What do Storm Chasers do?

When some people think of storm chasers, they may think of the movie "Twister." While this movie did show what it is like to chase storms and try to figure out what causes tornadoes, like all Hollywood movies, it doesn't necessarily show you exactly what happens. In real life, those who chase storms usually do so in a less conspicuous manner. They typically work in areas where tornadoes are frequent so they have a greater chance of finding and studying the powerful storms.

What is a Storm Chaser?

In general terms, a storm chaser is a scientist who tracks storms out in the field to study their behavior, particularly when tornadoes form. One of the main reasons people chase storms is to help determine how and why tornadoes form so they can develop better early warning systems. Some people refer to a person who chases storms as a tornado chaser because the main goal is to watch a tornado develop and collect information about the storm prior to, during and after the development of the tornado. For some people, storm chasing is more of a hobby, while others chase storms as their job. Those who chase storms as a hobby often want to witness a storm, not necessarily a tornado. Tornado chasers aren't the only type of chasers, though. Some people chase hurricanes as well, though this field is much smaller. [custom_frame_center]

Canada Tornado


What Do Storm Chasers Do?

Someone who chases storms actually spends very little time actually observing storms and the tornadoes they create. In fact, a majority of a chaser's time is often spent driving around in search of active thunderstorms that are severe enough to warrant chasing. A chaser must closely monitor weather reports to get a good idea of where a storm is likely to hit to help find it. However, meteorology is not an exact science and weather men aren't always right. Therefore, a chaser must be prepared to drive around the area to find the storm at the right moment. In storm watching, timing is everything. A chaser can increase his chances of success by studying meteorology himself to understand storms and their behavior. Once a chaser finds a storm, he will often video tape or photograph the storm and potentially take readings with other types of equipment to study the severe weather and learn from it.

What Equipment Do They Use?

Many people who chase storms use GPS units to help them find their destinations more easily. Gone are the days when chasers had to rely on maps to help them find the potential route for the storm. With a GPS, a chaser can quickly change his route to follow a storm without risking getting lost or making a wrong turn. Likewise, many chasers also use mobile Internet to monitor the weather forecast and collect other information about the storm while on the go. In 2004, a satellite-based positioning system was created to reduce the number of dead spots many chasers experienced when using cell services. Storm software, called GRLevel3, was also developed to give chasers access to raw radar footage to help track dangerous storms and watch for tornado signals. If chasers work in a group that travels in a caravan, cell phones or radio devices are used to maintain communication between the different vehicles. Digital SLR cameras have become a staple for chasers to help them take high-quality digital images. The different settings can help a chaser get better pictures than ever before. Those who chase storms to study the elements often also use weather stations installed on top of the vehicle to record the conditions during a storm. [custom_frame_center]

Storm Chaser


What Do Storm Chasers Look For?

When some people think of a chaser, they automatically think that a person is a tornado chaser in particular. However, this isn't always the case. While the most common type of chaser does look for tornadoes, not all of them do. In general, a chaser is someone who is interested in severe weather and seeks it out to learn from it and watch it. Therefore, some chasers will follow any type of storm just to watch it. Others prefer to chase hurricanes instead of regular thunderstorms. Regardless of the preferred type of storm, each chaser watches for the same types of things. A storm chaser will monitor the weather forecast to determine when a severe storm will be in the area, and if one is not in the immediate area, where they can find one. When they go out to the site of the storm, they will look for a wall cloud or other signs of a potential tornado, such as rotation in the clouds or unusual cloud shapes. As they follow the storm, they will keep an eye on it for any changes that can indicate that the storm is becoming more severe. If the chasers are out in search of storms without any real knowledge of where the storm will be, they can look for signs of an impending storm. One of the things chasers look for is large white clouds with high tops. These clouds often develop into storms that can be severe. As they monitor weather reports, radar images and other weather information, they will look for certain things that can indicate the possibility of a severe storm. Watches and warnings are often issued in areas that show a strong potential of developing severe storms. When these are issued, chasers should head for the area as soon as possible to avoid missing the action. Other changes they look for include sudden drops or increases in temperature, cold fronts, changes in dew point and wind direction changes. All of these changes can indicate the presence of a strong storm, which can easily spawn tornadoes. [custom_frame_center]

Storm Chasing Equipment


Famous Storm Chasers

While many people who chase storms are somewhat average people who simply have a fascination with severe storms, some people have become famous in the field. Those who have become famous have made great strides in determining how storms work and which conditions often lead to the formation of tornadoes, helping meteorologists more accurately predict the appearance of these dangerous storms. Roger Hill. Hill is a native of Colorado and has witnessed more than 416 tornadoes as of 2009. His chases have been featured on television networks, such as National Geographic, the Weather Channel, Travel Channel and more. He has witnessed tornadoes all over the country, some that have caused a lot of damage. Chuck Doswell. Doswell is well-versed in meteorology, making him a great chaser. He has a solid understanding of the types of storms that create tornadoes and how to safely follow them. He is member of several meteorological societies and has chaired many weather committees. His research helped develop the modern views of the supercell storm, those that are most likely to spawn tornadoes. Doswell has chased storms, both on a professional and a recreational basis. Even though he is retired, he still chases storms. Reed Timmer. Timmer is one of the stars of the popular television show, "Storm Chasers." He has chased more than 250 tornadoes during his career, as well as more than a dozen hurricanes, giving him a wide array of experience in chasing storms. He has been interested in severe weather since he was young, which led him to go to college for meteorology, earning a PhD in the field. His show airs on the Discovery Channel and shoots footage year-round. Eddy Weiss. Not only has Weiss made a name for himself in chasing storms, he directs an organization called Chasing4Life that helps people create disaster preparedness plans so everyone can feel safe when a storm threatens. In addition to his work in the storm field, he has also worked in crisis counseling and rescue work. Weiss uses all of his background together to help the average person prepare for severe weather. The art of chasing storms can be dangerous if not done properly. While some people who are interested in severe weather may be tempted to just hop in the car and follow any storms in the area in hopes of locating a tornado, training and the proper equipment can be crucial for safety. Therefore, it is important to learn about the way storms operate and how to read severe weather, especially tornadoes, in order to stay safe. Until a person learns all of this crucial information about severe weather, storm chasing can be far too dangerous. Leaving it up to the professionals and watching from afar is the safest bet.