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Chicago Full: SciShow, "Tornado Talk with Mark Heyka.", November 19, 2013, YouTube, 17:27,
Hank sits down with local meteorologist Mark Heyka for a 100% chance of fun as they discuss tornados and weather phenomenons. Then Jessi from Animal Wonders comes on to show off a pair of adorable sugar gliders.
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 Section One: Mark Heyka interview

[intro music]

Hank Green: Hello and welcome to another episode of the SciShow Talk Show; the thing on SciShow that we do where we talk to cool people. Today we have a very special guest, local celebrity Mark, Mark Heyka from (chuckles).
Mark Heyka: No celebrity, no.
Hank Green: No cele - You are the Chief Meteorologist at KECI and you've been doing it for 14 years. Everybody knows you. I'm telling you, I see, like I'll be in the car with my friends and they'll see you walking down the street and "Oh my God!". You're totally famous.
Mark Heyka: I'm just a middle aged guy that loves to tell the weather story.
Hank Green: And that's what we are going to do today. So Mark saw our episode on why tornadoes hate the United States, um, and that makes me super nervous. So first I have to ask: Was it okay?
Mark Heyka: It was okay. You, y-...
Hank Green: It was okay but it wasn't great. (chuckles)
Mark Heyka: No. No it was good. I mean, you, you covered the three main air masses.
Hank Green: Okay.
Mark Heyka: Hot dry from the southwest, moist warm air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico, and cold air coming down from the north.
Hank Green: Okay.
Mark Heyka: So, very good.
Hank Green: So that's, that's, that's the recipe?
Mark Heyka: That's the recipe. And by the way I'm from Kansas.
Hank Green: Okay so you know your tornadoes.
Mark Heyka: And as much as I love Missoula, (whispers) I miss the tornadoes.
Hank Green: I miss the thunderstorms of Florida.
Mark Heyka: Oh, yes. You can't beat a rumbling thunderstorm.
Hank Green: We get like four thunderstorms a year, here. So are you some... Do you love tornadoes? Are you a tornado guy?
Mark Heyka:I love torn...
Hank Green: Have you ever seen or been in a tornado, being from Kansas?
Mark Heyka: I have seen... in fact September 20, 1967...
Hank Green: September 20th, by the way, is today.
Mark Heyka: I know. This is so...
Hank Green: So it's not the day you are watching it, but it is the day we are filming it. So, it's, it's your "tornado-versary".
Mark Heyka: My brother's birthday. And I was 7 years old, I was in the backyard playing, and my dad all of a sudden looked to the west and said, "Oh my gosh, look, a tornado!". And it was a wimpy tornado. Probably a 0 or 1 on the scale. And that was the first time I really noticed the weather. I mean, it was something. And you know, watching the Wizard of Oz at a very young age. I loved the Wizard of Oz... I was kind of a strange kid. I loved to watch The Wizard of Oz, wished for tornadoes, while listening to The Sound of Music. Very odd.
Hank Green: That's beautiful.
Mark Heyka: (laughs) I knew it would be. The hills are alive.
Hank Green: (laughs) 
Mark Heyka: But anyway that and then I...I'm very good with dates but October 9th, 1970, in Kansas we got like 9 inches of snow.
Hank Green: Mmm!  That's weird, right?
Mark Heyka: Of very... I remember Dad turning on... that's very unusual so that impressed me; and then finally, Christmas Eve 1973 we had an inch ice, an ice storm, an inch of ice covering everything and then a foot of snow the next day on top of it...
Hank Green: Ooh, yeah, that's fun.
Mark Heyka: And that sealed my interest and love of weather, its like "Wow, this is fantastic."
Hank Green: Is there any other interesting tornado facts that you...
Mark Heyka: Um, well, maybe I can stump you.
Hank Green: Oh, we're going to do Stump Hank.
Mark Heyka: Cuz I heard that that's kind of a deal.
Hank Green: (laughs)
Mark Heyka: Are you stumped often?
