Waning memory for storm dates

Dec 4, 2003
I've noticed that I remember my early years of chasing with much more accuracy and precision than I do my later years.

I think this realization hit me when I stumbled across a Hi-8 tape of a recent (1999) storm chase I was on, and I had no idea what I was seeing. This was an HP storm with brief tornado near Guymon. It was like seeing someone else's video. Gradually I remembered that this was a chase from around June 25-27 1999. And yes, it was a chase I was on.

Yet I can sit here and remember clear details about all kinds of storm events in 1987, 1989, 1994, etc, and remember intricate details about each of the chases.

Maybe I can ascribe it to a more idealistic and single-minded purpose that I had during those early years. Or maybe I'm not doing a good job committing these latest situations to memory.

The funny thing is that the memory problem starts right around May 3, 1999, which brought the most tornadoes I ever saw in one day. Maybe that event permanently spoiled me.

Tim, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I don't remember dates or names particularly well, and storm chases are the best example of that. Dates I only remember if something incredible happened, like 10-9, 5-5, or 5-12, among others. But the vast majority of my chases are forgotten until I look at my website again. If somebody asks me if I chased on a particular day and it's not one of the 'biggies,' I have to look at my website.

What's odd is that though I won't recall anything when prompted by the date or "tornado name," once you start giving me details of the setup (the storyline) then it all comes back quickly and vividly.

Or I ask Shane, whose memory for these things is encyclopedic. If Shane is available I can usually ask him where I was on a certain chase day and save the time of checking my page. He knows where most chasers were on most significant days in the last dozen years or so.

Sounds to me like you have a clear point after which you stopped committing so much of your experience to memory. My problem is some synaptical malfunction, I'm sure. I wonder if the division for you has to do with how much you were learning on earlier chases? Not to say you stopped learning, but I think this is interesting and so wondering what you think of that theory.
Tim, from my experience I would guess the reason for the memory issue is that you've been so busy with not as much time to reflect. It is by reflection and re-living those memories that they are committed to memory.

I have lots of chases like that. Every once in a while one comes back to me and hits me and I think "oh, yeah I forgot about that". I've been working on a list of all my tornadoes now for over a year. When I remember a chase and a tornado I write them down. I never bothered to do this previously. I'll probably try to start keeping a regular log of chase events. Traditionally I have remembered these by looking back in old emails to wx-chase, or posts to my website (more recently) which helps.

As for the date you mention. Offhand I can't remember if I was chasing. I do know that I missed May 3rd because of a work committment, and I was also in a career transition starting in June.
My memory for storm events is pretty good and it is helped by my own website and videos. I'm even pretty good at remembering storms (and some of the chasers who were on them) when I wasn't present. My friends laugh when I can remember storms and chasers better than the names of football players and coaches including teams I support.

Bill Hark
I have it pretty bad now too. I can't remember the date of chases for the life of me anymore. MikeH likes to make fun of me and dates too. Not sure which one of us came up with it and probably not very politically correct but we call it chasersheimers.
I'm only 22, and my memory is already so bad that I have to write down and keep with me lists of things I need to do, or else I'll forget them and will never get them done. It's so bad that when I hear about a movie or CD I think I'd like, I write it down or else I'll never see/hear it.

Having said that, I remember the date of every single one of my chases. I've only been at it seriously for about 4 years, but still. It boggles my mind. I was sitting in my thesis advisor's office back in January talking about what needed to be finished up before May graduation, and we started talking about past snowstorms, and I rattled off something about some storm from January 1-2, 1999, and he said one guy who has always had a ridiculously good memory for stuff like that is Lance Bosart at SUNY. Maybe you should get some memory training from him, Tim. ;)
I can remember 99% of the chases I've been on, some of them I can even tell you how many miles I logged. I can even remember most of the bust days as well. The only period in my chase career where the chase memories all run together in a blur is the last half of 2000. We had a gas card and chased everything, saw nothing, and after so many of those the days just ran together. I do know that we spent a good deal of time in Iowa and saw no daytime storms.

I don't try to remember the details, I can't help but remember. My brain is a sponge when it comes to things I'm passionate about.
I've noticed this... I have a good memory for storms and dates from many events prior to the last few years dating back to early childhood. Even in 2001, when I went on my first full two week chase vacation, I can remember clearly every single day - the big chase days like May 27 (KS/OK derecho), May 29 (TX panhandle supercell) for example, busts, and days when little or nothing happened. This year, I chased for a total of 3 weeks and my memory for specific dates and where I was is quite poor for many of the days (OK, I *do* know where I was on May 12!).

I attribute this to the fact that I have assimilated many orders of magnitude more weather data during the last few years then I did in prior years. In an active day (whether or not I am out chasing), I will download many 1000's of surface data/satellite/UA maps/soundings/model data/NWS and SPC discussions/etc. (I have high-speed internet). I also save everything and have many CD ROMS full of archived and zipped data. My point is that by assimilating so much more data, I tend to forget things that weren't significant unless I go back several times and review the happenings of a specific day.