“A big part of storm chasing is actually what’s called storm spotting. It’s identifying severe weather, tornadoes, and it’s reporting that to the weather service so they can warn the public,” says storm chaser Skip Talbot.
Many chasers are trained spotters and often give reports on what they’re seeing to the National Weather Service so that warning can be enhanced.
“In fact, just this last December 1st, I was approaching a storm and it had a severe thunderstorm warning, meaning they’re expecting wind and hail out of it. And as I was watching it, a funnel started to develop and then it actually spun up a small tornado. The weather service didn’t know what tornado was happening until storm chasers called in a report,” says Talbot.
Even though meteorologists have tools like radar, satellite, and weather models, meteorologists in the studio or office can’t see what’s happening up close at the ground level.
“The Doppler Radar will show us where rotation is occurring in the storm, but unless the storm is very close to the doppler, we don’t know whether that circulation is making it to the ground or not,” says Meteorologist Mike Smith, President of MSE Creative Consulting.
For some chasers, seeing the hard work and passion they put into chasing pay off for the field of meteorology means a lot.
AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer says, “I think it’s important for anybody regardless of what career you choose to do what you love for a living and it’s very easy to work hard when you do that.”
“It’s really rewarding and it’s really fulfilling to have an interest and a passion like just being interested in tornadoes, making a contribution to science or severe weather reporting, it’s a really good feeling,” says Talbot.
Plenty of projects have utilized storm chasing to place instrumentation in the right spot to gather data. Some of those campaigns have been great at furthering lead times in storm warnings and meteorologists’ understanding on severe weather.