Storm Chasers and Storm Spotters Association


  SCSA™ approved document 3-04'/app                                                                                                      

SCSATM - Storm Chaser and Tornado Chaser Classifications and Descriptions

By Elliot Jones

Media alert.... we strongly suggest that all media and commercial sources confirm an individual's actual chase-related background and history before committing to interviews, features, etc. Unfortunately, some media sources have recently reported serious problems because they were mislead by individuals (or groups) in regards to storm chasing activities, including the person's experience, background and actual purpose for chasing storms.

The SCSATM offers free referral services to the media and commercial clients for locating professional storm chasers, amateur storm chasers, scientists and storm spotters.

There are nine basic categories of people or groups who chase or intercept severe weather, often referred to as storm chasers, tornado chasers, storm spotters, storm trackers, etc.

Scientists and Researchers: Generally, individuals or groups from major universities or government organizations, including support personnel who occasionally (or seasonally) chase storms and severe weather conditions as part of a legitimate and active research project.

Hobbyists and Amateur: Basically, anyone who chases severe weather -- not in a bona fide public service, tour guide, scientific or media capacity. Hobbyist, amateur or "recreational storm chasers," pursue severe weather as a hobby -- enjoying the adventure and challenge of traveling hundreds of miles to witness some of mother nature's most glorious creations. The majority of hobbyists storm chasers photograph or video tape severe weather for their archives. Hobbyists do not make a living from chasing storms, but they occasionally sell storm footage or pictures on the side to help finance their chasing. Some hobbyist storm chasers have occupations relating to meteorology. A growing number of hobbyists are retired individuals who have extended time and resources to chase. Many hobbyist storm chasers also serve as storm "spotters" and will often relay critical information to authorities via mobile phones or ham radios. As opposed to "thrill seeking" chasers, most hobbyists chase in a responsible, professional manner. A number of hobbyists have built customized chase vehicles, similar to those used by news crews and researchers. Of all storm chasers, hobbyists comprise the largest group. The hobbyist and amateur storm chasers have their own outstanding homepage: Stormtrack.

Spotters: Spotters are seasonal and usually localized volunteers who observe and report threatening weather. The majority of storm spotters are amature radio operators. Spotter training and experience varies. Law enforcement officers and fire department personal may also serve as "spotters" in some locations. Spotters are often the unsung heroes of chasing, risking life and property to perform their valuable services. For more information about storm spotters, visit the Skywarn homepage.

Media/Editorial/Artistical: Part-time or seasonal personnel who work for a bona fide news gathering source such as television stations, news agencies, cable channels and radio stations. A few professional photographers, cinematographers and videographers also chase storms, usually as a part-time, editorial or seasonal pursuit to augment their off season work. Media (radio and TV) chasers and their "spotter" reports saved many lives during the Oklahoma City tornado outbreaks in May of 1999 and 2003. In addition to commercial and editorial applications, the images and footage shot by media chasers are often used for safety, news, scientific and educational purposes.

Imposters, Thrill Seekers, Klingons, etc.: Individuals who have absolutely no purpose or reason for chasing other than the "thrill of it." Unlike hobbyist and other types of storm chasers, this relatively new group is comprised of individuals who have little or no respect for other chasers, meteorology, storm spotting or the consequences of their sophomoric and sometimes dangerous actions. "Klingons" are inexperienced individuals who follow (without permission) experienced or scientific chasers. Imposters are generally inexperienced individuals who purposely misrepresent themselves in order to justify or legitimize their chasing activities. Some imposters have gone as far as posing as scientists, media chasers or even rescuers to gain access to closed or evacuated areas. The media needs to be especially weary of these individuals. (Not to be confused with non-professional hobbyists or amateurs who chase in a responsible manner and do not misrepresent themselves).

Tour Guides and School Groups: Tour guides lead groups of people (for a fee) on actual chases during the spring severe weather season. Tours are a viable option for chasing if you have no experience. Group chases are sometimes conducted by the meteorology departments of collages and universities. Some tours (field trips) are sanctioned by the school while others involve clubs or non-sanctioned groups.

Locals: People with little or no chasing experience who chase or observe storms near their communities. Local chasers usually initiate and target their "chases" from watching live television weather reports. They poise an ever-increasing hazard by clogging roadways and preventing emergency vehicles and legitimate chasers and spotters from preforming their work.

Hurricane Hunters: (The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron): The Hurricane Hunters are Air Force Reserve, (403rd. wing) pilots and crew members who fly special planes into tropical weather and report their data to the Tropical Prediction Center.

Full-time Professional: A chaser who pursues severe weather year round, for a living, in the capacity of a professional occupation and background.

Many chasers are hybrid combinations of the above categories.

For more information about storm chasers, storm chasing, tornado chasing and tornado chasers,
see the Storm Chaser® Homepage.

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