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Storm chasers gain respect on leading edge of tornado research

Not a bad article. I compliment the writer for staying on track with chasers like Tim who actually made factual and genuine contributions to science.
 
Ya, I'd like to see a discernment between "Storm Chasers" and "scientists who chase storms".

Even shooting timelapse I don't think I'm doing squat for science. And in a small percentage way, hindering scientific storm chasing by contributing to the herd.

Perhaps a couple more pictures seen or some video, but science? Not so sure about that...

Are we collecting FFD rain for analysis? Hailstone to see what seeding or shells? Measuring pollen count insitu or analyzing for hygoscopic nuclei? Oh, the mesonet. We have wind speeds and direction accurate to +-20%. :)

Now given some time, the density of mesonets around storms should well be a good thing. Proximity measurements of theta-e and such. But what site will become the defacto gathering site for said. Not NWS I bet until someone else proves the concept is useful. :p
 
I feel like regular storm chasers who are not scientists can be enabled to chase for science or research.

Innovators, folks.

It is 2016, you don't have to be a DR of science or in your 8th year of meteorology college in order to chase science. This is especially true for innovators who wish to create something within the private sector. I think that amateur storm chasers can chase for research and science as long as there are realistic goals and objectives. However, I notice that many groups claim they chase for this but actually provide no evidence or reasoning to actually be chasing for research unless they are keeping it secret which in most cases is not the actual case.
 
I've always thought if there was some basic instrument pack that could be bought for $200 or less, slapped on top of a vehicle with magnets, upload its data via the car's wifi device and/or after the chase, that the possibilities for data collection density around storms would be phenomenal. We had a discussion thread a few years ago about this, but it didn't go anywhere.
 
I feel like regular storm chasers who are not scientists can be enabled to chase for science or research.

Innovators, folks.
.

I've always thought if there was some basic instrument pack that could be bought for $200 or less, slapped on top of a vehicle with magnets, upload its data via the car's wifi device and/or after the chase, that the possibilities for data collection density around storms would be phenomenal. We had a discussion thread a few years ago about this, but it didn't go anywhere.

These.

Storm chasers are an untapped jewel in severe weather research. I think many of us who chase even as a hobby would jump at the chance to have our chasecations count for something bigger than just the chase itself. I would love to see John Allen and team petition National Geographic and the National Science Foundation to fund development and deployment of such a tool that chasers can include while they chase.
 
Honestly I wished we just stuck to the fact that storm chasing is a hobby. There's only so much you can glean from cheap sensors and or videography.


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At least getting basic surface measurements near a storm seems feasible with all of the chasers out there. I would like to see a mobile mesonet program actually come to fruition. I know there's people that will be attempting it this year.
 
Honestly I wished we just stuck to the fact that storm chasing is a hobby. There's only so much you can glean from cheap sensors and or videography.


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I agree, it seems like anymore people are too afraid to just say they storm chase as a hobby. I storm chased for 13/14 years and I never did so to save lives or contribute anything to the science, it was always a hobby for me because I was fascinated by storms and tornadoes. I was the selfish chaser, so to speak. I didn't chase for any other reasons but for myself and my own enjoyment. I never felt the need to justify my chasing by claiming to be saving lives and doing it for science. Anymore it seems like every other chaser is out chasing to save lives or to contribute to science, in reality they are contributing jack squat to science. There are the exceptions such as Tim Samaras, but chasers like that are far and few between. I'm sorry folks, but slapping a cheap, consumer grade anemometer among other equally cheap junk equipment on your vehicle and live streaming your chase isn't contributing to the science. You'll never see a published scientific article quoting data collected from a cheap Davis weather station mounted on a car.

Chasing is a hobby, nothing more than that. If you're lucky enough and have the brains and intelligence to do so, then maybe, just maybe you can make it into something more than that. I doubt it, but if you claiming to chase to contribute to the science makes you feel better, than by all means claim that. I'll just continue to call BS on that and ask you to show me your scientific data that you've collected and what scientific journal it has been publishes in.
 
