Who needs to be a math whiz?

If you’ve been keeping track of what I’ve written at the Times, you might have noticed that I’ve written various pieces on weather. Truth be told, I am a weather nerd (for lack of a better phrase). I love everything about it. The sounds, the rush…it’s been a fascination of mine ever since I was young, and I’m talking early elementary. Thunder and lightning storms at night used to scare me. Any kind of puffy cloud during the summer gave me anxiety that drove me to the point of an unhealthy obsession. I eventually grew out of it. By the time I was in fourth grade, I knew I wanted to be a meteorologist when I grew up. I discovered, though, that it wasn’t a real career choice for me. I struggled mightily with math in high school, which would continue into college. With lots of help, I could do the homework on my own, but I could never apply it on a test. I knew that meteorology had an unprecedented amount of math to it. There went that dream.

    This didn’t stop me from appreciating wild weather, though. When I was a sophomore in high school, we finally got cable at home and that allowed me to watch The Weather Channel. Their show “Storm Stories” got me hooked on tornadoes. I didn’t know what it was that made me like it so much. Instead of freaking me out, tornadoes amazed me. From then on, I tried to watch every special on TV that featured tornado stories or footage. “Twister” also became one of my favorite movies.

    So, what is it about tornadoes that fascinate me? For me, it has got to be the sheer power behind it. I mean, you have to look at this mass of dark, rotating clouds and debris and not help but appreciate it. Nature can be so awe-inspiring, sometimes.     Before I get any further, I am not in any way glorifying what structural damage a tornado can do to certain towns. I’m not that heartless. My point is simply that tornadoes can be a beautiful spectacle that some may not realize. There’s nothing like seeing a tornado roaming over open plains, whether it’s a skinny little rope or a massive “wedge.”

    My love for extreme weather does extend past tornadoes. Many times, I just like seeing a thunderstorm anvil. Anvils have this depth to them that is wonderfully photogenic. They come in all sizes and colors, too. I also like to track satellite images of hurricanes, especially strong ones over the ocean that develop an eye. If you think that’s nuts, I enjoy an occasional blizzard or snowstorm. Hey, sometimes it’s the only kind of extreme weather we see in this area (I’m looking at you, summer weather of 2012).

    In recent years I have somehow managed to find myself as some kind of member within the weather community. I am a “certified” trained spotter (four years running) and I am a chat room moderator on a storm chaser’s official website. I share my photos with TV stations after a storm rolls through the region. I follow several storm chasers on Facebook and I have had the privilege of meeting two of them.

    All of this, however, makes me by no means an expert in the world of weather. I still don’t understand the science behind it. I am able to read simplistic things on models such as low pressure isobars, the ideal instability the atmosphere requires for creating storms and reading signatures on radar that may indicate rotation.

    Yeah, I may not comprehend the numbers and things involved, but the important thing is that I know enough basic information (cloud formations, etc.) and help those around me be aware of dangerous weather that may be coming.

    It may be chilly out now, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thinking about warmer temperatures and the wild weather they can bring.
    Wagner is an intern at the Times.