Hank Green: Oh, I'm stumped most of the time, yeah.
Mark Heyka: Okay, well when I was growing up I always heard this weird story about straw being driven into trees.
Hank Green: Right, right, because it's going so fast.
Mark Heyka: Because the wind blows so fast in a tornado, up to 300 miles per hour in an F-5, but come on, how can that, how can that happen...
Hank Green: Yeah, no. I'm having a hard - 
Mark Heyka: I mean, it would be crushed, it would be crushed when it would hit the tree.
Hank Green: Yeah, you would think that it would, yeah, it would splinter, even it it is going fast enough, straw is not as hard as trees.
Mark Heyka: Correct, and I've seen pictures of straw driven into trees, so there is something that happens, that -
Hank Green: So that's a thing.
Mark Heyka: That's the thing.
Hank Green: That's really a thing that happens.
Mark Heyka: Yes, oh yeah, definitely.
Hank Green: So I, so you did stump me, just now, or is there more to it?
Mark Heyka: No, that's it.
Hank Green: Okay.
Mark Heyka: But I have an explanation obviously.
Hank Green: Oh, so you, as to why the straw doesn't just splinter or shred or...
Mark Heyka: Exactly. During a violent windstorm, even during straight line winds, trees are bending and churning and the, the trunk of the tree starts twisting to a certain extent, of cour - unle- I mean, obviously with the strongest of tornadoes the tree is blown away.
Hank Green: Right.
Mark Heyka: And destroyed, but during, you know, weak to moderate tornadoes a tree trunk is twisted and during those split seconds you get little pores that open out,
Hank Green: Right, little fissures.
Mark Heyka: And the straw - (pew, sound effect)
Hank Green: Gets in there,
Mark Heyka: And then the tree snaps back into place.
Hank Green: Okay.
Mark Heyka: That's how straw is...
Hank Green: So is this a theory or is this confirmed?
Mark Heyka: This is confirmed.
Hank Green: Okay.
Mark Heyka: Oh, absolutely
Hank Green: Wow, wow, wow, so that's fascinating. So for, for, you know, probably centuries people have been being like, "Wow.  Grass is being driven into a tree.
Mark Heyka: Oh! Exac -"The winds were so strong -
Hank Green: Yeah.
Mark Heyka: It's amazing."
Hank Green: And then we figured it out.
Mark Heyka: That straw was... - And then we figured it out. Yeah.
Hank Green: That's...
Mark Heyka: One other phenomenon.
Hank Green: Ok.
Mark Heyka: It's known that especially the largest tornadoes, for instance back in 1991 Wichita was hit by a tornado and about 250 miles into the Northeast, in St. Joseph, Missouri, checks, Styrofoam cups, fell from a clear blue sky.
Hank Green: (amazement) That's... sounds beautiful.
Mark Heyka: It does, it does. With the sound of music playing
Hank Green: Did you say checks?
Mark Heyka: What?
Hank Green: Did you say checks?
Mark Heyka: Checks, as in check book, but you know just light pieces of paper.
Hank Green: So, so it's, basically money. (laughs)
Mark Heyka: Well, yes, yes exactly.
Hank Green: That would be the best. If a bank was destroyed
Mark Heyka: I know
Hank Green: and four hundred miles away, just money starts to rain down.
Mark Heyka: You know, I've never heard of that, but it - we're not that way...
Hank Green: Banks are pretty sturdy.
Mark Heyka: Exactly. Very good.
Hank Green: Yeah. 
Mark Heyka: What happens during in, you mentioned the mesocyclone, the updraft in a thunderstorm, if there's the jet stream overhead, its a jet, it's a fast moving jet of stream in simplistic terms.
Hank: Yeah.
Mark Heyka: Much stronger winds, okay, and you also mentioned, I, I go in feet, the thunderstorms -
Hank Green: Yeah.
Mark Heyka: Could be as high as 50, even 60 thousand feet. So the updraft goes all the way up; well imagine this large tornado picking up all this very light debris, now cars obviously are heavy so they're gonna be tossed around at the surface, but you're going to get Styrofoam cups and things like that that are drawn all the way through the updraft, and that light material gets caught up in the jet stream, and, let's say the thunderstorm is moving along at 30 miles an hour, well we're talking about 200 mile per hour jet stream, so that light debris gets caught up in the jet stream and is taken downstream and then eventually falls even in places that are clear.
