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Wichita storm chaser's photograph featured at international conference on violent weather

The 7th Extreme Weather Congress is being held this week in Hamburg, Germany, and it features a Wichita connection.

The official photograph promoting the conference was shot by Wichita storm chaser and extreme weather photographer Jim Reed on the high plains of western Kansas on May 8, 2008.

There’s irony in choosing this photo for an extreme weather conference. This is a landspout tornado, typically considered the weakest member of the tornado family. But, as this photo illustrates, they can nevertheless be quite dramatic.

You can tell it’s a landspout by looking at the cloud base – there’s no thunderstorm or wall cloud feeding the rotation. This landspout was so weak Reed actually ran up to it to shoot more images. He told me later he could tell it was about to fall apart and did not fear being injured.

That impulsive move earned Reed national attention, and he told me the video of him capturing the landspout on camera has garnered millions of hits on YouTube.