A storm chaser is someone who chases storms. This is a very dangerous but exciting job! These scientists risk their lives with every chase in order to gain more information on the storm in which they are chasing. They also provide us with wonderful resources such as pictures and video footage of what happens during these storms. A typical day starts off by collecting data. This is done via the internet, where storm chasers look at satellite and radar maps, charts showing wind direction and strength, maps of temperatures and information on watches and warnings. After the storm chaser analyze all of the information, he/she picks a target for where storms might develop. The storm chaser may have to travel quite a distance to get to the destination but he/she does it because it's all part of the job. The storm chaser spends a large amount of time in their cars traveling from one severe weather storm to another. On the way, he/she may stop at a wireless connection spot (restaurant, coffee shop) to check weather updates. He/she mainly look at the same information they did that morning to see if changes have been made. For example, has the weather progressed or did the storm die down? The storm chaser may also travel with a GPS system (Global Positioning System). This system allows them to use his computer to track his location as he continues to move towards his target. He may also have the weather radio on in addition to radio scanners and small weather computers. More advanced storm chasers use a program called WxWorx to get data in their cars, while others use satellite internet. Along with his equipment, the storm chaser must go by what his eyes see and what signs the skies are giving him. The chaser looks for towering cumulus clouds that can be the first stage in the formation of a supercell. Next he looks for other cloud features that are telltale signs that something big is going to happen. If the chaser sees the storm begin to develop into a tornadic supercell, he tries to play it safe by staying to the southeast of the storm. Once the chaser has "caught" his storm, he takes pictures, video or just observe what happens. Once it turns dark, the chaser calls it a night mainly because he can no longer see what is happening within the storm. When the sun rises, the chaser is back on his computer looking for a new storm. If storm chasing sounds like an exciting career or just an exciting adventure, there are tours that you can take where you ride along with a storm chaser in hope of finding the big storm. (www.skydiary.com)
One of the most recent movies dedicated to the lifestyle of storm chasers is "Twister" which was produced in 1996. Although this movie is not suitable for first graders to watch in its entirety, it can be used to show how tornadoes form and what they look like in action. Although most of the science portion is not completely valid, it will provide a visual representation for the students as they learn about tornadoes and what storm chasing involves. For example, in the movie cows fly within the tornado. Although cows have been killed by tornadoes, there has never been a citing of flying cows. The way the tornadoes are depicted and how quickly they progress is also stretched in order to complete the dramatic story line. Although there are some parts that extend reality, the experiment involving Dorothy is based on a real-life experiment. A group of researchers from the National Severe Storms Laboratory tried to put a 55-gallon drum equipped with sensors in the path of a tornado in the 1980s (www.skydiary.com). Their instrument was named TOTO (Totable Tornado Observatory) but it never experienced a direct hit by a big tornado. More video clips of storm chasers in action can be found at, www.stormvideo.com. There is also a website (www.stormeyes.org/tornado/vehicles) that has pictures of vehicles are used in storm chasing which students will find very interesting.