Philosophy of Stormchasing

Joe Zemek

Jun 27, 2004
Denver, CO
In the few years since I've chased, on a minimal basis since I've moved west of the Alley, I've come to see chasing as a comprehensive life metaphor, perhaps exceeding baseball in that capacity :)

Consider what chasing encourages and rewards in you:
* educating yourself as well as being educated by others, for listening instead of telling, for sharing information willingly instead of keeping it to yourself
* having high hopes and setting good goals but creating reasonable expectations
* the purity and integrity of your motives, realizing when it's time to reassess your priorites
* a love of Nature
* an appreciation of the short time we have on earth
* coping with conflicting emotions
* an appreciation of Change

This is a compressed list. How has chasing shaped your worldviews? What about it is most helpful to you in life outside chasing (recognizing for some that this is not applicable :p )?
Wow, this is a good, hard topic.

I can't say I have a comprehensive philosophy of chasing because I've found so many more questions than answers. This isn't a complaint--I love chasing. But it's not so easy to identify exactly what it means, why I do it, or what it has taught me. I do believe there is something inherently un-satisifying about chasing, and that is part of what makes the tie so powerful. Many will jump to disagree with me, and that's cool, but I believe that if chasing were all happiness and light, it would not hold our attention so powerfully.

On a superficial level, I hear a lot of amazing stories, meet remarkable people who inspire characters in my writing, see places that inspire ideas about what people in these places are like now or were like in the past. I have great chasing friends and together we witness incredible storms, and learn a ton about the weather. Supercells are some of the last available wilderness in the North American plains. There is a strong draw in that.

On a deeper level, however, I feel like it's taken a long time even to ask the right questions, let alone find answers. For the first few years I chased, I was obsessed with learning convective meteorology so that I was not bumbling around lost. After that I was obsessed with the idea of utilizing what I'd learned as much as I could, and loaded myself down with gadgets and gear. Both phases, I believe now, created such "static" that I was unable to get to whatever is beyond that particular style or experience of chasing. Don't get me wrong--I have no clue what "it" is, but I think there's something else there. I have the distinct sensation of only having scratched the surface.

Some have asked if I mean "pure" chasing and I'm trained to resist ambiguous words like that. If "pure" means the "right" way to chase versus some "wrong" way, then I definitely reject the usage. I think what I really mean is "quieter" chasing, but again, I'm not positive about what that word means in this context. It just feels more accurate. And I'm not talking about engine noise or the volume knob on my two-meter radio. I don't know yet what it is. This is why I'm eager to get back out there and try to find out.
Philosophy of Storm Chasing

Awesome topic, one I have given thought to ever since a year after I began storm chasing in 1978.
Storm chasing for me puts me in touch with my link to the animal world..
Like a wild cat, I scope, strategize, watch for long periods of time, wait, turn on my intuition, and then when appropriate.. I SPRING!
Sometimes the prey eludes; many times, I partake in the juicy flesh of my intercept.
Sometimes, like a wild cat going after a gazelle that he has chosen among the pack, I will choose a particular storm among many possibilities. Maybe the storm gets extra sly and outwits me, but then there may be another in the pack to go for. In most cases, I find that the chosen storm is indeed the one that is appropriate for me to take down.
Like the wild cat, I may from a distance scope the passion and power of the storm I have chosen but until my teeth meets it's flesh, I have no physical clue of what I will experience. The chosen prey may give me a big fight and refuse to drop a tornado out of it's wall cloud, or wrap huge hail around to protect itself.
I love the hunt and it sits in my veins like a wild animal's passion.
Sometimes watching the radar in wait and anticipation is like being a ravenous dog yanking and jerking at the chain, just dying to bust loose and run.. Hence the balance of the human element of intelligence and science as well as Divine Guidance...
My experiences in storm chasing have done nothing for my worldviews, except further fuel my desire to seperate myself from it all. I don't need to dive into my priority list again, as it's been exhaustingly described by Yours Truly over the years, in numerous discussions on several forums.

Like Amos, I too don't really know exctly what it is that fuels my desire to chase. I know what it is in my soul, because I feel it. But to explain what it is to another person, either verbally or with pen, is not possible. The most elusive of intangibles, at least in my life.

I guess to try and describe my desire for chasing would be like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands.
I feel like chasing is the reason I was born; the reason I am here on Planet Earth. That's not meant to sound egotistical. No, in fact, just the opposite. Chasing humbles me and vitalizes my existence at the same time.

The solution I use when non-chasers ask that ubiquitous question "Why do you chase?" is: "Because I don't think there's anything else on this planet that is more awesome and spectacular than a supercell......except possibly a launch of a Space Shuttle." (Which I would love to witness someday) Volcano chasing would be cool, too, but you might sit there for days and days seeing nothing but a little steam. Then finally fall asleep, and WHAMMO!, LMAO!

But I digress.

I finish my answer with "It's impossible to explain unless you're a chaser yourself."