to our east. (NOXP’s display indicated it was buried behind a rain curtain several km thick.)

We undeployed and headed south again to U.S. Hwy. 82, where we learned that the DC3 balloon crews had stopped operating. NOXP headed back north again for a second deployment on U.S. Hwy. 83, targeting a second supercell following much the same track as the first Paducah supercell. Although the storm had a nice inflow tail, it appeared to be outflow-dominated, with a rolling dust cloud spilling out in front of it.

Mammatus under the second Paducah, TX supercell of 30 May 2012

Mammatus under the second Paducah, TX supercell of 30 May 2012

We made a last stand back to the south on U.S. Hwy. 82, watching the storm roll away to be replaced by clear skies and a golden Texas sunset. A few small low-level vortices appeared along the storm’s rear flank, but were not connected to any updraft upstairs. We enjoyed some elaborate mammatus clouds as we drove back north and the sun sank below the western horizon.

During our hasty, hail-induced departure from Paducah earlier in the afternoon, we had had to leave behind a pair of NOXP’s metal plates (placed underneath the hydraulic levelers on soft soil). As we returned to the site to retrieve the plates, we observed sporadic wind damage throughout Paducah. Garage doors had buckled inward, roof shingles and small brances were strewn across lawns, and the power in Paducah was out. A few miles east of Paducah, near the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 70 and County Rd. 301, we encountered a metal outbuilding that had been about 50% demolished by a particularly intense wind swath. Sheet metal had been peeled off and scattered to the southwest of the structure, wrapped around telephone poles and road signs up to 1/4 mile away. (I couldn’t get any photos owing to darkness.) Curiously, a second metal building across the street, a few hundred feet to the south, appeared untouched. Some very localized wind phenomenon (small tornado? microburst?) had inflicted substantial damage there.

After retrieving the plates, we made our way back to Norman by way of Childress, TX. Now in the driver’s seat, Dan fought a 70 mph head wind in Lawton, pushed out by collapsing storms dozens of miles to the north. We pulled back into the NWC around 2 a.m.

A storm chaser’s review of the Bloggie 3D pocketcam

The Sony Bloggie MHS-FS3 in hand

Can this little gadget shoot quality 3D storm video?

As a reward for submitting a long-overdue manuscript, I recently bought myself a toy: A Sony MHS-FS3 3D Bloggie HD pocket camcorder. I’ve been intrigued both by the idea of “HD in my pocket” and by the recent resurgence in 3D films. This camera is not intended to replace my Canon Vixia HV30; I intend to use it primarily to shoot 3D video of tornadoes for novelty. It also serves well as an HD dash cam, since it doesn’t weigh down my windshield suction cup mount. I tested it out on both 13 and 14 April 2012 chases.

Here’s an example of 3D video I shot on our approach to Cherokee, OK on 14 April. YouTube was smart enough to recognize the H.264 3D format.

Pros:

It’s teeny, about the size of a smart phone. It’s also fairly intuitive to use, with minimal buttons and menus. I was able to explore most of the functionality before I ever had to crack open the manual. (Owing to the small box size, the camera only comes with a “quick start” instruction card; the full manual is available on Sony’s web site.)

There’s no need to use the pre-loaded “Bloggie” software (intended to facilitate quick sharing of video via Facebook, Youtube, etc.) to offload the videos in Windows 7; the “import” function works just fine. Like other pocket cams, it interfaces with a computer via a Swiss-army-style USB 2.0 port. The viewfinder is actually a “Magic Eye” 3D display, which I find nifty. The camcorder also interfaced cleanly with our 3D-capable Samsung HD TV using a mini-HDMI cable.

The 1080 HD video and audio quality are surprisingly good. I used it on my 14 April chase as a dash cam, turning it on and off whenever something interesting came into view. The battery held out through the entire chase (although admittedly, I was rather frugal with it). My highlights reel from 14 April 2012 contains video from both the Bloggie (dash-cam shots) and my Canon Vixia HV30 (handheld and tripoded). Can you tell the difference?

Cons:

The Bloggie mounted on a tripod

Because the tripod threads are on the side, I have to tilt my tripod head over as far as it will go, then cheat a few more degrees by retracting one of the legs.

To shoot in 3D, one has to hold the camera horizontally. However, the tripod threads are located on the side rather than on the bottom – meaning you need a tripod head that can articulate 90 degrees in order to shoot level 3D video. Fortunately, the camera weighs a scant 4.2 oz, so the danger of tipping over a substantial tripod is minimal, but the placement of the threads strikes me as a serious design flaw.

The internal media only holds about 80 minutes of 1080 HD or 3D HD video. I would love to be able to expand to an SD card, but unfortunately this model does not have that option.

The 4.2-oz. Bloggie holds fast to my windshield with a standard 3-suction cup mount.

The 4.2-oz. Bloggie holds fast to my windshield with a standard 3-suction cup mount.

There are a lot of “auto-” settings, such as exposure, white-balance, and most importantly, focus. When shooting storms, I typically peg the focus on infinity. On 14 April, the Bloggie yielded a few “wet windshield” shots, but fortunately passing windshield wiper blades don’t confuse it too much. The auto-focus didn’t work very well in low light conditions, as one might expect – it tended to keep the focus on the foreground.

The Bloggie isn’t weatherproof, so you have to keep it dry. Sony makes another model called the Bloggie Sport, which is waterproof, dirt-proof, and drop-proof, but it doesn’t shoot 3D. Oh well.

At the moment, my current video editing software of choice, Adobe Premiere Elements 10, doesn’t support stereoscopic 3D editing. That’s why I had to upload my first tornado clip sans editing or copyright overlays. Adobe Premiere Pro supports 3D, but of course it is considerably more expensive. I can only hope 3D editing is on the horizon for Premiere Elements 11.

To summarize, the Sony Bloggie MHS-FS3 is a relatively cheap (<$200) gateway to 3D HD video. It could benefit from some weatherproofing, a few more user control features (particularly the focus), and affordable video editing software. However, it's something new, lightweight, and fun in my chase gear bag, and I look forward to testing it out on future storms.