This article was inspired by Fox News’ most recent article, Scientists warn that ‘storm chasers’ are hurting research and causing danger
Once upon a time, the art and science of storm chasing was a niche hobby/industry which involved a handful of meteorologists and researchers with a car, a camera with the appropriate lens and a question to answer.
HOWEVER! A combination of Hollywood and technological advances has turned into something of a mainstream, do-it-yourself with killer-consequences.
Talking to Fox News, William Bunting, Chief of Forecast Operates at the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma stated the following: “When I did storm chasing back in the 1980s, you never had to worry about crashing into someone now you wouldn’t catch me out there. It’s too crowded”.
Experts seem to believe that Hollywood glorification is partly to blame…
“…What about the TV shows? Hmmm!”
Jamie Simms, website lead
Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist at the Norman Forecast office of the NWS stated1 the following: “Ever since the movie Twister came out in 1996 the whole thing exploded and it has just gotten bigger and busier”.
Smith carried on by saying: “There are people out there who throw the kids in the car and say ‘let’s go’. It’s a dangerous when you get that many cars on the road around a storm. It’s one thing to go to the zoo and see animals; it is another to get in the cage with them. It can kill you very violently”.
1: Smith also talked to Fox News
The 1996 blockbuster, scientifically inaccurate but based on Oklahoma chasers, popularised the niche hobby/industry. However, the presence of storm chasing in pop culture flourished into a number of reality shows and documentaries. Furthermore, social media has played a big part…
…The push for viral videos and the status of influencer has been propelled the hobby/industry into an “alarming stratosphere”, as Fox News stated. Fox News didn’t just talk to staff at the NWS SPC and NWS Norman Forecast office.
Talking to Fox News as well, Erik Rasmussen, a research scientist at the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute working with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory stated the following: “It’s at the point where it is really impacting out scientific research. We’ve had times when we had to turn around and leave the storm just because there is too much traffic”.
Rasmussen carried on by stating: “These storms are so precious; we don’t get to intercept that many so having to leave a storm because of traffic, THAT IS JUST PAINFUL!”. In the view of the research scientist, it’s a disport in a number of cases. Ego and the fame game on social media is to blame suffice to say.
Nevertheless, specialists in the field also suggest the hordes, or we call noobs, have made the skill of chasing MORE DANGEROUS THAN MOTHER NATURE ITSELF. Rasmussen closed by saying: “It’s a very dangerous, a lot of young folks think they can do this. But even the most experienced out there have been killed. Nature just throws curveballs”.
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