Why do People Chase Storms? A Primer

Storm Chasing

While people who are passionate about weather research might take their activities for granted, there are many in the public who don’t understand the draw of storm chasing. After all, isn’t carrying on after a tornado dangerous?

They can change course so quickly, and they’re so massive and powerful and mean. One wrong move and you’re dead! Today we’re going over the various motivations and appeals that storm chasing holds for those brave souls who set off to study tornadoes up-close.

Let’s step into the storm.

Why do People Chase Storms?

There are two answers to this question. Let’s start with the first answer, the warm and fuzzy one that researchers and scientists give. Many people chase storms because it’s critical that researches get up-close readings and data from tornadoes. Even today, we understand little about how tornadoes form, how they move and how to predict them.

The closer you get to a tornado, the better the readings your equipment can get from it. Complex equipment capable of in-depth measurements isn’t exactly something you can just leave lying in the path of a tornado. Not only would that likely destroy the equipment, but it’s possible the tornado quickly changes course and avoids your equipment altogether.

As such, you have to put said equipment in a van, put on your favorite ball cap and chase the sucker around to get the data you need. And yes, this is quite dangerous. But it’s important research that can be used to save lives, so many researchers are okay with assuming the risks.

The Second Answer

We said there are two answers to the question of “why do people chase storms?” and we meant it. The second answer isn’t cuddly or noble, however. It’s a white-knuckle adrenaline rush that you can’t get from anything else. Nothing compares to hurtling towards danger at high speeds all for the chance to touch the edge of a destructive spiral of natural fury.

While this kind of thrill-seeking is assuredly dangerous and ill-advised, that’s a huge part of the appeal. No one in their right mind drives into a hurricane, right? Exactly. For some storm chasers, the sheer adrenaline and rush of moving towards danger is a draw enough to see the storms up-close. Though we can’t encourage this behavior, it’s something that a small percentage of storm chasers take very seriously.

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Jeremy Liu
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Jeremy Liu

Jeremy Liu has always been fascinated by extreme weather—but he prefers to write about the world’s deadliest storms from the safety and comfort of his home office. He’s much less likely to get hit with a flying cow that way. (And yes, Jeremy’s favorite movie is Twister.)

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Jeremy Liu Written by Jeremy Liu