Storm Chasing DON’Ts and DOs (Credit: The Weather Channel, theweatherprediction.com, NSSL, NWS JetStream)
Image: Two landspout tornadoesin Cope, CO on 5/28/18
DISCUSSION: Summer vacation is here, and it’s peak severe weather season in the Midwest! Students and weather weenies alike are gathering where the weather is happening. In most cases, this is in the Great Plains and Northern Plains, a.k.a. Tornado Alley – where the most tornadoes occur. Storm chasing is just what it sounds like, students, enthusiasts, and meteorologists going towards severe thunderstorms. You may be wondering why anyone in their right mind would go towards the exact phenomena we meteorologists encourage you to take shelter from on a daily basis. Well, there is a multi-part, semi-logical answer for it.
For one, storm chasing is a total educational package for professors teaching mesoscale and microscale meteorology, and nowcasting (weather forecasting for the next several minutes). Mesoscale weather phenomena last anywhere from hours to weeks (e.g. thunderstorms and convective systems), while microscale phenomena are shorter, lasting only seconds to minutes (e.g. air turbulence and tornadoes). Forecasting tools used when chasing include radar, satellite, surface observations, surface and upper-air maps, and Skew-T Log P Diagrams. Overall, forecasting and then watching the evolution of a thunderstorm in real-time is the most comprehensive way for atmospheric science and meteorology students to gain (quite literally) field experience.
As you can imagine, driving after these storms and waiting for their development to unfold in front of your eyes is a rush. The air is typically warm and moist, though it can be cool, and typically extremely windy. Your adrenaline gets pumping, and you’re anxiously awaiting the perfect photo-op. For those of you thinking about going on that first chase soon or for the relatively newbies like myself, I’ve put together some helpful tips to make your chase more comfortable and successful!
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© 2018 Meteorologist Amber Liggett