I'm pretty much in Joey's shoes. My main focus on chasing is simply for the enjoyment. Like most people on this site, I've been interested in storms my whole life and just enjoy the chase. I stream video just because I appreciate being able to view other people streams when I can't chase and want to return the favor.
That said, if there were magnetic units that attached to the roof of your vehicle that would add useful data, I'd be all over it. It's not too big of a stretch to think that something like that would be coming to a chaser near you soon.


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I agree, it seems like anymore people are too afraid to just say they storm chase as a hobby. I storm chased for 13/14 years and I never did so to save lives or contribute anything to the science, it was always a hobby for me because I was fascinated by storms and tornadoes. I was the selfish chaser, so to speak. I didn't chase for any other reasons but for myself and my own enjoyment. I never felt the need to justify my chasing by claiming to be saving lives and doing it for science. Anymore it seems like every other chaser is out chasing to save lives or to contribute to science, in reality they are contributing jack squat to science. There are the exceptions such as Tim Samaras, but chasers like that are far and few between. I'm sorry folks, but slapping a cheap, consumer grade anemometer among other equally cheap junk equipment on your vehicle and live streaming your chase isn't contributing to the science. You'll never see a published scientific article quoting data collected from a cheap Davis weather station mounted on a car.

Very well said.

For the 28 years I've been chasing in Plains, it's been interesting to see the transitions. I'm slowly gravitating back to the "hobby" aspects and it's a lot more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, a lot of new chasers and some more experienced chasers see the success and fortunes made by chasers who cleverly use the research / life saving angle and they emulate the same tactics. Some are confusing "research" with "storm spotting." Data from chasing can be fun to study, but as any real scientist will tell you, without calibrated instrumentation and multiple data sets, such information is of little genuine value. This is not to say, for example, that a high wind report from a chaser is of no value to the NWS. But that's called "spotting" not research!

Amazingly, I have yet to see a single chaser claiming to be chasing for "science" produce a peer-reviewed and accepted scientific paper in a major publication that has lead to any life-saving breakthroughs.

W.
 
Add me to the just for a 'hobby' votes. This is just big game hunting for sport to me. Those guys may make some jerky or stuffed wall mounts or rugs, we have video and stills and don't even need to kill anything to succeed. I have made a few bucks off of a video here or there, but I never even try to market the stuff. I want it to remain stress and business free as much as possible, even though that is a huge money waster. Searching for money in my hobbies almost always reduces its worth and joy to me.

I only even really make reports if I don't already see someone has or I know I am one of very few on the storm. Reports are vital and needed, but I don't think any WFO needs a 6th report of a tornado that was a thin rope in a field 9 miles from the nearest town that has already dissipated.

All that being said, I was more than happy I was able to submit video, GPS logs and still images to participate in the El Reno Survey. I was out there that day as I always am for the hobby. If I am out on another historic day and a request for data is made, I will again gladly participate. Not sure I'd want put an instrument pack on my car, as I try to go as low profile as I can. I just want to be another white Subaru passing through the crowd.

I, as many others, feel a connection to those that were out on that grid of roads on 5-31-13 running from or inside the monster. We shared an historic event, up close, and I can't forget that day. But in that event or on any other chase day I have ventured, I wasn't ever out there for advancing science.
 
I agree, it seems like anymore people are too afraid to just say they storm chase as a hobby. I storm chased for 13/14 years and I never did so to save lives or contribute anything to the science, it was always a hobby for me because I was fascinated by storms and tornadoes.

Chasing is a hobby, nothing more than that. If you're lucky enough and have the brains and intelligence to do so, then maybe, just maybe you can make it into something more than that. I doubt it, but if you claiming to chase to contribute to the science makes you feel better, than by all means claim that. I'll just continue to call BS on that and ask you to show me your scientific data that you've collected and what scientific journal it has been publishes in.

Ok, so once you start trying to help with research chasing is no longer a hobby and you're only a poser doing it for science. Got it. No one is questioning your motive for chasing. Just because a person wants to help with research doesn't mean they are saying "Hey look everyone I'm chasing for science" just as it is that someone who helps with search and rescue isn't automatically claiming they chase to save lives. Should everyone stop helping with search and rescue because by doing so they are -gasp- saving lives?

