Extreme Hobbies: Tornado Chasing

As global climate changes continue to develop, we hear more and more about the threats associated with natural disasters. While there are a number of types of natural disasters that can be quite risky, tornadoes are among some of the most well-known. Tornadoes are traditionally defined as funnel-shaped clouds of rapidly-rotating winds that are usually quite hazardous and destructive. Despite the danger associated with tornadoes, some individuals—commonly referred to as “tornado chasers”— turn to their pursuit in an attempt to learn more about the ways that they work. Individuals who are interested in learning more about the art of tornado chasing may want to consider consultation with meteorologists or other experts in the field to ensure optimal results and prevent possible injury.

Tornado-Chasing History

Tornado chasing is considered by many individuals to be a relatively modern pastime. Despite this popular belief, the art of tornado chasing appears to be quite established—in fact, some historians believe that the first known tornado chaser was Benjamin Franklin, who possessed an interest in meteorology and storm patterns. Modern forms of tornado chasing were not developed until the late 1980s. By this time, film and television adaptations of the activity increased popularity around the world.

Ideal Places to Chase Tornadoes

The Great Plains of the United States, often called “Tornado Alley,” is considered by many individuals to be one of the best places in the world to chase tornadoes. Wide open spaces and relatively flat land means that tornadoes are not only more prevalent, but may also be visible from greater distances. Australia and some parts of Argentina, which feature land similar to that found in the Great Plains, also boast high numbers of yearly tornadoes. Depending on the part of the world in question, tornado frequency may vary—however, in the United States, it is traditionally at its’ peak during the early summer months of May and June.

Fascination Associated with Tornado Chasing

Despite its popularity, the exact reason for increases in the popularity of tornado chasing is still relatively unknown. For some, tornado chasing may be done simply for the beauty and artistry associated with storm and cloud patterns. Others may pursue this pastime in an attempt to learn more about forecasting and weather patterns. Finally, for some, the thrill associated with tornado chasing is its’ main draw.

Tornado-Chasing Founders/Experts

As stated previously, Benjamin Franklin is often considered to be the world’s first tornado chaser. In the mid-1950s, David Hoadley picked up the art of tornado chasing, eventually using it as a platform to launch his popular magazine, Storm Track. During this same period of time, Neil B. Ward and the University of Oklahoma teamed up to begin the Tornado Intercept Project. While their work was done many decades ago, it is still referenced by modern tornado chasers around the world.

Who Can Go on a Tornado Chase?

As with other activities, tornado chasing is not recommended for everyone. In fact, it is prohibited for the vast majority of individuals living around the world. Typically, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with musculoskeletal disorders should be encouraged to avoid this pastime, as severe injury—or even death—can occur. In most cases, only those individuals who are relatively fit, have no underlying cardiovascular disease, and who have thoroughly researched and understand the risks and recommendations associated with the art of tornado chasing should participate in this pastime.

Individuals who believe that they are physically capable of performing the tasks associated with tornado chasing may want to consider attending a tornado tour. While tornado tours can be found in a variety of locations, they are most abundant in the Great Plains of the United States. These tours can vary quite substantially in price, though minimum fees usually range around $1000/person. Individuals who are considering participation in these types of tours should ask for references and recommendations before making a financial commitment.

Learning More About Tornado Chases

Increasing ones’ knowledge of tornado chases can be done in a number of ways. Individuals who live in areas where tornado chasing is popular may want to consider consultation with experts in the field. Talking with meteorologists or weather-pattern professionals is another way to learn more about the nature of tornado chasing. Individuals who do not have access to these contacts can increase their knowledge by reading books, articles, and watching internet/television programs.