• A friendly and periodic reminder of the rules we use for fostering high SNR and quality conversation and interaction at Stormtrack: Forum rules

    P.S. - Nothing specific happened to prompt this message! No one is in trouble, there are no flame wars in effect, nor any inappropriate conversation ongoing. This is being posted sitewide as a casual refresher.

Different Forms of Chasers - 2010 Version

2010 has brought to light several distinct classes of chasers that exist. These classes of chasers are very different - yet with the same objective. I liken and compare it a bit to "churches" - there are different "denominations" but all are one "type". The same predictable result has happened with chasing. I suspect as technology and knowledge advances that more sub-types will develop. Here are my definitions of chasers as they exist today. These are purely my definitions and are not by any means official or meant to become the standard cliches of chasing. I thought it would be interesting to share what I have personally observed, and see if anyone else has any positive/negative comments or constructive criticism - or even additions to what I have outlined in this brief analysis.

Research/Science Chasers

A small subset of elite chasers that are involved in the actual research and science of chasing. This subset includes Meteorologists, Vortex II, chasers who develop probes and instrumentation for tornado study, and those involved in serious tornado analysis. These chasers chase strictly for the science with the mission of collecting data for furthering tornado warning lead times and the understanding of how tornadoes work.

Media Chasers

Media Chasers chase for the media. These chasers may chase via ground vehicle or helicopter, and commonly report and/or stream directly to local media for the expressed purpose of warning the public. Media Chasers can also be a hybrid of techno-veteran chasers, since most media chasers must by their profession be technologically savvy.

Tour Chasers

Tour chasers lead tour groups for business purposes - usually very passionate, highly educated chasers with a large subset of experience.

Riding Chasers

Riding Chasers usually are passengers of tour chasers or private chasers who may or may not have a large meteorological/chasing background but for whatever reason are unable to chase on their own due to medical, health or other substantiating issues. This categorization excludes those who are able to chase on their own but simply do not.

Extreme Chasers

Extreme Chasers have a specific goal in mind - to get as close to extreme severe weather as possible, albeit tornadoes, giant hail, or other extreme severe weather phenomena. As such activities are a higher level of danger, these groups of chasers are controversial among the chaser community - the extreme chaser usually defensively asserting their freedom to chase the way they choose to, those against "extreme chasing" with just as strong feelings against this style of storm chasing. Extreme chasing as a subset of chasing will continue to be controversial. Extreme Chasers can be "Extreme-Veteran Chasers" but more likely "Extreme Techno-Veteran" chasers as these chasers usually use high technology to get them in as extreme a situation as possible. With this chase subset they can be greatly loved by many or greatly "un-loved" - based on the high controversial status of this form of chasing.

Veteran Chasers

It is my belief that "Veteran" chasers take on a completely different meaning then has ever existed before. Veteran chasers have the ability to chase blind - that is - without data and computer/technological assistance. These chasers have both a skill set of education and experience and can successfully target a storm based on meteorological analysis. Veteran chasers have the ability to use higher levels of data - not just radar or "spotternetwork" icons - plus educational assistance to assist staying out of dangerous situations - but prefer to chase "old school" using older methods and a high reliance of meteorological instinct. This is a fast-fading subset of chase types.

Veteran-Techno Chasers

"Veteran-Techno" chasers still have the ability to chase blind - without data and computer/technological assistance - but have a strong preference to use the latest tehnological advancements to increase their chances of not only safety but type of severe weather subset that they have identified as their "niche". Veteran-Techno chasers make up a very large percentage of chasers that exist on online forums such as StormTrack. These highly experienced and highly educated veteran chasers have a plethora of technology at the helm, including GPS, Threatnet, GRIII, Radio/Communication devices, Mobile Radar, among many other technological aids. This subset of chasing is fast becoming a larger subset as "veteran" chasers morph quickly into "veteran-techno" chasers.


Usually newer, tech savvy chasers with little experience, Techno-Chasers have become an increasingly larger subset in chasing today. Due to the popularity of many storm chasing programs and documentaries, techno-chasers use a lot of sophisiticated programs and equipment from the very start of chasing. A good subset of techno-chasers of this group begin chasing without meteorological experience, and learn while in the field, sometimes through the school of bad experiences and lessons learned. This can cause a higher risk of unforseen circumstances such as accidental coring of hail cores and other errors that education could help eliminate. However, with persistance and lessons learned and continued chasing, a techno-chaser can easily morph into an experienced and respected "techno-veteran" chaser.