Hank Green: Yeah, that makes sense. That's, god, it's so, it's amazing to me sometimes to think about how volatile that can be that we even function on this planet.
Mark Heyka: Exactly.
Hank Green: That it even works, that it even like, can be predictable enough, and it can be, ya know, stable enough that we just aren't dying.
Mark Heyka: You know -
Hank Green: Or locking ourselves in our houses for six months out of the year.
Mark Heyka: Well, some people do that. Some people do that. (laughing) Um, I actually hope weather will never be totally predictable.
Hank Green: Oh, well, gosh, I would hope not.
Mark Heyka: We need a little surprising in our lives.
Hank Green: Some variety.  Was that what you tell people who are like, "What are you doing, this is, I, you said,  and then I had the picnic planned."
Mark Heyka: Good excuse, huh?
Hank Green: Yeah. (laughing)
Mark Heyka: The thing is though, it in TV weather reporting, it's better to be wrong in a positive way, than a negative way. If I say it's gonna rain this Saturday, and it ends up being sunny, they'll say "Uh, he was wrong, but Wow, what a nice day." But if I say its going to be sunny,
Hank Green: And then it rains.
Mark Heyka: and people make plans and then it rains its like... (grimaces)
Hank Green: So the trick is just to always say its gonna be terrible out.
Mark Heyka: Yes. That, or just say maybe a lot too. Maybe, maybe not.
Hank Green: Chances.
Mark Heyka: Chances, exactly.
Hank Green: What does it mean when you say that there's gonna be a 40 percent chance of rain? Does that mean that its going to be a 40 percent chance in any particular place?
Mark Heyka: Its a given area. Okay, when zone forecasts are, are distributed, its for a given area, and lets say a 10-county area. Alright, well if there's a 40 percent, just think a four, forty percent coverage...
Hank Green: Okay, so forty percent of that area -land- is gonna get rained on.
Mark Heyka: Exactly, there's going to be the 60 percent that will not, and its those people that will be going, "Well, you said forty percent, that was a pretty good chance of rain, why didn't it rain?" And it's difficult to say, "Well, you didn't get the rain, but down the road they did, and it was actually a fairly large coverage area. (8:32)  So I don't like to use percentages because people are id- get confused (Hank laughs) and they just... 
Hank Green: Maybe we should t- 
Mark Heyka: And they get angry too!
Hank Green: Maybe we should teach people what percentages are.
Mark Heyka: Probably a good idea.
Hank Green: Yeah.
Mark Heyka: Yep. (laughing)
Hank Green: Yeah, let's let's work on that, okay? (laughing)  Fascinating.  Wow, I want to have you back so we can talk about weather more.
Mark Heyka: Oh, I - I would love to!  I mean, as you know, my eyes are probably really bright right now
Hank Green: (laughs)
Mark Heyka: Tornadoes is my favorite subject and I love Missoula but believe it or not, I miss the thunderstorms - as you do - and the tornadoes.  And obviously, I don't like death and destruction with tornadoes, but I'm, in my older age, I'd like to like take a sabbatical and go chase tornadoes, I've never done it.
Hank Green: No, I wouldn't, I would never do that.
Mark Heyka: I would! (laughing)
Hank Green: (laughing)
Mark Heyka: I crave the thought - 
Hank Green: That is not something that I crave.
Mark Heyka: But weather isn't your forte either.
Hank Green: No. Well, I mean it is fascinating.
Mark Heyka: Yeah.
Hank Green: So right now I'm craving some animal accompaniment, maybe something fuzzy...
Mark Heyka: Fuzzy and warm and loving?
Hank Green: Yes.
Mark Heyka: Ok. 

