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U of I storm chaser will bring severe weather expertise to event

University of Illinois meteorologist Jeffrey Frame, who takes students out on the Great Plains each spring to observe tornadoes and thunderstorms, will bring his knowledge, stunning photos, videos and enthusiasm for weather to a free event sponsored by Illinois Public Media on Wednesday, March 5th.

The event, Becoming Weather Aware: Severe Storm Preparedness with Meteorologist Dr. Jeffrey Frame, begins at 7 p.m. at the Beckman Institute Auditorium, 405 N. Mathews Ave., Urbana. Free parking is available in the U of I parking garage at the corner of University and Mathews.

Frame’s presentation will cover thunderstorm basics, lightning, flash floods, high winds, hail, tornadoes and severe weather safety. He’ll also answer questions from the audience.

The U of I clinical assistant professor takes two groups of U of I atmospheric sciences students out in the field each spring to observe severe weather. They’re careful to stay in a safe spot to watch. He and a group of students were nearby last spring when three storm chasers died during a tornado in Oklahoma.  “We saw the tornado from the back where we were safe,” he said. “We were behind it and not in the way of it.”

Frame chased tornadoes to gather valuable scientific data with the Doppler on Wheels radars, most recently as a part of VORTEX2 in 2009 and 2010. “I was the head navigator,” he said. “I sat in the front seat of a large mobile Doppler radar truck, forecasting storms and making sure we were safe,” he said.

The project, with 30 to 50 vehicles traveling together, gathered data around tornadoes as well as around thunderstorms that did not produce tornadoes. “We were trying to understand why some produce tornadoes and some don’t,” he said.

At the U of I, he teaches a large introduction to meteorology class with 530 students each semester, among other classes. But his year builds to taking students to the Great Plains to observe storms. “It’s something I enjoy ― getting out and looking at thunderstorms, taking photos and sharing my passion for the weather with students.”

Every day, the group awakens and forecasts the weather, looking for spots within driving distance where storms might develop. “Students tell me they learn more in those two weeks than they’ve learned in any other two-week period in their lives,” he said.

Illinois Public Media is partnering with the U of I Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology; the U of I School of Earth, Society and the Environment; and the U of I Department of Atmospheric Sciences for the event.

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