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storm chasing and tornado spotting

An answer to our most-asked storm chasing question
by Matt Ver Steeg, WeatherEdge, Inc.

I get many emails in a month from students asking me how much money they can expect to earn as a storm chaser, and what type of education they will need to prepare for it. In this article, I want to answer some of your questions in advance.

First of all, expect to earn nothing as a full-time salaried storm chaser. There are no job positions for storm chasers that I know of. Meteorologists, yes. Storm chasers, no. Kids, most of what you've seen is Hollywood hype. Nobody that I know personally goes running around the country getting paid to chase storms.

With that said, there are a few people who operate some form of business involving storm chasing (like tour groups), who most likely are doing this on a part time basis, since chasing is rather seasonal. Others earn money from selling photographs, but that market has become oversaturated.

If you want to become a meteorologist, you need to hit math and physics VERY hard. Get into calculus and trig, and study, study, study. Becoming a degreed meteorologist is hard work, and you'll be spending four years of your life at a university to do it. After graduation, you could end up in television, or working as a forecaster for the National Weather Service or some private weather company.

Another thing you need to do to prepare for a career in weather is to get very involved with computers. Get to know the ins and outs of a PC's operating system, such as Windows and Linux. Learn how and why computers work. Learn a programming language. You can start with something like HTML, and then move to JavaScript, C++, or Java. If you get a job as a meteorologist, you will be using computers every day, and be doing a lot of work with numerical models. Besides, becoming a computer expert can come in handy if you ever decide to change careers.

In closing, there are no storm chasing jobs out there like the movies depict. If you love weather, and want to become a meteorologist, great! Go for it! Want my advice though? Learn computers. It will benefit you no matter what you choose to do.



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Storm chasing is dangerous. You could be hurt or killed in its pursuit, especially if you have little or no knowledge of severe storms and their environment. Chase hazards include but are not limited to heavy rain, flash flooding, lightning, high winds, large hail, tornadoes, and flying debris. Hydroplaning on the road and traffic accidents also occur. If you desire to chase, get informed and educated about weather. Contact your local National Weather Service Office, and enroll in a SKYWARN training class. Read and view all of the published information regarding severe weather, thunderstorms, and tornadoes that you can. You are responsible for educating yourself. Next, contact an experienced chaser in your area, and arrange to travel with them, until you've gained sufficient experience to go it alone. Even at that, veteran chasers get caught in harm's way from time to time. Play it safe. This page is for informational and educational use, and the authors disavow any responsibility for actions you may take.

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