You might have come across jaw-dropping videos of a tornado moving across the land, and it might strike you that there are people who chase after such storms. It might inspire you to try it out on your own and chase after a tornado.
Now, storm chasing is both a hobby as well as a professional and recognized job. For some, the thrill of observing a force of nature so closely is indescribable.
And for others, they see value in studying them and being able to warn others. Regardless of the reason, you might be wondering about how to become a storm chaser. This article will help you with that.
What Is a Storm Chaser?
A storm chaser chases storms. They monitor weather patterns and track storms down. The data they collect is then analyzed and used to predict future storms and prepare for them.
While storm chasers often chase tornadoes, they can also chase thunderstorms or hail.
Photographing and videoing storms are an essential part of storm chasing. Some might do it for the thrill and the magnificent photos you can take while others might chase storms as part of a university project or helping a news team out.
How To Be A Storm Chaser
Storm chasing can be seen as both a recreational hobby or pursued as a job. How you go about it is up to you. This article will expand upon both forms of storm chasing and what you can expect from them.
1. Storm Chasing as a Hobby
First and foremost, storm chasing is a definite and expansive hobby. There is no particular restriction forbidding you from storm chasing, so you can take it up as a hobby.
This entails a thrill-seeking mentality and videoing storms as they pass by. These videos can later be uploaded to a platform such as YouTube or sold for money as footage.
However, when pursuing storm chasing as a hobby, the freedom you have in regard to your chosen activity can vary greatly.
This is largely because storm chasers who chase for a hobby don’t have proper funding, and this hobby, in particular instances, benefits greatly from the funding. All the expenses come out of their pocket.
If you’re looking to start storm chasing as a hobby, you don’t need to worry much about formalities and just need the proper equipment.
2. Storm Chasing Job – Storm Chaser Career
Here are some jobs you can do as a storm chaser.
– Research Jobs
Storm chasing is a highly valued job, and the field itself is highly reputable. This is because storm chasing allows for data to be collected on winds and storms, which can prove valuable for weather forecasts and predicting weather patterns. This is considered important fieldwork.
Many meteorologists do, in fact, chase after storms since it is important fieldwork. If you want to pursue storm chasing as a job, you will have a bit of work ahead of you, and it should be noted that in the case of an official job, your time will be spent mostly on research.
Depending on your area, storms might not be a likely occurrence, and as such, storm chasing isn’t a daily job. Nevertheless, some researchers and meteorologists do take storm chasing as a research opportunity.
– News Agencies and Freelancing
Universities and research groups aren’t the only ones who might employ a storm chaser, though. Television media crews might employ expert storm chasers to get expert video footage of a storm for a news broadcast.
Storm chasing can also be seen as a freelancing job as there are people who highly value expert footages of storms, clouds, and tornadoes. So, word of mouth can easily get you a fair share of job contracts.
What Are Storm Chasing Sessions Like?
The actual storm chasing in a storm chasing session is actually a lot less than you might think. A lot of the storm chasing involves driving to and fro to various potential spots for storms. Sometimes you might end up with nothing but clear skies.
Another aspect of storm chasing is simply analyzing and monitoring data to predict potential storm spots. There is actually a lot of downtime in the storm chasing profession, with driving around areas taking up another significant portion of the time.
How to Become a Storm Chaser?
Being a storm chaser isn’t easy, but there are many ways to approach it, which can vary depending on many factors. This article will help you get familiarized with the requirements of being a storm chaser and what skills you can learn to make a name for yourself.
1. Requirements for Being a Storm Chaser
Depending on whether you treat storm chasing as a job or hobby, what you will need varies. If you are planning on taking it on as a professional job, you will have to meet some educational requirements, and for both cases, you will need several important pieces of equipment.
– Educational Requirements
The job of a storm chaser falls under the broader field of meteorology and weather science. As such, there is no specific degree needed to become a storm chaser, but due to it being fieldwork in nature, you will need a different set of skills and experiences to be qualified for the job.
A bachelor’s degree in meteorology or atmospheric science is a good starting point for qualifying as a storm chaser, although hands-on experience is also needed since storm chasing can be particularly dangerous.
– Skill Requirements
Being tech-savvy will help you be a good storm chaser. Knowing how to operate a camera and radio is essential for storm chasing. Even if you’re just videoing a tornado, you do need to record necessary data from it, which is valuable.
The understanding of how your equipment work is essential as you’ll need to be able to operate them in tough conditions.
Being able to drive is also a somewhat necessary skill for storm chasing. It’s impossible to chase a storm on foot, nor is it possible to carry all your necessary equipment. Even if you might have a friend or assistant, you might need to exchange shifts to avoid overworking.
Other than these, basic research skills will be necessary considering the line of work, especially being able to compile the data and write reports.
2. Getting Enrolled in a Training Program
A training program is a good way to get started in becoming a storm chaser. The best training program available is the National Weather Service‘s SKYWARN, which is a volunteer program that helps you to spot storms and guides you on various safety measures.
While the focus of SKYWARN isn’t necessarily on storm chasing, it does provide training courses on several essential skills that you will need for storm chasing.
This includes identifying the signs of a storm brewing, basics of storm structures, basic safety measures, and will give you a good rundown on how to use some equipment and record data.
The training is free, and SKYWARN is offered in many countries, especially those that see storms often.
3. Getting Storm Chasing Equipment
Equipment costs are the main expenses of being a storm chaser, and it can turn into an expensive hobby.