I guess I'm not as pessimistic as others and think that chasers can actually make a huge contribution if they tried. A cluster of surface data near a tornado would be pretty helpful in modeling that tornado in the future and the CG data can also help determine CG patterns before/during/after tornado formation. Those are just a few examples. With advancements in technology I highly disagree that chasers will never be able to get quality data in the field. They already have, in fact. I don't think we're far removed from getting low level profiles of the atmosphere on mobile networks either.

This article/thread should be about discussing ways to advance research through chasers, not starting a flame war about why people chase. I'd love to hear @Skip Talbot thoughts on this.
 
Ok, so once you start trying to help with research chasing is no longer a hobby and you're only a poser doing it for science. Got it. No one is questioning your motive for chasing. Just because a person wants to help with research doesn't mean they are saying "Hey look everyone I'm chasing for science" just as it is that someone who helps with search and rescue isn't automatically claiming they chase to save lives. Should everyone stop helping with search and rescue because by doing so they are -gasp- saving lives?

I guess I'm not as pessimistic as others and think that chasers can actually make a huge contribution if they tried. A cluster of surface data near a tornado would be pretty helpful in modeling that tornado in the future and the CG data can also help determine CG patterns before/during/after tornado formation. Those are just a few examples. With advancements in technology I highly disagree that chasers will never be able to get quality data in the field. They already have, in fact. I don't think we're far removed from getting low level profiles of the atmosphere on mobile networks either.

This article/thread should be about discussing ways to advance research through chasers, not starting a flame war about why people chase. I'd love to hear @Skip Talbot thoughts on this.

What I'm saying is people who does absolutely nothing to contribute to the science, but yet they run around with consumer grade anemometer's claiming to chasing for research. That's absolute BS. Anyone can throw an anemometer on their vehicle, doesn't automatically make them a scientist who is out conducting research. If someone is directly involved in doing research, such as volunteering with VORTEX or something then that's fine, they are contributing. But driving around in your rinky dink car with a $50 anemometer strapped to it is doing absolutely nothing.

I guess it's just more glamorous for chasers to say they're chasing to conduct research than to simply say they're a hobbyist who simply enjoy's a good thunderstorm.
 
During the early days of NWS Doppler Radar, we would often call in reports to NWS offices and describe what we were witnessing so they could get a better idea of how specific storm features looked on radar. This was especially true of classic SP LP storms.

Genuine researchers and scientists had been doing that for years and they deserve the full credit - not a chaser who was technically forwarding "spotter" reports. Glad I could help, but that does not make me a "scientist" even if I had a pile of degrees. I was not employed by the Government, nor did I officially report my findings / data to any supporting institution where my information benefited a collective effort. I often chased with working scientists and meteorology professors who, despite their education and credits, never used their credentials to somehow "work" the system to make a profit by misleading people. Back then, it would have been called "unprofessional."

I reported information because it was a: fun and b: made me feel like I was contributing something to meteorology other than running around photographing storms for profit. I was not embarrassed by the fact that I was only a photojournalist or that my intentions were to make money (and keep chasing). I did not feel the need to misrepresent myself to the media, friends and others in order to make my efforts appear more legitimate and place myself above everyone else.

W.
 
I storm chase for fun but I think it is more meaningful if I can help if it is needed. Recorded severe weather can be used by scientists and is the observation part of scientific method. I took very shoddy video of what looked like a developing tornado. How did I figure that? The motion of the clouds was higher than the 40 mph movement of the thunderstorm reported by the NWS simply because the vertical movement was more than the horizontal movement. Since the storm was moving ESE and I was positioned SSW of the thunderstorm so if I could estimate my distance from the thunderstorm (using maps and radar) I could start to estimate the winds by triangulation from my fixed position. Doing this I painstakingly estimated cloud movement in the thunderstorm and came up with an estimated 40 mph storm relative rotation of the meso along with violent 50 plus mph winds in the updraft region in the sw side of the storm. Right behind this updraft speed was a funnel shaped cloud structure that I finally saw rotation with for a few seconds after looking at the video for a month. I found out that there was a tornado warning that expired 5 minutes after observing the storm and recording it. Everything verified including a bird struction on radar. Next year 4 people died in possibly the deadliest tornado in New York history and it also didn't have tornado warning. I showed people my video and explained it and that there wasn't a tornado warning with it at the time. Anybody can help with a little knowledge if people will only listen.
 