Apprentice Chasers

Apprentice Chasers - or "Newbies", "Noobs", or "Beginners", are chasers who are serious about meteorology and their passion of severe weather who are just beginning or have less then 2 years of actual chasing experience. These serious chasers are very green but spend a lot of time learning and educating themselves through a combination of online, textbook, and on-the-field storm chasing. Once an Apprentice Chaser becomes comfortable and knowledgable chasing solo, they can then be classified into whatever subset they belong in based on their chase style - veteran, techno-veteran, etc.

Cruise Chasers

Cruise Chasers are only intermittently active, chase when possible due to work/family/other obligations, but are passionate about meteorology and chasing. They usually chase on a local or regional level, and occasionally will get in 1 or 2 larger chases per year. They usually chase in unmarked vehicles, with a limited amount of technology with them. This subset is usually low-profile and content with any weather they are able to target and successfully capture.

Expedition Chasers
(added by Australian Chaser John Allen)

This class of chaser has to cross a border or an ocean just to get to the great plains to chase. Quite often picked for having an odd accent or appearing across a large number of states over a period of as much as a month. Generally they are limited in time they are able to chase by the extreme costs of long distance travel and the vagrant lifestyle, however this has little bearing on their experience. This group can vary from Riding to Veteran, to Veteran-Techno in their experience, depending on their experiences in their own country.


Storm Chasing by definition is the act of chasing a storm. Therefore, however unpopular, even those locals who chase storms with no knowledge or experience are still, by definition, "chasers" - even if of the lowest "class". Popularly known by Veteran/Techno-Veteran Chasers as "Yahoos", Pseudo-Chasers have no real meteorological chasing experience, and very little technological know-how either. These Pseudo-Chasers simply jump into a car, and find a storm with no idea what they are looking at at all. They are responsible for a large percentage of "convergence issues" on the field, and largely responsible for reckless and irresponsible driving. Pseudo Chasers have become popular imitators of genuine chasers, and are a large percentage of the reasons why some Law Enforcement look down on genuine chasers.

**NOTE: Skywarn spotters do not chase, they spot - by definition, this excludes them from the chaser list. However, a spotter who chases would then be classified by one of the subset groups listed above.

Let me know what you think of these categorizations and input your thoughts and opinions here, thanks for reading!
Last edited by a moderator:
Jeff, very nice post but you forgot a growing segment in the chase community, "Armchair Chasers" ****SARCASM ALERT****

Armed with varying levels of experience, education, and tools these chasers live vicariously through the forecasts, live streams, NOW threads, and radar of severe weather events. Unable to actually chase due to financial obligations, lack of spousal support, or a littany of other reasons, they are quick to provide their reasons for missing events ("If i hadn't had that physics final I would have so targed Wakita on 5/19. I had that forecasted like 48 hours out man....") and even quicker to jump into ST threads with their 2 cents.

I am a proud card carrying, licensed member of this community :)
Yay for Cruise chasers :D

Unfortunately looking like Psuedo-Chasers are a lot more common these days. But i digress. Jeff where would you throw yourself into on the spectrum?
Jeff, this is a good breakdown. I would be the cruise chaser because of work and a 12 month old daughter. I try to get out when I can.

On a lighter note.
I think another class or sub group could be the "competative chaser". These chasers are much like the extreme group. It is difficult to identify these chasers until after an event.

These chasers will always dispute any claim of others, of a possible tornado if they themselves did not bag one. They will demand every bit of data possible to try and prove that what the others witnessed was not a tornado. We can usually see this after an event on the reports or discussion threads.

If several tornados are reported in a region, these chasers always get the largest and strongest tornado. They will furiously protest the NWS survey teams when the chaser saw at least an EF4 and the Survey team has it as an EF0 or EF1.
Nice thread.

The 'Airmchair Chaser' is valid too. Some are semi or fully retired from chasing. There are a few on ST that fall into the semi class, and I think that Chuck Doswell said recently that he is retired from chasing.

What about the media chasers? This consists of photographers and videographers that sell their products to the media - mostly news/TV and cable networks.

I consider what I do as an apprentice chaser - that is also an eSpotter and on SKYWARN. One can't separate the science from the spotter nor the chaser. There is a real grey area in there - that is for sure...
Last edited by a moderator:
Should direct intercept (with specially built vehicle)chasers be a separate group, or a subset of Research?

