What do you count as a chase day?

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Jun 16, 2015
Oklahoma City, OK
This might be an odd question, as what we consider a chase day is subjective. I'm curious to see what different perspectives are on this.

For many chasers, I'm sure that leaving home any day in hopes of driving somewhere to see a storm is considered a chase day, but there may be more to it than that, especially if you're on a chasecation or other vacation and storms are around.
  • What if you head out on a conditional setup and no storms fire, do you consider that a chase day?
  • What if a storm pops up close to home, but you end up inadvertently intercepting storms from your neighborhood/area, would you call that a chase day?
  • Let's say your schedule is freed up and non-severe thunderstorms are possible. If you head out in pursuit, do you consider that a chase?
  • What if you're out on what you consider a chase and the day gets cut short, perhaps by car trouble, storms falling apart before you reach them or you bail out before you see any storms, is that a chase day?
With technological improvements, cap busts are arguably more uncommon than they were in the past, although they do still happen from time to time.

I'm still working on what I consider a chase day, but these are the general rules that I use:

If I chased or pursued a storm on any given day, in which I drove outside of home location to see, I consider that a chase day. If I head out in hopes for storms and it's a cap bust, or for whatever other reason, no storms fire, I don't count it as a chase day. On these days, it's not uncommon to wait in one location for several hours, accepting that storms will probably not even fire, but you at least put yourself in the right area, just in case. I do find myself chasing a lot of marginal setups, so this helps me filter out when I'm going back to collect stats, assess conversion numbers, etc. If there are storms and I don't get there in time, or I choose the wrong target and don't see any storms, I do count that as a chase day. This is because of poor execution on my part.

Stats like these could be important to anyone who is writing off chasing for tax purposes, for example, or if they storm chase for a company/business/media outlet.
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This is a great question and something that I've been thinking about a lot after my experiences this year. I like to label days just for fun to gauge my performance and how successful a year has been. It also allows me to see how well my chases have gone according to SPC outlook, month, and state. If I leave my residence to pursue a storm, whether it be subsevere, tornadic, near or far, planned or not, I consider it a chase day. I do not consider days where I only travel for the sake of a setup the following day chase days. I have three types of chase days: "busts", "unsuccessful", and "successful".

- "Busts" are events when I go out and either storms did not form at all or nothing inspired me enough to photograph or record it. A good example of this would be May 18, 2017. We targeted southwestern Kansas and got nothing but a bunch of non-photogenic storms in the High Risk area, and then missed a great mammatus display at sunset over OKC and upward lightning show on the east side of the city even though we started and ended our day there. This day was worse than any clear-sky bust I've experience so far.

- "Unsuccessful" is bust to a lesser degree. This label is for days where I was able to see something, but it was underwhelming and may or may not have been worth documenting in some way. I felt I needed a way to classify days that weren't necessarily busts, but definitely weren't successful either. An example of this is May 28 of this year. We were on the Lawrence, KS-area supercell and tornado, but low clouds and rain prevented us from seeing any storm structure or the tornadoes. We were in the right place at the right time, but walked away with nothing to show for it.

- "Successful" is for days where I witnessed either good structure, a tornado, or something else worth documenting. An example not involving a storm or tornado is May 24 of this year. It was frustrating early on due to the common "storms firing too early" issue plaguing that week, but we were able to salvage the day by seeing a stunning display of mammatus that evening.

Whether a chase for me is "successful" is fairly black and white. However, there's a lot of grey area between "unsuccessful" and "bust". Most of it rides on the expectations of the day. If I catch a beautiful shelf cloud on a marginal or sub-severe day, then I would label that as "successful". If that same scenario occurs on day with a risk for robust supercells and tornadoes, it's going to be labeled as "unsuccessful" at best.
Jun 1, 2008
Chattanooga, TN
I agree it is on a continuum. I have four categories.

Scrub days: Watching storms within an hour of home even if I know there is little chance of anything exciting. Does not count as a chase day.

Travel days do not count as chase days. However, we are usually hoping for some entertainment on the way.

Dixie chase days: When I drive more than two hours and make a true effort in a valid synoptic set-up. Few bust, but most are unsuccessful. Counts as a chase day, kind of.

Plains chase days: Yeah that's what we live for! Bookended by travel days these are the true chase days. Success rate is significantly higher. Even counting travel days the success rate is better than in Dixie.

Probably I should never chase Dixie. Wait for the Plains and use my time wisely. Seriously if I did not live here I'd never ever chase Dixie.
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Jun 4, 2018
San Angelo, TX
I consider any day I go out to actively pursue a storm a chase day, bust or not.
Same here. If any effort was made on my part, beyond simply walking outside, I'll consider it a chase day. I don't keep a lot of strict records and stats at the moment, but I would at least classify my chase days as either local, regional or long distance. As an example, heading out into San Angelo and not really straying more than half an hour or so away I would consider local. My chase back on May 20th up along and north of I-20 I would consider a regional chase. And let's say I decided to head up into OK or KS for a chase I would call that long distance.

As far as bust or success for me, I would say it depends entirely on my expectations for the day. For example, May 20th was the first time I forecast, chose a target area, and executed a plan 100% on my own using what I've taught myself. So seeing just a couple of funnels, and some interesting structure was a huge success for me.
Apr 18, 2010
Grand Island, NE
I consider any day I go out to actively pursue a storm a chase day, bust or not.
I'm with Warren, any day I actively pursue storms is a chase day, bust or not. That's how I log them. How would you categorize a day where you just wander out of work to follow some local garbage and end up seeing a small tornado? Did you just score on a non-chase day?
Jun 16, 2015
Oklahoma City, OK
Interesting discussion and I like the idea of categorizing chase days, like local/travel and successful/unsuccessful. One thing in the back of my mind has been to rate chase days, including the forecast vs. outcome. I try to take some learning out of every storm chase, especially if results were well below expectation.

If I take any photos of storms while I’m out, it’s automatically a chase day, even if it’s close to home and/or I didn’t plan on going out. If I go out and don’t see anything, storms don’t fire and I go home early, I’m not considering it a storm chase. Likewise, if I go out and a random tornado spins up in an otherwise stratus slopfest and I don’t take any photos, I’m definitely considering it a storm chase.

Another way of looking at it is, what if you wandered around on a conditional severe day that ended up featuring no storms and you bailed at 3 p.m. because you accepted that nothing was going to happen. If someone who knows nothing about weather asked you what you were doing, would you say you were chasing storms? The answer for most of us is probably more nuanced. “I had free time and thought that I might find some storms, but my forecast was wrong” or “it was a long shot in the first place, so I bailed out on the idea of a storm chase.”

At the end of the day, none of this matters all that much, but it’s interesting enough in my head to think about.
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Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
Broomfield, CO
I agree with many others by saying any day in which I make a purposeful effort away from my normal day to put myself in an area where severe storms are forecast or I deem them possible is a chase day. I generally only classify successful days and busts, and I see the two sets as complementary (or MECE in statistical terms), but I can understand subdividing further.
Living near the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, I go out a lot for thundersnow in the winter and for lightning during the monsoon season. I consider these days from a different category than real chase days, in which my primary target is storms that may produce tornadoes and/or other severe weather. So I guess I have two categories - local thundersnow or lightning photography outings, and real severe weather chase days.

James K

Mar 26, 2019
I have to start by mentioning that I've never actually gone storm chasing .. (yet)
But that said, I would only consider it a 'chase day' if I specifically went out driving somewhere to see a storm. (even if I didn't end up seeing anything I'd still consider it a 'chase day' - just a failed one)

If I sat inside at home & recorded any of lightning/rain/snow, or got up on the roof & recorded a distant lightning show, I couldn't/wouldn't consider it anything...actually even if I went to the local park & videoed lightning, I still wouldn't count it. (I have infact done all of these)

John Farley said:
I love the rare times when that happens! Wish it did more often!
Mar 2, 2004
Wichita, KS
This is a fun question... I've kinda gone with this is my stats for years. Basically, I have divided up my logs into a couple categories.

SPOTTER LOG vs CHASE LOG (WORK LOG was added when I got my job here in KS)

SPOTTER to me was always a day where I had no intention to see tornadoes. Basically, my excuse was to collect video for freelance or go out and shoot lightning or something along those lines. There was no real distance restriction to this as sometimes I'd go out before a chase day and that would cover a lengthy drive and enroute, I may play with a storm just cause I was there. A spotter log could turn to a chase log if a storm started rotating, or just flat out produced a tornado. But typically, this was a log that included any venture to which I was out for freelance work (i.e. a nearby hailer, urban flooding, lower end severe), lightning photography trips, playing with storms near me just cause I was there, or a travel day in which I played with weather along the way. The biggest common line was a day to which there was no legit target when I headed out, or just going out because. These logs don't factor into my tornado average unless I saw a tornado or came close to seeing one.

CHASE were legit storm chases, where the goal of seeing a tornado was a primary motivating factor. If I left base the morning of with the intention to storm chase where the potential for tornadoes was a hope. This would also include legit supercells or events that required a lengthy bit of driving. Basically any day to which there was a pre-determined target with the hope of seeing significant severe weather or tornadoes. If I started the day with that motivation, I would leave it a CHASE log regardless of the day's outcome. These logs I factored into my tornado-average.

WORK was added when I got a job chasing here in Kansas. These are the days where I am just going out to satisfy a work day. These are actually pretty rare since they can basically be SPOTTER logs for me, but these get into the stat book if the station sends me out or I am just wanting to kill a work day in the field as opposed to in the studio. Often times these are super close to home and are very low-end events. These, too, can turn into a CHASE log if tornadic activity occurs. But this is basically a job day where i went out and played in weather at the direction of my job or strictly for my job.
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Dave C

Jun 5, 2013
As others have stated, if I physically relocate myself to observe weather (could be severe, winter, or otherwise) I consider it a chase activity, and any day I dedicate primarily or significantly to the activity is a 'chase day'. The relocation can and has been on foot, car, and by boat. Have never used a plane to get in better viewing position.

I should add that any day I am chased (hail shows up at work) is also a chase day, just not mine?
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Jul 5, 2009
Newtown, Pennsylvania
This is a very interesting thread. It’s fascinating how things that may seem like simple binary definitions really are not. I wonder if the personality attribute that makes us love weather is also what makes us enjoy debating categorizations, definitions and taxonomy? Imagine if we could agree on standard definitions of chase day, bust, success, etc., we would actually have an objective way to score and rank chasers. Not that that’s important, and I would be last anyway, but it’s an interesting thought.

Anyway, I think a chase day is when you purposefully go out of your way to chase a storm, or to out yourself in a place specifically because you expect/hope storms will occur. I don’t understand saying it is NOT a chase day just because there is a cap bust; that’s like saying I didn’t really go fishing just because the fish weren’t biting that day and I didn’t catch anything. 😏 Whether it’s a chase day should be based on intention, not outcome.

I do sometimes have trouble categorizing days where I don’t really expect anything to happen, and don’t pick a specific target, but decide to take a chance on passing through an area “just in case,” when the real goal is just to reposition for the next day, or head to a city/town that’s more interesting to hang out in for some upcoming downtime.
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Shane Adams

There are two basic elements that must be present for me to consider a day an official "chase."

(1) There must be a pre-determined target via personal forecast, and I get in my car and drive there.
(2) If it's a sit-on-your-hands-and-wait local-type deal, we have to actually intercept and observe a tornado. A 30-mile drive down the street for a garbage storm with zero forecasting involved is "deleted" from my personal stats.
As someone who specifically travels to the USA from abroad for a 'chasecation', perhaps the plane journey in the first place is a form of a 'chase'! ;)

Overall, though, I agree with many above: If a journey is made on a day to see (or attempt to see) storms that day, it's a chase day/'chase' - otherwise it's not.

A total bust is no storm activity at all. However, this is not a discussion on 'what makes a bust' - but I think if what I hoped would happen (and chased on the basis of happening) doesn't, or I don't get to it (wrong target) then I'd consider it a bust.