Number of chasers

rebelrage

EF0
Nov 23, 2013
16
9
1
0hio
I didn't really know where to put this I hope it's in the right place

I'm trying to find a way to estimate about how many Storm chasers there were in any given year I want to use this information to make a graph I know there should be a couple major explosions in chasers after the movie twister in the TV series Storm chasers I also think we're about to go through another one all the kids impacted from the 2011 outbreak should be getting their driver's license soon but actually estimating a number is turning out to be quite a challenge even if I had a subscriber count to something like spotter Network it wouldn't tell the whole story and would only go back to when they were founded just looking for ideas
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
7,313
882
21
50
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
That isn't even something you could reasonably estimate. There's no tracking system for chasers. Most have no connection to any network, online resource, database, or anything related.
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
1,916
1,942
21
Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
I'm not sure how you would acquire such information without a lot of research. There are apps that track chasers, like Radar Scope, but not every chaser uses the service and some don't active it. You also have a large number of local / regional chasers who only go out if there is an event near their home base. (You might not label them as actual "chasers"). You could also add a substantial number of student chasers and researchers, real ones and those who think they are.

When I started chasing in the late 1980's, there were around 50 people who chased on a regular basis, with maybe another 50 part-timers or locals. Twister and TWC created the first new wave of chasers, along with laptops and cell phones that allowed even a caveman to chase. Storm Chasers also created a new wave of chasers, but more infamously, changed the way people chase. Social media blew the dam completely open and a massive flood of new chasers were born.

I would "guess" on the big days, like El Reno, near a big city, there could be as many as 200 hardcore chasers and maybe another 200+ locals who are actively chasing -- depending on how much territory the chase possibilities cover. You also have chasers who can only chase for a few weeks out of the year. They are still chasers, but don't always contribute to a local event count.
 
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rebelrage

EF0
Nov 23, 2013
16
9
1
0hio
I knew it would be something that would be hard to do really my end game is to compare the increase of Storm chasers and the increase in lead time to see if there was any impacts but to do that in a way that's presentable you have to have some sort of number to put with it
 
Aug 9, 2012
418
786
21
Galesburg, IL
tornadoguys.com
Considering how relatively easy it is to chase a storm nowadays, there really is no estimate or way to estimate. Spotter Network exists sure... but I know many people who don't even use spotter network when they chase. They just leave their house with a cell phone, tablet, and camera....which nowadays is about all you need to successfully track down a storm (along with some knowledge of how storms work and forecasting them, which is easily accessible via youtube and other forums). If I had to guess I'd say the actual number is easily in the thousands of individuals that pursue severe weather.
 
Jan 7, 2006
565
677
21
USA
www.skyinmotion.com
I agree with Ethan that we've likely eclipsed 1,000 people in the U.S. who leave their immediate home area to chase storms at least once a year. Any estimate of how the numbers have changed over the years would be fraught at best. But just to add another subjective perspective, this is what I've noticed since 2006:

From 2007-2011: the Discovery show, along with several active Plains seasons, seemed to spur a period of major growth in new chasers and overall interest. For me, having started really paying attention to the chasing world in 2006, it just seemed like the community exploded in size over those first several years. Admittedly, this also happened to be the period when many Americans were first joining social media and plugging into communities like this, so that may have biased my perspective.

From 2012-now: it seems like the huge net influx of new people has slowed to a more modest rate. The more dominant mode of growth in the hobby has focused on existing armchair enthusiasts becoming chasers, and existing chasers leaning more and more toward a "never stop chasing" lifestyle. I don't get the impression that the number of chasers leaving their home county on an OK high risk day has increased *that* much over the last decade -- it was already out of control back then, as it still is now. But the number on a late June weekday 5% bullseye in western North Dakota has probably skyrocketed over the same period. In other words, typical standards within the community for what's worth driving 3+ hours from home for have fallen quite a lot since when I first started, in my estimation.

Since we're still such a small group by absolute standards, it's easy for unpredictable events to cause big changes in interest and accessibility, so who knows where we go from here. I do think the trend I mentioned from recent years of more "never stop chasing" folks is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, especially with the pandemic having brought us years of progress toward mass telecommuting overnight.
 
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Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
117
143
11
Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
While the question is interesting 'do more chasers equate to better /earlier warnings', quantifying this will be nearly impossible as others have noted.

