March 17, 2013
From The Weather Desk: Looking Into The Science Behind Storm Chasing
Storm chasing has become a big thing over the past ten years or so. So, what is the science behind storm chasing? First is the fact that when chasers go out each time, they have many things on their mind, such as “Can I spot the severe storm in time to relay a message back to the National Weather Service?” This is a huge asset for the National Weather Service, such a big asset that they hold classes on becoming storm spotter certified. This would fall under the category of Public Safety; storm chasers are out there for the public trying to get that message back to help.
Second is assistance. Many storm spotters these days are even interacting with the public after a storm hits, offering help to people that need it. This is a great because many of the storm spotters are already at the location before the emergency services can get there. This one needs to be approached carefully. Personally, I provide a hand in helping them clean up and get them the necessities they may need; medical attention is best to be left to the EMT’s. So, this is another science behind chasing.
Another thing that storm chasers do is go out for research. Many chasers try to gather data from the storm such as temperatures, winds, conditions aloft using Radar technology like the Vertical wind profile system, which helps identify what is going on in the atmosphere over the location. Researchers are also interested in finding out about the pressure and other atmospheric conditions associated with a tornado. Then they take all of this field gathered data and go back to the labs and computers and try to piece it together like a big puzzle, in an effort to help make warning systems better to saving lives.
There is more to the science of this job, and that is people now actually offer tours to seeing these storms. They are called Storm Tours. This is becoming a huge trend in Tornado Alley especially. Storm Tours, surprisingly, fill up fast well before the chase season starts. So for anyone that is interested in storm chasing, do a search on the web; see all the sites that appear with this type of tour available.
Another thing that is making the science behind storm chasing is the Art that can be found in the different types of clouds that form and appear. This is why photographers really enjoy going along for the ride; they can get some of their best work from storm clouds. Now, there is even a tour out there that takes people up in helicopters to see the storms. This is a fairly new area and probably has a higher risk than just taking a normal ground tour, but its available.
I have now noticed that companies are offering a honeymoon special; spend your honeymoon on a tornado chase. Now that is awesome if you ask me, but I am a weather geek like that.
Storm tours are given by many companies across the United States, These companies have professional meteorologists on their teams and sometimes more than one. This helps to give a feeling of comfort to anyone that is interested in doing a storm chase; know the expert that is working the case. Also, when you go on a storm chase, you will be required to fill out paper documents explaining to you the nature of the event and a waiver before the company will even let you join them. This is best for all.
So the next time you see a storm chaser, you now know the science behind what they are doing. I do personally recommend that if you want to chase tornadoes you do it with a professional meteorologist first so that you can learn the important things behind storms such as storm tracks, shifting storms and all the stuff that could put you into harm’s way.
This year should be a great year for seeing tornadoes, as its going to get pretty active later this spring in the May through June time frame. So, make sure to get out there and do a web search for Tornado Tours and see if you can still find an opening on one of the many tours available. Also make sure to ask questions of the storm chaser before you sign up and during the chase; a good storm chaser will be happy to share the information with you.
Image Credit: Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock