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VORTEX team chasing a storm near Northfield, TX
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Brian F. Jewett

Chasing Tornadoes

Storms chasers are different than storm spotters. Chasers travel around Tornado Alley looking for severe storms and tornadoes. This area in the Great Plains is the best for chasing. Besides having a lot of storms, the land is relatively flat, the foliage is sparse, and the traffic isn't as heavy as other places to the east.

Anybody can be a chaser, though it's only recommended for people who know what they're doing. The storms can be very dangerous. Most people chase severe weather because they are interested in meteorology and want to put their knowledge and skill to the test. If they accurately predict where a storm will form and where it will go, they may see a tornado. If they misforecast the storm, they'll have to wait until another day to retest themselves. Some experienced chasers say that they spend 10-12 days hunting for every minute they see a tornado. And they're the experienced ones!

Tornado chasing has been traced back to two men, Dave Hoadley and Neil Ward, who first started roaming the plains in the late 1950's. Not much was know about storms then. There have been various research projects such as TOTO and, more recently, VORTEX, but there are actually very few research scientists chasing storms. Most are just weather enthusiasts trying to see a live tornado.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA