A question about chasers like myself

Mar 30, 2004
Buhler, KS
I'm curious about how those of you who are experienced chasers, have or are getting meteorology degrees view chasers like me.

I have no meteorology training.

I have recently (in the last few years) developed an interest in severe storms.

I have taken the time to study storm structure and tried learned most of the terminology (except for some of the forecasting jargon).

I have attended one complete storm spotter training and a portion of another, as well as going through the online SKYWARN training.

I don't have a Ham license. I use only a mobile scanner and cell phone.

I obey the traffic laws and only pull off on non-major roads. Basically, I use common sense while chasing.

I would love to be able to ride along with an experienced chaser, but my career and family life isn't flexible enough (yet) to just take off when the opportunity arises.

Obviously, I'm not necessarily into this for the scientific/research purposes (though I do find it interesting). The best way to explain my interest is that I feel drawn to severe weather. There's the thrill of the chase and the awesome power of the atmosphere. Plus the photographic aspect (for personal enjoyment, not getting on the local news).

I guess I'm just wondering if, in the "professional's" opinion, chasers like myself should or should not be chasing? Are we part of the perceived problem some have with storm chasers? I'd really like some honest feedback.

You say you dont have any formal met training. Most of us actually dont.
You've recently developed an interest in severe storms. Excellent!
You've taken the time to study storm structure -- Even more excellent
You've done skywarn training. Very good!
No ham. Thats ok, not all chasers are hams.
You obey all traffic laws and use common sense. That's exactly what we ask, thats great!
You would like to ride with an experienced chaser. You seem to be the type of person we'd love to mentor.

You certainly seem like the type we want to see into chasing. The problem is with those who do not care, are obnoxious, careless, reckless, and have no clue about anything with storm structure. You seem as you could very well turn into a fine, respected chaser, and I for one look forward to getting to know you!!!
Honestly Brian - it's cool that you're interested, it's cool that you're out there, and if other people have a problem with you being there, then oh well. What separates you from anyone else - a few years and more of an investment in the whole deal ... other than that, we all just enjoy weather.

And really - when you think about it - what separates chasers from locals who go out there and try to see it? Most of us were locals at one time or another - I belonged to a whole family of 'em for years. No, we didn't know much about it, but we used common sense for the situation, took cover when we needed to, and didn't drive like fools ... and we all made it.

Really, storm chasers can do a lot for the local folks who do want to see what's going on (and wouldn't you if a tornado is rolling through the countryside you see everyday? - I would ...). Last week in NW Missouri a car full of young guys was coming up on the rain wrapping of a stovepipe tornado in an HP storm we were following ... I held my hand out the window, they rolled theirs down and I said "hey guys - be really careful here, because the rotation of the storm is wrapping rain around the backside of the tornado - trust me, it's there, you just can't see it." They held back, which was cool - because they would have had to drive through the RFD to see it, which would have freaked them out. So what I'm saying is, having a few chasers on the scene to help guide the locals can be a good thing.

Maybe if we all started thinking of ourselves more as guides and mentors, we'd be more inclined to look out for others and not jack around ourselves.
CHasing newbies

Hey Brian!

Don't kid yourself, evey last one of us was a newbie at this at some point. I'm fairly sure that we come from all walks of life, and various degrees of training, formal or not so formal.

What binds us all together is the love of severe weather (Nature at its grandest) and the need to learn more about it.

Like you, I have no formal training expect some years old spotter classes. I really didn't know about this web site until a couple of years ago. I've lurked, asked a few questions and read all the material I could reasonably get my hands on. I've learned where to be on a storm and what ettiquete to follow (common sense mostly). For my part, when I started actively chasing, I got into a couple of places I shouldn't have been, but I certainly learned from it.

I've recently been asked to spot for a local Radio/TV station because they've seen the kind of photos I take. I really love that majestic scenery stuff and a supercell does nothing but make it all the better! Yet I have no formal education in the area. All of my formal education lies in either Music, or Emergency Medicine.

Like you, my job doesn't allow much leeway for traveling, so I patiently wait on weekends with a moderate risk (Very Few indeed!). I would love to partner up a couple of times with someone much more experienced as you can only learn so much before someone has to teach it to you. Unfortunately, I live in an area where the "pro's" simply pass through on their way to the bigger and better stuff. So like, you, I still learn as I go. After 15 years doing it this way, I feel I've got a 'little' experience, but certainly can gain a whole lot more.

Keep in there Brian. Who knows, you'll meet up with some of these guys one of these days and maybe they'll let you tag along. There's a few out there who are staunch soloists, but I think most of them will be happy to chat with you especially while waiting for things to develop. All bets are off during the event though. It's kind of like being back in the ambulance again. Tons of learning, even more waiting, polishing and learning some more and then *BOOM* You're on baby!

John Diel
Brian, I'm self taught, just watching , reading, learning, and paying attention to what others know & say. Thats as far as I care to take it.
Your post could have been written by me just as easy. Except this one

would love to be able to ride along with an experienced chaser, but my career and family life isn't flexible enough (yet) to just take off when the opportunity arises

Other then that one What you said about yourself fits me to a tee and many others too I bet

From what you said, just have fun, learn as much as you can on your own you'll have better (and safer!) chases. And just have a blast :lol:
I have a degree in meteorology, but that certainly doesn't make me a good chaser. I'm new to chasing and still learning every day. In the past two months all the stuff that breezed right through my ears in my mesoscale class two years ago is finally starting to make sense.

If you're ever confused about some topic, jargon, etc feel free to PM me. I'll do my best to explain. I might just learn something new too.
Although I'm working on a degree, I have little formal training. I only started chasing 2 years ago (only b/c I couldn't before then!) I've been interested for at least the last 10 years and have been learning all I could. (mind you that that's half my life :) )

I went to storm spotter training for the first time in March.

Personally I think obeying traffic laws, and paying attention to the storms will keep you out of trouble!

I don't have a Ham license either.

Haven't been out with any experienced chasers yet. I've got a friend who's been doing this for many years now and hopefully I'll get a chance to ride with him!

Depending on how busy I am w/school pretty much says when I can/can't go out (Like all of March and April I couldn't spare any time, very irritating!)

Overall, sounds like you are certainly NOT a problem!!!! (b/c I think that would make me one too!)

Personally, I think people can go out and do this anytime, AS LONG AS they know something, and they aren't just "locals" seeing what all the commotion is about. Those are the ones who are going to get themselves killed and will give chasers a really bad image. (This doesn't include the wackos driving that "tank" around. I don't really want to know what kind of media that will get if they get into a tornado and don't make it out!)
Thanks for the feedback, I truly appreciate it.

I remember the first time I went out a couple of years ago. I was a clueless local, but fortunately I knew that and kept my distance. But it became clear I needed to do some research. That's what prompted me to find this site, go to the Extreme Weather Fair (Wichita) and attend a spotter meeting.

Your words have encouraged me. I wish I had the time to devote to really studying weather, but I pick up what I can, when I can and will continue to learn.

And if anybody in Central or South-Central Kansas is looking for an "apprentice", my e-mail is in my profile! :)
I fall into the exact same category as you Brian. I don't even really get to chase. I just have to wait on storms to come through the town I live in. I'd love to ride along with an experienced chaser one day, but as for right now, I feel a bit intimidated and afraid to ask to ride along. Until then, I just keep learning the terminology and what I can about storm systems through this forum and through other websites. I'll get my chance one day. :)
I guess I'm just wondering if, in the "professional's" opinion, chasers like myself should or should not be chasing? Are we part of the perceived problem some have with storm chasers? I'd really like some honest feedback.

As long as learning about and watching the storms are more interesting to you than what other chasers think of you and what other chasers are doing, then that is all you need to worry about.
My view is that you don't have to be an educated person to appreciate severe weather. I'm not a football coach, but I enjoy watching it. My opinion is as long as you are enjoying it and you don't put other people in danger, you're in good shape.
I'm still a student as well, so I guess that somewhat puts me under the scientific category, not not really (yet).

I'm sure that there are people out there who are in some ways "elitist" in the sense that they believe that chasing should be limited to the scientific communities, but I'm not one of them, and I don't think that most other people fall under that category either. So, if someone out there treats you like crap for that reason, don't let it get you down because the vast majority of people out there are NOT like that.

I don't think anyone out there really has a problem with those who are inexperienced/not-formally-trained (I'm inexperienced too, since I've only been chasing since I was 18); the stuff that people have problems with re those who go out there and act wreckless. I know meteorologists and non-meteorologists alike who have done stupid things while out there.

It's (usually) also good to respect those who are more experienced/knowledgable than you out in the field because not only are you making a new friend, but you can learn a lot in the process. I think you have a great attitude!!!
Hey Brian, welcome to the group. I been chasing for a few years now, I still find myself learning new things all the time. As Mike and other have said, all that have that you done is a few years on them. All I can say is, keep asking questions and always be open to learn. As to being a ham, its not needed but it helps. If you want more infomation about hams just ask here or I will be happy to help out.

Howard Robinson AKA Hurricane
Hey man!

I'm the process of getting my Meteorology degree.. started chasing when I first started college (about the same time I got my first car). Every person chases for different reasons.. regardless of their background, we're all basically out for one common reason.. I could care less what your weather background is! In the field, I'd like to think most of us are in the same group! I say, welcome aboard, dude! 8)
I can say, considering I have absolutely no meteorology background whatsoever, I was so tickled to get the opportunity to join the forum. My interest in the weather has alot to do with the fact that it is very much around me and has been for most my life. I've been through countless experiences and tornadoes have scared the living soul out of me. This will pretty much be my first year getting into storm chasing and I'm basically focusing on learning how the weather works, and getting equipment that will benefit me in the long run. I am also going to work on photography skills and becoming more familiar with my camera and next year I think I will have much more experience in my belt to assist myself with chasing the storms. I've been through alot of towns in NC and am familiar with alot of the highways, but I'm going to visit all the towns as much as possible and note on personal maps where good spots are for storm watching as North Carolina has limited views at times due to the foliage and hilly terrain in alot of spots, even along the coastline.