First, what metrics would you use to qualify earlier/ better warning is happening and then how to put it into numbers? TV station issued warnings time? Interview the public on how much warning they got after an event? Damage and casualties vs. warnings? It would be very hard to put together an objective metric to answer the whole question. Also as has been said by others, the definition of chasers is variable, and we all have our chase zones, so the total number of chasers vs. warnings would be tough to get at for any one area.

Also crucial to the question: In the same time as chasers ranks have increased, there have been major technology and policy improvements, such as dual polarization doppler, high resolution satellite, storm simulation and tornado formation studies, push notifications direct to cell phones, better equipped and trained emergency management and response, smarter warning issuance and policy, as well as a very gradual improvement of building codes. New technologies and understanding are probably far more significant than spotter ground truth for improving both warnings, and survivability of severe events. Even climatology might skew the results depending on how we may choose to account for improvements in warnings. While confirming a tornado or severe event, or the damage caused can be helpful for warnings and improving understanding, I rarely see watches or radar indicated warnings be less conservative than report based warnings. A watch or warning almost always exists first regardless of spotters or chasers observations, and should be obeyed by safety conscious public. Sure there is an LEO or public triggered warning that is precautionary when untrained spotters report, but those are not typically improving safety unless they are actually accurate. A tornado warned storm can go from nothing to deadly in moments, so for the public I assume responding to watches and warnings before observations are made to be their main protection. Of course, once a deadly event is unfolding, it does help get a slow/negligent public into action when they see it happening from chaser streams or mass media, etc.

I'd agree the amount of chasers is several hundred anywhere near a big metro with major highways on a moderate or high risk day. Other days there are only a dozen people on remote storms on slight risks with delicate forecasts. In some cases, I would expect the remote slight risk storm day needs the chaser verification much more, and the observation of an event when less expected is more significant to public safety. Also, a low volume of reports is much easier to sort than all the garbage that flows from the circus on a high risk day. I don't envy NOAA offices on these days near OKC or Dallas when the circus is in town. I don't personally chase these days anymore, so there is some self limiting to our population too.

Many chasers think their chasing is important, and the fact is, 98% of it seems purely for enjoyment. Personally I find the ground truth and chasers are essential arguments that you hear many repeat to be way overblown; not totally false, but vastly overestimated. Most of us are just observing for fun and/or getting photos/video. Even a lot of the amateur science done is ridiculous and does not meet with what government and academic researchers state they actually need (this last is knowledge obtained from discussions had with said researchers). I'd say the percent of chasers making a living selling footage (arguably a public need whether for info or entertainment) or doing real science has gone way, way down, as has the average quality/capability of a chaser. Pretty natural conclusion for any population that swells.

Sorry to be so long winded :D
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
1,916
1,942
21
Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
There were spring days back in the 1987-91" time frame where you could chase a springtime severe storm in eastern NM, Eastern CO / W. NE or far SW Texas and encounter zero chasers. Yes, zero. The only people you would run into were an occasional "spotter," identifiable by the Skywarn sticker on their pickup truck and a ham radio antenna. It was an "event" to run into the big names of the time.
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,171
1,032
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
There were spring days back in the 1987-91" time frame where you could chase a springtime severe storm in eastern NM, Eastern CO / W. NE or far SW Texas and encounter zero chasers. Yes, zero. The only people you would run into were an occasional "spotter," identifiable by the Skywarn sticker on their pickup truck and a ham radio antenna. It was an "event" to run into the big names of the time.
Yep, how times have changed. These days, if you don’t see any other chasers, you’re probably in the wrong place 😆

Warren, I remember it being an “event” running into you, back in the mid-90s when I first cut my teeth on chasing, with Marty Feely’s “Whirlwind Tours.” LOL
 
Jan 16, 2009
668
709
21
Kansas City
As many have stated it is going to be very hard to get a good number on how the number have changed. The numbers will continue to grow as more start chasing and people already chasing continue to do so. Big events add to the numbers for sure for example Moore and El Reno just days apart in 2013. As Brent said a lot of people I know started chasing around 2008 and with Vortex 2 going on in 2009-2010 the roads were PACKED everywhere you went. The Storm Chasers show added to the volume as well starting in 2007.

The problem you will really have is how many are CHASERS and how many are just locals driving around trying to see the storm? They have become a huge liability on chase days especially around metro areas like OKC. This has been a major reason I try to take more back roads. Note there are way less people the closer you get to the actual tornado.

I noticed less people last year but once the plains wakes back up I am sure we will see the numbers grow. Most people do not chase everything but instead wait for the best set ups. Once we get a true BIG plains day again I expect to see the numbers rise again.

Good luck and let us know what you find.