Why do you chase?

It's humbling. When I agree with other chasers about the unbridled passion, curiosity and excitement that compel me to chase, I really think it boils down to being humbled and awed by the power, unpredictability (sorry career forecasters:) and mystery of storms and more specifically, tornadoes. I think as humans many of us are so used to dominating and exploiting nature we take the security of our lives and the "control" of nature we have for granted. So when you have an opportunity to meet the raw, unruly, and sometimes brutal face of nature, it allows you to make a connection that is often missed in our daily lives. Storms are a gateway or lens for seeing the precariousness of our existence and the ultimate domination that nature and the universe have over us. Some of you may infer that I'm alluding to a spiritual experience, which may be a convenient way of summing it up. In any case, I believe that chasing helps you connect with something bigger than yourself.
As a child growing up in England, I used to have a mixture of fear and excitement each time a thunderstorm moved in. It was always about the lightning and thunder, especially a nighttime storm. Then, in 1987 there was a severe windstorm from an explosively deepening low pressure system which caused lots of damage in SE England - my interest in the weather expanded to include all aspects of meteorology and I decided it was what I wanted to do for a career.

I also had a couple of books on violent manifestations of nature, including tornadoes. The pictures of supercells on the Plains gripped my imagination. I also then started reading some chase logs in the early '90s, and poured over maps of the Great Plains with such interest that I knew the geography and many of the place names long before I first headed out. During uni I read up a lot on severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. I guess the main thing with me is the fundamental fascination with meteorology, and there is nothing more immediate and in your face in that science than a tornadic supecell.

In 1998 I made my first trip to the Plains: driving north from Dallas on I-35 instilled a feeling of 'arrival' that it's almost impossible to describe - I'd made it to the one place on Earth I'd yearned for since I first saw a picture of a tornado as a child!

Now, with numerous supercells and a fair number of tornadoes under my wings, and as a professional meteorologist here in England, I still have the same mixture of excitement and interest with all aspects of the weather. Chasing, for me, is a natural extension of my fundamental passion for meteorology. I'm not in it just for tornadoes, or even just for supercells: all aspects of dynamic meteorology get me - the Plains is the perfect natural laboratory in which to see all this going on.
For me the entire process. Sitting with friends and pouring over data in the weeks before, nailing down a target in the days and hours before, then sitting at the target blanketed with hours of extreme boredom wondering why I didn't stay home...all in hopes for that comparatively short burst of excitement knowing that we "predicted" mother nature and get the treat of a beautiful display of weather.

Also, Alsup's and Cozy Inn.
So many reasons, none of which remotely involve seeing destruction or loss of life. The natural aspects of storms are my only concern. I've never witnessed a tornado destroy anything more than a barn, and I'd be elated if that continued for the rest of my days chasing.

In my opinion, if someone cannot accept that explanation as sufficient and they continue to see the hobby as unethical, that's their problem and not mine. To be frank, I think there are certain voices in the chasing community that are already a little too willing to walk on eggshells regarding public perception. I support doing so to a very limited extent (i.e., don't act too exuberant at dinner after witnessing a tornado that may have done damage or worse), but beyond that I only support it to the extent and practical purpose of keeping anti-chasing LEO and legislator perception at bay. The list of hobbies more popular than storm chasing with far more pressing ethical questions is so long I won't even bother listing them, so I'd characterize myself as unapologetic about my hobby.
..... I think on a deeper level though its a way for me to let go and enjoy the moment without actually having to remember to enjoy the moment, much like when I was younger and the responsibilities of life hadn't started to kick in yet.

Very well said Sean. Living in the moment is one of my greatest challenges. So many problems can be solved by greater mindfulness. Unfortunately, I have to admit that even while chasing I often have to remind myself to enjoy the moment - particularly on a frustrating day, or even while watching a tornado and trying to juggle camera, video and make decisions about staying safe and/or with the storm... Something I will keep working on! :)
I could write pages about WHAT it is that I enjoy about chasing. My list would be quite extensive - for example, not everyone necessarily enjoys the analysis and forecasting, but for me that is of great enjoyment. But as much as I love chasing and am passionate about it, I would probably not have anything on my list that someone else hasn't already said.

