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TOTO. An instrumented metal drum which scientists attempted to place in the path of tornadoes during the 1980s.

The TOtable Tornado Observatory (nicknamed "TOTO" after the dog in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, in which a tornado is a key plot element) is a large, instrumented barrel-shaped device invented in 1979 by engineers Dr. Al Bedard and Carl Ramzy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Technology Laboratory (ETL), and Dr. Howard Bluestein, meteorologist at the University of Oklahoma (OU). NOAA's objective was to place the TOTO directly in the path of a tornado, where it could, theoretically, record valuable information about the tornado's structure.[1]

To deploy TOTO, which weighed from 250 to 350 lbs (110-160 kg) two men could unstrap its mooring cables and roll it out of the back of a customized pickup truck in about thirty seconds, using metal wheel ramps. TOTO would then be tipped into a vertical position and swiveled so that a certain side faced north (for accurate wind direction readings). The TOTO crew had to quickly find a relatively level and firm surface, off the road, away from wind obstructions and potential debris generators (such as buildings and trees). With each deployment, there was also a heightened lightning strike risk from handling a large metal object in an open area.[2]

TOTO was deployed several times during the 1980s. The closest deployment to a tornado was on April 29, 1984 near Ardmore, Oklahoma, by Steve Smith and Lou Wicker of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL). It turned out that TOTO had a center of gravity too high for extreme wind, and it fell down as it was sideswiped by the edge of the weak tornado.[2]

TOTO was also deployed as a portable weather station to measure thunderstorm gust fronts and non-tornadic mesocyclones—with more success than its tornado mission. TOTO was retired after 1987 because of safety issues and the logistical difficulty of getting such a cumbersome object in front of a tornado.[2]

TOTO is currently on display at the National Weather Center (NWC) on the OU campus in Norman, Oklahoma.[2]

TOTO was the inspiration for an instrument package named "Dorothy" in the 1996 Warner Bros. film, Twister, and for a research project in the TV movie Tornado!.[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Samaras, Tim M. (7 Oct 2004). "A historical perspective of In-Situ observations within Tornado Cores". 22nd Conf. Severe Local Storms. Hyannis, MA: American Meteorological Society. 
  2. ^ a b c d "TOTO: TOtable Tornado Observatory (Online Tornado FAQ)". Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  3. ^ IMDb:Trivia for Twister (1996)
  4. ^ IMDb:"Tornado!" (1996)

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOtable_Tornado_Observatory — Please support Wikipedia.
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TOTO Deployment

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NOVA Tornado! Nov. 1985, WGBH

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7 news items

Washington Post

Washington Post
Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:11:15 -0700

... such as when she mentions the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's mobile monitoring station, aptly named TOTO (the Totable Tornado Observatory) after Dorothy's dog in “The Wizard of Oz.” But this reader would have greatly benefited ...


Sat, 25 Apr 2015 05:34:26 -0700

While there was an apparatus called "Toto" (for Totable Tornado Observatory) on which Dorothy was based, it was eventually determined to be ineffective. Toto was developed in 1979 by NOAA engineers. Its main component was a metal barrel filled with ...

National Geographic

National Geographic
Wed, 05 Jun 2013 15:19:29 -0700

The 400pound barrel, dubbed TOTO (Totable Tornado Observatory) for Dorothy's spunky little dog in The Wizard of Oz, is fortified to measure temperature, wind speed and direction, and atmospheric pressure inside a tornado's core. So far, no tornado has ...


Mon, 03 Mar 2008 00:01:01 -0800

The movie Twister was based upon NSSL's work in the mid-1980s using a 55-gallon drum equipped with weather sensors. It was called TOTO (TOtable Tornado Observatory). NSSL tried for several years to put it in the path of an oncoming tornado, but had ...

ScienceBlog.com (blog)

ScienceBlog.com (blog)
Sun, 02 Jun 2013 14:01:57 -0700

Over the past two weeks, the Oklahoma City area has been hit by two tragic tornados, and although the first one was more deadly, the second one provides us with the more important lessons. In the first one, which struck the city of Moore, was ...

Lawrence Journal World

Lawrence Journal World
Tue, 10 Mar 2009 22:24:28 -0700

NOAA's Totable Tornado Observatory. The National Severe Storms Laboratory used the approximately 300-pound metal barrel in the mid-1980s to collect data on tornadoes. It was retired after 1987 because of safety issues. The movie “Twister” was based on ...


Sat, 31 Aug 2013 06:00:31 -0700

Obrovské škody po tornádach ľuďom vyrážajú dych. Osem najväčších tornád v histórii USA zranilo 17 525 ľudí, ďalších 1 511 obralo o život a spôsobilo škody za takmer 40 miliárd dolárov (30 miliárd eur). Prinášame ich kompletný prehľad.

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