 Special Guest

Hank Green: Jessi has arrived, magical transportation (zzzztpf noise with hand motion) and you've switched places,  everything.
(all laughing)
Hank Green: So you have something in a pouch.
Jessi Knudsen: I have something, I have two somethings in my pouch.
Hank Green: Oh, my goodness, that's a very cute pouch!
(all laughing)
Jessi Knudsen: Would you like to meet them?
Hank Green: Yes, please.
Jessi Knudsen: This is Gizmo and Nemo.  You want to stick your arm out.  I'm going to have them...
Hank Green: Pour.  You're going to pour animal onto me?
Jessi Knudsen: Squeeze them out, squeeze them out...
Hank Green: Oh my god oh my god oh my god!  They're so cute! (laughing) Ohhh hi! (to animal)
Jessi Knudsen: There's - that's is Nemo and here's Gizmo.  Oh, he wants to go back in.
Hank Green: Oh my god!
Jessi Knudsen: I - There you go, Gizmo!  And these are sugar gliders!
Hank Green: They're adorable!
Jessi Knudsen: They are convergent evolution for the um, the flying squirrel.

Hank Green: So they, they are not related to the flying squirrel?
Jessi Knudsen: They are not related.
Hank Green: But they, they act in the same way.  What are they related to?
Jessi Knudsen: They look very similar
Hank Green: I've already been pooped on!
Jessi Knudsen: Look at this, I've got some on me too, it's exciting. Ugh, put that over there...
Hank Green: Just mere moments...
Jessi Knudsen: and let's load them up again.
Hank Green: Oh you got, oh yeah you got... Oh fun! Yum yum yum yum yum!
Jessi Knudsen: So, they're marsupials, the females will have a little pouch. You can touch him, yeah.
Mark Heyka: Soft
Jessi Knudsen: Very soft.


Jessi Knudsen: And the male, there's..
Hank Green: So much poop!
Jessi Knudsen: (chuckles) And the males: they're not going to have a pouch. Instead they have a bunch of scent glands to, you know, claim their territory.
Hank Green: Mm.. Attract the ladies
Jessi Knudsen: What? Mostly claiming their territory. And they'll even claim their friends and family.
Hank Green: Oh. So I'll just rub their scent on you.
Jessi Knudsen: No just rubbing the tops of their heads and armpits on things, not actually peeing all over what they want to claim.
Hank Green: So did you just give me the female?
Jessi Knudsen: Two males.
Hank Green: Oh they're two males.
Jessi Knudsen: Yeah.
Hank Green: So we're just.. We're all going get peed on?
Jessi Knudsen: We're all gonna get peed on! (chuckles)
Hank Green: Okay.
Jessi Knudsen: Now, what stands out on their face the most?
Hank Green: Their giant eyes.
Mark Heyka: Eyes. Yes.
Jessi Knudsen: Huge eyes
Hank Green: So they're nocturnal.
Jessi Knudsen: They are nocturnal. Yes, they really really don't like the light. He's going to the bathroom again.
Mark Heyka: Again?
Hank Green: I love it. He's just clearing out the middle of it and sucking on the insides
Jessi Knudsen: Yeah, have you ever eaten a Gogurt?
Hank Green: Yeah. Yeah, sure.
Jessi Knudsen: I mean, like, you cut the top off and you like squeeze it…
Hank Green: Yeah, and just like
Jessi Knudsen: So they like rip the top—the head off, and like get all the goodies on the inside.
Hank Green: Mmm, yeah.
Jessi Knudsen: So these guys are, they're pretty much insectivores but uh they will also eat things like sap, and uh fruit
Hank Green: My shirt is too slippery...
Mark Heyka: (indistinguishable)
Jessi Knudsen: Yeah they're great hunters!
Mark Heyka: ...control the population
Jessi Knudsen: Exactly! They're great hunters! They have amazing eyesight at night and they can, um, have that binocular vision