However, we are all talking about WHAT we love about chasing. The WHY is a lot harder to understand. When we talk about WHAT we love, there is still that question of WHY? WHY do we love those things about storms and chasing, when others couldn't care less? Most of us cannot understand how it could be that others do not share our fascination with severe weather. Yet 99.9% of the population does not, while something inside of us is inexplicably drawn to this avocation. When I see a radar image of a classic Plains supercell from my home back east, I have an almost physiological craving to be there. WHY? WHY do we feel compelled to get out there while others turn (or run) away? Only those who can trace this fascination back to a childhood severe weather event have really come close to explaining WHY they chase. For the rest of us, myself included, it is a mystery.

When people ask me why I chase, I talk about the same things listed in this thread. But when they ask how I got interested in severe weather, I can only say, "I don't know, I just always have been, for as long as I can remember. Some people are drawn to climb mountains or race yachts across the ocean or scuba dive, and for whatever reason this is my thing."

The truth is, I wish I could explain why I love it so much, because perhaps that self-knowledge would help me find something else that satisfies at least some of the same desires during the other 50 weeks a year that I am not on a chase vacation. My other avocation is martial arts, and one day as I thought about what these two passions could possibly have in common it occurred to me that both contain the juxtaposition of beauty and violence. An interesting insight (if I do say so myself! :)) but still does not answer WHY that is appealing!

One thing I will say is that I sense a lot of chasers seem to either disclaim or downplay any "thrill seeking" aspect. WHY??? It is nothing to be ashamed about! Being in severe weather is absolutely exhilarating. Mountain climbers, downhill skiers, sky divers, yacht racers, free divers, race car drivers, competitive martial artists and amateur fighters, the list goes on and on. They will all admit they enjoy the potential danger and adrenaline rush; why can't we?
When I chase, it's romancing the sky. When I first started in the 70's, a clear metaphor came to mind of merging with a wonderful celestial woman.
I bring out my awe-struck child, intrigued scientist, focused hunter and artist all at once. Watching a great storm regardless of how subtle or wild (safely) brings me great glee.
It's one of my strongest connections with Creator. Each storm intercepted brings memories and a warm glow inside which can last for days.
I saw the aftermath of a tornado that went through a town near were I live and I knew I wanted to become a Skywarn spotter. Then either last year or the year before I was driving into my town and saw a wind shelf forming up nicely and I knew it was heading for the local walmart and that there would be people in the parking lot, so I flanked the wind shelf and got around it and ran up there to tell anyone I saw to get in the store and I finally got in and the shelf put down straight line winds in excess of 70 miles an hour (could have been easily closer to 80), blew the stand they hang plants on into someones car. This was when I knew I wanted to chase, however I haven't ever done it on purpose yet. (I just happen to be there at the right time) So last year I was on the road probably 100 miles from home in the Mississippi Delta (around Portia, AR) and I got a picture of a wall cloud in a cell that was moving from the north to the south, hardly a textbook storm though it had a textbook wall cloud. It disappeared in a bunch of heavy rain and I thought it was gone, but it wasn't, so I drove into it (probably wasn't the smartest thing I ever did) and wind hit my car from every direction and made me learn to use my forecasting knowledge better than what I did that day. So the reason I do what I do is: the thrill of the hunt, and trying to keep people safe from the storms.
Honestly, I've always been afraid of tornadoes. Growing up in NE South Dakota, it seemed that most storms were severe, and they always scared me, too. But for some unexplainable reason, I've always wanted to chase tornadoes. So, I guess it kinda stemmed from fear. Now, it's more for the adrenaline rush and the experience. I've spent countless hours researching storms and tornadoes, soaking up as much knowledge as I possibly could, watching as many videos, and reading as many books as I could. My dream is to chase on the great plains. But I chased my first storm here in SC a few weeks back. It was a bust, but it was still fun. I'll be chasing tomorrow evening and Wednesday, too, as we're supposed to have severe weather then. Yes, I'd like to see a tornado, but I'd be ecstatic to just see some beautiful storm structure, too.