There are many pieces of equipment necessary for a storm chaser and said equipment is always susceptible to damage, and you might need to replace it from time to time. A list of necessary equipment includes:
– Vehicular Transport
This cannot be stressed enough and alongside a camera is one of the most essential things you need. You should not settle for any vehicle as there are certain specs you should look out for.
First and foremost, you want the vehicle to be sturdy. Considering the strong winds you might face, your car can be hit by debris and even hail in severe conditions. Even if the vehicle is strong, you might still be left with dents and scratches.
A vehicle with a four-wheel or all-wheel drive is recommended. These vehicles have great acceleration and are very helpful when storm chasing. Being able to accelerate quickly is very important, especially if you sense things going south quickly.
Another important thing you should look out for is whether the vehicle has a large enough compartment or means to safely carry your other equipment.
Carrying equipment can be cumbersome, and a good vehicle can help you with that. Make sure to inspect the carrying space available to you.
You should make sure you always have a spare tire or two on your vehicle. They enable you to get back on track as fast as possible in the case of a mishap, and you don’t have to worry about waiting for a towing car.
– Recording Device
For recording footage of a storm, you will need a good camera or camcorder. You will want a high-quality camera with good ISO to ensure you take the best quality footage.
Also, you should invest in a telescope lens; as for your general safety, you should be recording footage from far away. Most cameras will suffer from a decline in quality at that distance, but the telescope lens will help to salvage that.
Tripod stands can help if you feel that your hands aren’t steady and shake a lot. Make sure whatever tripod stand you use, you are quick and familiar with assembling and dissembling it. It will help you a lot.
Always keep spare batteries with you for your recording device. You never know when you’ll need them.
On the topic of suitable recording devices, a dashcam mounted on your car is also a good alternative. Dashcams don’t reach the higher end of quality other cameras provide, but it does allow a good means of recording while in your vehicle.
– Smartphone with Suitable Net Connection
A suitable smartphone can prove to be a valuable aid for storm chasers. The main use of a smartphone is to communicate with your colleagues and get storm warnings or forecasts. You will also be able to send updates to others via smartphone.
Another primary advantage of owning a smartphone is that they have a lot of utility besides communication. This includes GPS and map systems such as Google Maps that will help you down on the road. They’ll help identify shortcuts as well as monitor traffic.
If you’re using a smartphone heavily during storm chases, a power bank is a necessity for it. You will need all the charges you can get with it.
Alongside that, you should try to get a cell booster for boosting the connection. Storms can interfere, and an inability to communicate can prove fatal.
– Emergency and Safety Equipment
There is a lot of equipment that falls under this category, and while some might not be deemed necessary, provided you are careful at the very least, you should invest in a first aid kit, a helmet, gloves, and goggles.
A first aid kit is essential. An area afflicted by a storm is unpredictable, and having some medical options and treatment can go a long way.
Wearing a helmet will provide safety to your head from any flying debris. If your helmet has a lighting system or a place to attach a flashlight, then it will prove helpful during times of low visibility.
The goggles you invest in should be relatively sturdy and preferably hail goggles to protect you from hail. Gloves will come in handy to protect your hands and when moving rubble and debris.
4. Finding a Storm Chasing Job
The ease of finding a job as a storm chaser can vary based on how frequent storms are in your area. However, there are some things you can do to make it easier to find a job.
– Get Recognition for Your Photos and Videos
The first order of business is simply to go out storm chasing. Take photos and record videos and upload them on a particular platform.
This is a good way to build up a good reputation and get word of mouth out. Moreover, it’s a good way to get hands-on experience too and learn the tricks of the trade.
– Get in Contact with Your Local National Weather Service
If there’s a place that welcomes storm chasers, it is probably your local National Weather Service station. They are always happy to accept new storm chasers and have training programs dedicated to them.
It’s a good place to start working, especially if you have participated in their training programs and have good relations with their instructors.
– Take Fieldwork Assignments for Universities
Monitoring storms offer valuable data for research purposes. There are many university professors or researchers who would be glad to obtain data for their projects but don’t have the expertise to go out and obtain the data. That’s where you can pitch in.
If you’ve worked for your meteorology degree at a particular university, this option might be a really good one for you. Professors will often pick their students more, so this is a good way into the world of storm chasing.
Dangers of Storm Chasing
Frankly speaking, storm chasing is a dangerous hobby or job, and even if you take all the possible safety measures, a stroke of bad luck can prove devastating.
Risk assessment is incredibly important and while you might chase storms for the thrill or adrenaline rush, never prioritize it above your safety.
There are several dangers involved in storm chasing. This includes misjudging a storm’s movements and being on its raging path to getting hit by flying debris.
When driving during a storm, road accidents are not uncommon, and there have been terrifying cases of them.
This is why communication and risk assessment is so important as one wrong move can prove fatal. You do not want to be close to a storm and should record it from safe distances.
While it may go against the name, very few storm chasers will barge straight into a storm for the thrill.
The first chase can be a harrowing experience, and thus it is recommended to learn of the dangers of storm chasing and the safety measures taken. If you are not willing to be careful of those, your storm chasing career will not last.
The article as a whole tries to underlie the basics of storm chasing and teach you how to become a storm chaser. It is honestly such a big field that it can be hard to compress it all, and at best, this article serves to pique curiosity and point in the right direction.
Training programs and hands-on experience will prove to be your best aid at being a good storm chaser.
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