Hank Green: So much poop. Oh! And now you peed on me.
Jessi Knudsen: Oh! Pee! He likes you!
Hank Green: Yay, I got everything. You going to puke on me, now? Where are you going? C'mere.
Jessi Knudsen: He's hiding. Here, come say hi to everyone.
Hank Green: That's cute.
Jessi Knudsen: Here. Here, Nemo.
Hank Green: Oh, here, Nemo, I have meal-worms for you. Oh, good, take that one.
Jessi Knudsen: Delicious.
Hank Green: He's getting right up in my ear.
Jessi Knudsen: He's chewing in your ear.
Hank Green: Very cute animals. I imagine there's definitely a pet-trade in these animals.
Jessi Knudsen: Oh, huge, huge, huge. These guys are still taken right out of the wild. They're not endangered, they're not threatened. They're doing pretty good-- they've been able to adapt to even with habitat loss. But, huge pet trade. I really wouldn't recommend these guys as a pet. I mean, some people make decent owners of these guys, but you really have to devote your life. They're nocturnal! They're awake at night. So, unless you're a night time person, you know, like 10 pm to 6 am, with animals who love to pee all over you... and their home... They are very energetic and fast, and they make little barking noises at night.
Hank Green: Ohh
Jessi Knudsen: But they're really neat. They have four toes and then a thumb, in the front, so five toes. ...
Hank Green: Very similar to a hand [talking at the same time as Jessi Knudsen]
Jessi Knudsen: ...and then, see back here, back here, two of their feet, I'm sorry, two of those feet, two of those toes are fused together,they have a double nail there...
Hank Green: Yeah!
Mark Heyka: Huh.
Jessi Knudsen:...and they don't have an nail on their thumb over there.
Hank Green: hm That's weird.
Jessi Knudsen: So their pretty adapted. They have kinda of, it's a semi-prehensile tail. They don't really use it to hang but...
Mark Heyka: Oh!
Jessi Knudsen: [laughs] mostly to balance.
Hank Green: [laughs] Don't touch my tail Mark! [laughs]
Mark Heyka: Yeah [laughs]
Jessi Knudsen: [laughs] My tail, no. [laughs]

