WEATHER WINNER: Great Plains Tornado
Photographer: Eugene McCaul, Jr.
Location: Hodges, Texas, USA
Man's desire to accurately predict the formation, location, and direction of severe storms has led to increasingly sophisticated tools and methods. Post-World War II developments in aircraft, radar, and computer-based models have provided meteorologists with an increasing understanding of the internal forces, such as updrafts and downdrafts, and their association with observable storm regions. Organized efforts such as the Thunderstorm Project in the late 1940s and the Tornado Project in the early 1950s established the foundation for our current capabilities. A revolution in the 1970s saw great advancements in the performance and use of Doppler radar, numerical cloud models, and scientific storm chasing. The Tornado Intercept Project was developed in 1972 as a joint project between Oklahoma University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administartion's National Severe Storm Laboratory. The legacy of this project led to the taking of this image.
"I was a meteorology graduate student at the University of Oklahoma at the time. On this day, our storm chase crew, led by Dr. Howard Bluestein, correctly anticipated the possibility of big storms over west Texas, and we were in the general area when the storms erupted. We were required to drive through the rain and hail core to obtain views of the updraft base, where the action is and where tornadoes sometimes form. We were able to do so without getting hit by a rain-wrapped tornado. I do not recommend this maneuver to the uninitiated, because it can be difficult and very dangerous to those who lack experience."
PLANT LIFE WINNER: Pasque Flowers
Photographer: Zsolt Kudich
Location: Fertö-Hanság National Park, Hungary
Also known as the "Easter flower," the pasque flower is one of the earliest flowers to blossom in the spring, usually before surrounding foliage has fully emerged. The petals, in colors of blue, lavender, ruby wine, and white, open in the morning and close at night. Classical Roman legend holds that this plant sprang from the tears of the goddess Venus, and in dried form it was historically used for a variety of medicinal purposes.
The Fertö-Hanság National Park is one of eight United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites in Hungary. Here habitat reconstruction is in progress to restore the fauna and flora of drained swamps and saline lakes, resulting in a sanctuary of unique botanical, medicinal, zoological, landscape, folklore, and ethnographical value.
"The picture was taken in April, toward the end of the blooming period. A young pasque flower is surrounded by the fruits of its neighbors, thus showcasing all phases of its emergence. Capturing the different phases of the flower's life on a single frame is what makes this photograph special."