Don't forget the group...like the media chasers, the TV show chasers. They may have two roles actually (Twistex for example fit TV show chasers although they are primarily research chasers). A subset of the TV show chasers are the support crew that chases the chasers.
Nice post. Put me down for cruiser with an inkling toward the techno side. To keep things kosher at work, I typically schedule my 2-3 week chase vacation 6 months ahead of time, and cross my fingers every year. Sometimes it doesn't work out at all...in 2008 I ended up going out in August...ugh. But otherwise I roll out there with a relatively limited amount of gear, just enough computing horsepower to show me what I think I'll need. Since motorsport is another hobby of mine, I spice things up by driving a wacky turbocharged AWD car. So if the storms aren't great, at least I can practice sliding around on the mud on those desolate farm roads. ;)
Hooray for Cruise Chasers!

Living in the south in virtually unchaseable terrain with a job that doesn't allow me to leave at a moments notice forces you to be a Cruise Chaser even if you want to be more!

Two events I nearly cried over missing... The storms on Palm Sunday of this year that started just about 10 minutes to the South of me and started spawning tornadoes in NC and SC, and the outbreak of April 24, 2010. Since I had to miss those two opportunities due to prior obligations, I resorted to chasing rain showers a couple of weeks back out of desperation!

Last edited by a moderator:
Definitely put me down as a Cruise Chaser.

I also see a hybrid of the "Apprentice", "Pseudo" and suggested "Armchair Chaser" out there. These are folks new to the field that don't bother to learn anything, rarely chase but pretend that they've been doing this for years. They also enjoy "scoring points" on forums by chastising the other chaser types when mistakes happen in the field.
Great post Jeff. The Cruise chaser category fits me to a tee. Have an 8-5 job with a wife and kids, chase within 2 hours of my home which pretty much means west of I-35 to the Eastern portion of the Texas panhandle, no logos on the car (no antennas either lol).

I have lots of admiration for those who chase all over the plains each season. The cost of chasing is high even for us regional guys, and I could just imagine what it would be to do it 2-3 straight months along with the fact of not seeing your family for extended periods. I've been doing it 12 years, and started when I was 25...guess if I'd have started younger I may have fallen under another category, but I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out.

As for technology, I use my cell phone, weather radio, and get radar updates regularly from my wife (she acts as my dispatcher which gets her involved and makes it that much better). Since I'm regional, I know all the areas pretty well and dependency on radar isn't as crucial. I can catch fish without using a fish finder, and I've learned over the years how to catch a couple of tornadoes a year without having to spend a ton of money:D
Cruise chaser fits me well although TORNADQ is on my license plate. I don't bring much with aside from the NWR. Work and family limit the long hauls.
Hmmm...Good list there Jeff. I think there is another sub-category missing though.

The Foreigner.
This class of chaser has to cross a border or an ocean just to get to the great plains to chase. Quite often picked for having an odd accent or appearing accross a large number of states over a period of as much as a month. Generally they are limited in time they are able to chase by the extreme costs of long distance travel and the vagrant lifestyle, however this has little bearing on their experience. This group can vary from Riding to Veteran, to Veteran-Techno in their experience, depending on their experiences in their own country.
Great list Jeff! Nice work. Definitely forced to be a cruise chaser since I live and work in Oregon. Taking an 18 hour drive into Wyoming tomorrow to hit Saturday's setup, driving home Monday. This is a once or twice a year event for me, and I'm happy with any storm I see. Will basically be i-phone chasing with radarscope and an atlas. 3rd Midwest chasing trip for me. No mobile data device for my netbook this time around.
Excellent response so far - many thanks to all.

John, I have added your "Foreigner" class, thank you. I have changed the name to "Expedition" Chaser and left the definition intact. Great work on that one, an easy one to forget but yet an important and growing group. I can think of many expedition chasers who make yearly voyages not only from the Australian regions but also the United Kingdom and other points.

I respectfully dispute "Armchair Chaser" (wink, wink) because, as popular as this subset is, the truth is, armchair chasers do not chase, they observe :) This category belongs in another totally different group which I might work on - Chaser Support. Chaser support comprises such categories as Nowcasting, Forecast Assistance, among other possible categories.

The "Competitive Chaser" category is interesting, but I don't think it's so much a "Type" of chaser as it is an element of all groups of chasers to one form or another. I don't think there's one chaser who hasn't compared themselves to another chaser at least one time in their chasing career. I wonder how many really are in if for extreme competition and are really goaling themselves at nothing less then being the number one storm chaser in the world, ever.