Jessi Knudsen: There you go, you got it buddy?
Hank Green:I love their hands, it just like a person hand.
Jessi Knudsen: yeah, how they grab it like that.
Mark Heyka: Yeah, that.
Jessi Knudsen: So, let me tell you what makes these guys the most unique. So they have these, this amazing fur, lets see if we can get that off. Okay. They have this extra skin here.
Hank Green: Umhm.
Jessie Knudsen: There we go, see all that.
Hank green: Wow
Mark Heyka: Oh.
Jessi Knudsen: It's this huge skin, and it goes from there, oh the 5th toe there, all the way up to their armpit, um, actually it's to this toe right there. And so it's this gliding skin that they have, they can glide fifty meters, um, from tree to tree.
Hank Green: Oh!
Jessi Knudsen:...and they can actually turn mid-air with their, their tail and their arm movement, and...
Hank Green: Wow
Jessi Knudsen:...ah, it's, it's pretty amazing, they rarely go down to the ground, so that's why their called sugar gliders
Hank Green: Yeah. Where's the sugar from?
Jessi Knudsen: Ah, they like to eat nectar and...
Hank Green: Ok.
Jessie Knudsen: ...and, ah, sap, and fruit. And thy're cute.
Hank Green: They're very cute, very cute.
Mark Heyka: They are. Yes.
Jessi Knudsen: Their sweet like sugar.
Hank Green: Like, sort of, and also extremely soft.
Jessi Knudsen: Very soft.
Hank Green: Touch it. I've actually...
Jessi Knudsen: It's like a chinchilla
Hank Green: ah, flying squirrels, also, are extremely soft.
Jessi Knudsen: They are extremely soft too.
Hank Green: Yeah, there must be some kind of reason why that is a thing
Jessi Knudsen: It helps them out.
Hank Green: Yeah.
Jessi Knudsen: Short dense fur maybe...
Hank Green: Yeah.
Jessi Knudsen:...helps them fly.
Hank Green: mm
Jessi Knudsen: I'm not sure. I don't know.
Hank Green: But, ah, yeah, Emily, ahhh, let me touch a dead large flying squirrel and it was the softest thing I've ever touched.
Jessi Knudsen: nnnhnn [disagreement noise] You touched a Chinchilla with me.
Hank Green: I, ah, I don't know. I should...
Mark Heyka: [laughs] 
Hank Green: [laughs]
Jessi Knudsen:Don't dispute it! [laughs]
Mark Heyka: She's the expert.
Hank Green: Yeah. Is the animal soft?
Mark Heyka: Oh wow!
Hank Green: So much poop.
Jessi Knudsen: mm, ah, and..
Hank Green: See, your glad this is not, not on you.
Mark Heyka: Yes.
Jessi Knudsen: Bug exoskeleton, oh, oh.
Hank Green: Oh! Where you going? Oh hi! Oh, oh, the bug, there are not more bugs.
Mark Heyka: The cute makes up for it.
Jessi Knudsen: Kind of [laughs]
Mark Heyka: Kind of.
Hank Green: [laughs] He's like, he's like: I'm done with my, I'm done with my bug....
Jessi Knudsen: Are their bugs in your ear?
Hank Green:...Can I have some more bug please?
Jessi Knudsen: Do you want to hold out your arm? Like, uh...
Hank Green: Are you going to go into your house? Is that where I want to go? [whiny voice] "I wanna go into my house"
Jessi Knudsen: You hold your arm there. Let's see.
All: Oh!
Hank Green: Oh, that's so cute! He just wanted to go back in his house.
Jessi Knudsen: Snuggled up all nice and warm. You want in there, too? Here.
Hank Green: What are there names?
Jessi Knudsen: Gizmo and Nemo. So this is Gizmo. He has a little white tuft on his ear, so I can tell, and Nemo is in there. And Gizmo is not as excited about jumping back in his pouch. It's going to take a while.
Hank Green: He's getting ready.
Jessi Knudsen: Do it, do it, do it
Mark Heyka: I'm glad they get along, in such close quarters.
Hank Green: Yeah, they're very friendly.
Jessi Knudsen: Are you going to jump? Ah, there he goes.
Hank Green: Oh my gosh! Thank you guys for coming on the show. Oh, they're going to cuddle back to sleep, now. Gizmo and Nemo, thank you guys. Thank you. [whispers] Hi. Oh my gosh.

Thank you for coming on the show. Jessi, thank you for bringing them in, for taking care of them, for being a great, you know, caretaker for these animals.

Mark--So great to have you on the show! Very glad to have you.

Mark Heyka: Loved being here. Nice seeing you guys.

Hank Green: You've got to go.

Mark Heyka: I do.

Hank Green: Tell the--Missoula the weather.

Mark Heyka: The Weather Story, yep.

Jessi Knudsen: Better be good news.

Mark Heyka: Uh, it is. It is good news, actually.

Hank Green: Yeah? We going to have more of this?

Mark Heyka: It's very subjective

Jessi Knudsen: There's chances of good news.

Mark Heyka: Well, it's subjective. Some people like rain. That's in the forecast for Sunday. But Saturday--I know this is going to be broadcast most likely afterward.

Hank Green: Yeah, that's most likely.

Mark Heyka: We have a little bit of everything for you.

Hank Green: Well, I'm loving the fall. I'm very happy to have it.

Thank you, also, for watching this episode of the SciShow Talk Show. If you want to keep getting smarter with us here at  SciShow you can go to and subscribe. I'm covered in poop.