I agree, it seems like anymore people are too afraid to just say they storm chase as a hobby. I storm chased for 13/14 years and I never did so to save lives or contribute anything to the science, it was always a hobby for me because I was fascinated by storms and tornadoes. I was the selfish chaser, so to speak. I didn't chase for any other reasons but for myself and my own enjoyment. I never felt the need to justify my chasing by claiming to be saving lives and doing it for science. Anymore it seems like every other chaser is out chasing to save lives or to contribute to science, in reality they are contributing jack squat to science. There are the exceptions such as Tim Samaras, but chasers like that are far and few between. I'm sorry folks, but slapping a cheap, consumer grade anemometer among other equally cheap junk equipment on your vehicle and live streaming your chase isn't contributing to the science. You'll never see a published scientific article quoting data collected from a cheap Davis weather station mounted on a car.

Chasing is a hobby, nothing more than that. If you're lucky enough and have the brains and intelligence to do so, then maybe, just maybe you can make it into something more than that. I doubt it, but if you claiming to chase to contribute to the science makes you feel better, than by all means claim that. I'll just continue to call BS on that and ask you to show me your scientific data that you've collected and what scientific journal it has been publishes in.

Your point is well taken, however Ill disagree on this. Hear me out...

Observation is a huge factor in any science. If you are on a storm, report a tornado, wind damage or hail size and that data is seen by someone using storm reports to improve forecasting, then there you have it , you are doing good... for SCIENCE! (Thomas Dolby)
Observation in the form of Storm reports are a huge factor in helping forecasters increase forecasting skill. The importance is greatly amplified if you are the only one on a storm, or the only one on a storm reporting storm information.

In this day and age we are also getting closer to being able to access data from barometers on cell phones and then contributing to science by just being near storms with a smart phone.
The smart phones don't even need to be calibrated properly to see pressure tendencies. This allows forecasters, or anyone interested to be able to see pressure tendencies near severe weather with much greater detail, hugely important data!

http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2013/02/smartphone-pressure-observations-take.html

So while many(most) chasers aren't publishing scientific papers, there is a good chance that you are contributing to the data of those whom might publish those journals....if you are making good storm reports. OR as data collection becomes better , using a smart phone/tablet.
 
I am in the hobbyist camp as well and do not pretend to be doing anything for "science," especially "science" properly defined as involving research, rigid application of the scientific method, etc.

But I think we all contribute in some way to the general body of knowledge that is out there. Think of any subject you can imagine; there is both an academic knowledge base as well as a mainstream knowledge base that includes the contributions of "regular" people, with that knowledge multiplying through sharing and "connecting the dots" as facilitated by the Internet. Consider an analogy of book reviews on Amazon; the readers posting reviews are not professional literary critics, but they are still contributing to the body of knowledge around books and the subject matter of those books; maybe it brings some aspect of "more serious" reading to the masses that did not exist 20 years ago, even if the Amazon reviewers remain a world away from true literary critics. To bring it back to chasing, anyone for example trying to write a mainstream book about a historic tornado outbreak would be foolish to ignore the wealth of chaser experiences and insights before, during and after the event that are documented on here, on chaser websites, or on social media. That body of knowledge simply did not exist 20+ years ago. Past threads on the need to preserve historical information on this site, lamenting the sad loss of that history via broken links, unmaintained websites, etc., illustrates the value of chaser-generated information. So again my point is not to try to claim it is "science," but that we are somehow contributing to the overall body of knowledge, which I think consists of more than just strict "science" alone. We are sort of a bridge between science and the mainstream public, which is more likely to learn something about storms from our community than from the latest scientific journal.

Separately, I do like Dan's idea about a mobile instrument pack of some sort. Crowdsourcing of data is a big trend not just in meteorology (such as the precipitation crowdfunding project and app, IIRC I think it's called mPING) but in numerous other fields as well. Don't airplanes include instruments to collect and transmit upper-air data? Seems the same principles could extend to vehicles.
 
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