Storm Chasing

Many storm chasers, unlike those seen in “Twister,” are amateurs, enjoying the thrill of witnessing severe storms close-up and documenting its raw power on film. Some do make a living out of chasing storms professionally.

Storm chasers are helpful because they provide live data from an active storm area.  This data can be useful in the present, and analyzed to compile several years of statistics.

From Hobby To Profession

No matter your skill or background in weather science, storm chasing can be an extremely satisfying hobby or career option. Combining extreme weather with collecting data to enhance forecasting accuracy is one aspect of storm chasing.  Others include media and video work providing fascinating glimpses into nature’s furious side. While the job can be risky at times, its danger can be managed through basic safety rules and working with experienced professionals.

Storm chasing began as a hobby among enthusiasts, but has quickly evolved into an established profession. There are two primary branches to this field of endeavor, those engaged in scientific research, and those working to gather video and images for news media outlets using professional-grade cameras and recording equipment.  Chasers may drive thousands of miles to find that perfect shot or footage that captures all its beauty.

Roger Jensen and David Hoadley were two of the earliest storm chasers, beginning their solo pursuits in North Dakota’s Tornado Alley during the 1950s and ’60s. Though neither were meteorologists, their curiosity about storms was aroused when watching thunderclouds move across open plains.  Soon thereafter, they realized they could gain insight into severe storms by witnessing them first-hand and collecting data on-the-ground.

Modern technology has made storm chasing accessible to amateur storm chasers. Storm chasers now utilize laptop computers with special software installed to download raw data such as surface observations and upper air soundings from phones directly onto maps or into an electronic weather observation system (EWOS). In earlier days, chasers would carry acoustic couplers for downloading data from weather radars on their cars’ radios.

Storm-chasing may have become an industry unto itself, yet not everyone will enjoy it. It requires extensive research and planning as well as time spent traveling.  Chasers must also expect an unpredictable journey as it’s impossible to anticipate where storms may strike from an advance forecast.


Individuals interested in tracking severe weather have various career options available to them to pursue their passion. A traditional route would be to obtain a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or atmospheric science.  These programs provide excellent foundations for becoming storm chasers. There are also nontraditional educational paths which may help prepare individuals for this field, including taking Skywarn classes and joining experienced teams or tour groups with experience storm chasing, so that you can observe processes while learning safety protocols.

Alongside an academic degree, storm chasers need to possess both tech-savvy knowledge and an interest in weather. Many professionals in this profession use specialized equipment for data measurement and image capture.  Therefore, they must keep up-to-date on new technology trends and be adaptable in a rapidly changing environment.

Metz and Adair recommend that anyone looking to begin storm chasing find an experienced team or tour group and join it, in order to benefit from valuable advice about what it takes to become successful in the industry. Furthermore, mentors can serve as resources by answering any queries newcomers might have and sharing their own experiences.

Storm chasing may appear thrilling and exciting, but it can be extremely hazardous both to storm chasers themselves and residents of tornado-prone regions.  To stay safe it’s essential that both chasers and residents in affected areas understand and prepare accordingly for potential threats.

Storm chasing can be challenging, yet extremely satisfying if done right. To ensure an enjoyable and fulfilling experience, the key to successful storm-chasing lies in having an appropriate mindset, investing in quality gear and being prepared for anything that might arise during your mission to catch the next major storm.

Storm Chasing Career

Although some storm chasers receive paid employment from television media outlets and weather agencies, most do not receive salaries but make their living through various avenues, including selling video footage or pictures to news stations; hosting tours for paying spectators who wish to experience storms up close; hosting tour groups; or by starting detailed blogs that share their journey.

Some chasers even take on paid positions as meteorologists or researchers, providing them with professional experience while possibly increasing their pay rates. A degree in meteorology can further expand an individual’s earning potential as it opens more collaboration opportunities with meteorological research teams and news agencies.

Storm chasing may carry negative connotations, but for many it can be an immensely rewarding career choice. Storm chasing allows one to combine their love of meteorology and extreme weather events with traveling, photography and learning new things.

Before becoming a professional storm chaser, it’s essential to carefully consider all risks involved. Storm chasing is inherently hazardous and may lead to fatal injuries; thus, training with experienced chasers should help minimize risks. Storm chasers need an in-depth knowledge of severe weather science and can safely capture stunning footage for their audience. Keep in mind that storm chasing requires much time and energy; those pursuing this career path should expect a hectic schedule with limited social life opportunities. They must also be willing to cover a significant number of miles with their car and devote much of their free time out in the field, with an openness towards potentially being stuck for extended periods in remote locations, and having an adequate emergency plan in place.

Final Thoughts

Residents in areas prone to storms like tornadoes and hurricanes frequently monitor weather reports to stay abreast of developments. But storm chasers take matters one step further by immersing themselves in severe weather events to collect data and capture images that showcase these dramatic natural occurrences, deepening our understanding and improving public safety through accurate forecasting.

No matter if they work for a government agency or private corporation, storm chasers have one key aim in mind; collecting data about severe weather events and associated conditions to develop and test weather models, enhance warning systems, and prepare us better for future storms.

Storm chasers should remain aware of their surroundings and the well-being of others when gathering information, taking care not to enter private property without prior permission and prioritizing personal safety first. Furthermore, it’s imperative they respect other’s property as their actions could damage buildings or even endanger lives.

Storm chasing has gained increasing interest as more people discover its exciting adrenaline rush and sense of adventure. More people pursuing storm chasing as a career option also means greater opportunities for those wanting to start or franchise an existing storm-chasing business.

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