The Novice Chaser

I've always had a passion for severe weather, and I've been a member of ST for some time now. I can't even begin to describe how much ST has opened up my eyes as far as chasing technique and forecasting goes.

When I first started chasing it was more or less "chase whatever storms I see nearby". My idea of chasing, before educating myself (thanks ST!), basically consisted of core punching whatever storm I could find. Obviously I have learned this is not a favorable practice, and have learned much from the ST group. But now I find myself "stuck".

I found that my forecasting skills are definately much better than they ever have been. The problem is I can't ever explain to anyone why I pick my target areas, its more of a feeling. I'd like to join in on the Target Area discussions, but I find myself unable to decode the "chaser speak" (for lack of a better term) or speak it myself.

I'll cut to the chase (no pun intended :D), I guess that I have a difficult time learning from just reading online sources, mostly because I just can't grasp the concepts described within, I learn best by example (and I understand there there are some things that I just have to learn the traditional way). I guess I'm just asking what to do.

One thing I feel that would benefit me greatly is to tag along with a fellow ST member to learn, but I get nervous when I think about asking. The problem is that I feel I just simply don't know enough to really offer any valuable input.

I have a real passion for severe wx, but I guess I feel I won't be taken seriously due to my lack of knowledge. Now that I have finally gotten this out in the open, I would like to ask if I could ride along with a local chaser, on a weekend chase sometime (I have too many obligations at work that I can't take off on a whim).

Thank you for reading this long post, and I hope you understand my predicament (sp?). I must apologize if this post seems scattered and unorganized, I get that way sometimes when I have a million thoughts at once and can't quite figure out how to express them in written word.

-Andrew Booth
Andrew, I can't because of my location, but I bet somebody close to where you live would be glad to take you out and show you the ropes. I'm sure you will learn very quickly and I bet it will be no time before you will be able to make a forecast target decision with your increased knowledge. keep truckin and don't give up!
Hey fellow Overland Park citizen:

I am also from Overland Park (Blue Valley area). This is only my 3rd year of chasing, and 1st year of forecasting storms as a hobby. For the forecasting part, picking a target, and actual positioning in relation to the storms and storm development, my best experience and learning comes from learning from mistakes. I admit that I am not the best forecaster, and at this time last year, I would just go somewhere based on luck and wishing because I didn't know what CAPE was, or what LI meant. I have learned a lot in just two months by making my own forecasts. If I was right, I would see what I did right, and vice versa if I were wrong. In that 2 months, I have learned a lot about reading the numerical models (GFS/NAM/RUC/others), understanding some concepts and forecasts that other chasers give on systems, and I am still learning and coming to grip on concepts I fully don't understand yet, like troughs, ridges, backing winds, and that sort of nature.

A good place to start is to look at the numerical models itself on UCAR or NCEP, and when you see others produce forecasts in the TA forum, match that up to what you can see in the model maps so you can see how they did that or how they came up to that conclusion. Best of luck and I will prolly see you around in OP.
Andrew - you have a nice attitude ... I think that if all chasers out there could maintain the same humility - or the ability to see what they are doing in a realistic light, some great progress could be made. Seems like once chasers catch a few, it's easy for egos to explode quicker than a hot updraft in an unstable environment. The truth is that all of us have to be willing to continue learning, though, and continue recognizing our weaknesses. My biggest weakness is on the forecasting end of things as well - but like Ben mentioned, I pick up something new almost every time I do this. Those 'something new's accumulate over time until a person finds a method that works for them. It may or may not be considered totally conventional, but hey - if it works, it works, right? Trust me when I say that the forecasting angle is only HALF the equation. It will get you to a target area, but what happens after that totally comes down to a chaser's ability to make wise choices in the heat of the chase ... and that can ONLY be learned after getting the experience under your belt and making lots of mistakes. The importance of being able to successfully position yourself - and do it safely - under a supercell cannot be overstated.

I've been impressed this year with the crop of new KC area chasers that seem to have a good handle on atmospherics! ... It's been nice to see ... I'm thinking a lot of it is probably owed to May 4, 2003, but not sure. In any case, I'm glad to see folks around here taking an interest in weather. Keep up the good work - hope to meet up with you out there under a meso this year.
Thanks to everyone for the replies, I really appreciate it. I think the main thing is I just need to stick to what I'm doing, and learn more as I go. I have really only been on one true chase, but like many of my local "on-a-whim" chases, I ended up woefully out of position. I know I'll get there, I just need to learn a little more patience.

I must say though, even though my first and only real chase was a bust of sorts, I still had a blast and know that I'm getting closer.

By the way, the chase I'm referring to was on the same day as the Hallam event, except I was on a cell farther north, the same one Mike Hollingshead was on (near Columbus). The only problem, I was on the other side of the hail shaft, and there was no safe way to maneuver around the HP monster (and stay close enough to continue chasing) without putting myself in serious danger.