How do I classify myself? For a good few years I was more or less a "cruise chaser" myself due to being stuck in the 2nd shift 2:30 to midnight for years and odd scheduling. Now with day hours and weekends off - and plenty of vacation time - I'm more on the "Veteran Chaser" category since I am one of the few who is insistent on chasing without the technological elements for the most part, relying on reading the sky primarily after morning targeting. This by personal decision and choice. Bucking the trend is sometimes fun in itself :)

I'm surprised at how many "Cruise Chasers" there really are! This post has educated me, and I'm sure others, that today's storm chasing is comprised of much diversity - and acceptance of that diversity will go a long way to decreasing drama and focusing more on the storms then the social elements that can detract heavily from our collective passion.

Indeed a great post and winking not necessary to the armchair chasers... I mean observers....I mean support.....

(On second thought, can we avoid Chaser Support as the category name? Makes me think of gorilla hail in jock straps for some reason)

Excellent breakdown.

I thought we Cruise Chasers were a smaller minority than we appear to be. Silly non-meteorological career keeps me from moving to techno-chaser and then onto veteran techno-chaser.
What about the ones who lurk around every corner of this forum like a skilled hunter. Waiting for some poor unsuspecting chaser to incorrectly post or to project too much anger towards another and then they suddenly appear and pounce on the unsuspecting chaser like a mountain lion on a culled antelope that can't keep up with the pack. Target violation I say!!! The poor chaser cowers in the corner in fear of the great mountain lion who is so fearce that he won't even acknowledge in suttle conversation or accept and respond to an apology from the poor ignorant chaser. Yes I tell you, this Goliath type chaser is known as. . . . . . ."The Moderator". Dom Dom Dom........!!!! Why is there no recognition for them post?? I would like to add "Moderator Chaser" to this discussion if that will be allowed. This is only my comical side and should not be taken out of context or construed as "Mocking".:D
You should probably add something for those who chase as a service to help others. The people out there who double up as first responders in the event a tornado does hit town, prioritize getting warnings to SPC via spotternet or direct calls to nws staff over getting the shot etc. I'd like to think that would fit a part of my style, and certainly there are a few groups out fully kitted out for the worst case eventuality. Missed getting a photo of a nice cone the other day completely because it formed and dissipated entirely within the time I placed the spotter network report, but given no tornado warning appeared to be on the storm at the time, I have no regrets!

This is by no means the only reason I chase. I do it for fun, and to learn more about meteorology, but getting the warnings out is primary concern for me.
This is my 1st post here on ST, been a member for a little over a week. Great post and breakdown of categories. I would probably consider myself a techno-chaser, with a hint of apprentice chaser. Fairly new to chasing, but I have always had a love for weather. I am always reading new articles, journals, blogs and such on weather events. I use weather data, laptop, gps, and such. But of course still learning every time out. Hope to meet many of you out in the field sometime!!
Clyve & I are somewhere along the continuum in the region of Veteran to Veteran-Techno Chasers leaning somewhat towards the Veteran while being Expeditioners in the US...

A couple of chases this year were done on Clyve's dead reckoning due to the inverter killing 2 fuses in the Charger on the same day and having no laptop and only a paper map....outcome was pretty good though.....other times we're more Techno....
I'm certainly a Riding Chaser. I've been on tour with a person that I consider to be at the top of the field for the last five years, and I drove for the tour company this year. (PM me if you want to know the company).

There seems to be a lot of dislike for 'Riding chasers.' I would even say that there tends to be a lack of respect for Riding Chasers, as they are not considered 'real' chasers by the chaser community at large.

Have I misinterpreted people's feelings?

I chase with a tour group because I don't yet have the skills to go out on my own on a Plains storm. But I'm not sure if that makes me less of a 'chaser' because I don't select a target area myself. Your opinions are invited...
Last edited by a moderator:
I am increasing seeing a distinct tornado chaser vs storm chaser, or even weather chaser.

The tornado chaser has only passing interest in non tornadic events and will even opt out on lower risk days and maximise on the moderate to high risk days. They will be focused purely or tornadoes and often fail to appreciate hail, storm structure and straight line winds. A bust is not bagging a tornado. No matter how meteorological talented, or how many tornadoes they rack up in a season ( and it numbers that count ), they generally move onto other pursuits as they age.

The true storm chaser appreciates all storms, even non-severe storms. Hail and structure are almost as good as tornadoes. They will also chase other severe weather events such as blizzards.

The weather chaser is like myself, severe storms are great and that is what I love chasing the most, but will chase down any mildly interesting weather. They will photograph clouds, frost, fog,sunsets. I have even been know to chase down a rain shower after a month long drought.