On 26 February 2017, the meteorology community learned of the passing of “The Extreme,” Bill Paxton. Bill Paxton was not only an adept actor in many films, but also a director. For many, Paxton’s most famous roles were as Pvt. Hudson in Aliens or as the Lunar Module Pilot, Fred Haise, in Apollo 13. But to the meteorology community, he was known as Bill Harding (The Extreme) in the 1996 film, Twister. In this role, Paxton was a meteorologist, whose love life was turned upside-down during a frantic field campaign with his ex-wife. The goal of the field campaign on film was to launch small sensors into tornadoes from the DOROTHY module. This experiment was based upon real-life severe weather field campaigns like VORTEX and the famed TOTO.
I remember being a young child and sitting on my couch scared to tears by the opening scene of Twister. I also remember the inspiration and awe that Twister gave me as a pre-teen. Little did I know that this film and the character portrayed by Bill Paxton would kick-start a ‘whirlwind’ of adventures and experiences on my road to become a meteorologist. The bottom line is that Twister was the film that inspired a whole generation of individuals to become storm chasers, meteorologists, severe weather photographers, and weather enthusiasts. The meteorology community (as it is today) is and was heavily influenced by Bill Paxton, and his legacy will continue to inspire future meteorologists.
Below is a “Life as a Meteorology Student” episode dedicated to his memory. Citations for images include:
Panel 1: Twister Image – MovieFone; Panel 2: Twister Images- Cinematerial and Fanart TV; Panel 4: Twister Image – Yify Movie; Panel 5: the Tornado- from my wife, Brianne; and Panel 6: Bill Paxton Image – Ticket Sarasota.
Hope you enjoy the comic!