Storm chasing has become too dangerous

The death of the American Tim Samaras at the beginning of June 2013 demonstrated how great the danger the storm chasers are in. Together with his son and another crew member, he was on the heels of a devastating tornado in the US state of Oklahoma - and died as a result. Shortly before, he had warned residents via Twitter that they should keep an eye on the weather and take good care of themselves. Samaras was thought to be very cautious, but tornadoes are unpredictable.
The death of Samaras shook the storm chaser scene in the USA to the point of Mark. The 45-year-old was considered a luminary and worked for renowned clients such as the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Society. Even the US government was one of its customers - because Samaras not only photographed supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes, but also collected scientific data about the storms. Contrary to popular belief, storm chasers like him are not necessarily just looking for an adrenaline rush and breathtaking shots. Rather, they can provide important information about the local development of severe weather - data that weather services do not have at this speed and accuracy. In this way, reports from storm chasers enable more detailed and earlier severe weather warnings, which can sometimes save lives. Even in the case of severe storm fronts with hailstorms or tornadoes, just a few minutes of warning time can be sufficient for people at risk to get to safety in good time.

Important dates for weather services

Cooperation with storm chasers and other private weather observers is therefore very important for weather services. They provide the services with information that they cannot collect with their weather stations, radar devices and satellites - for example about the size of hailstones or the formation of a tornado.
The German Weather Service (DWD) also uses such data and cooperates with the organization “Skywarn Deutschland e.V.” for this purpose. If their certified “spotters” observe a storm, they inform the DWD using their own warning system. However, the DWD attaches importance to the fact that only specially trained observers are deployed and trains them together with Skywarn Germany. In the meantime, a network of several hundred such spotters can be used. Storm chasers make up only a small part of the weather observers; Local storms can also be reported from home or at work.

Fascination with the force of nature

The reverse is also true: Just as not all private weather observers chase after storms, not all storm chasers report their observations to a weather service or another warning point. For many people, their hobby is simply about taking good pictures and experiencing the thrill of a huge storm front or even a tornado. Anyone who has ever observed a supercell thunderstorm from a safe distance can certainly understand the fascination that these unrestrained forces of nature create in the storm chasers. Nevertheless, even in view of the breathtaking photos and videos, one should never forget that severe storms not only produce fascinating images, but often also bring destruction and in the worst case even death.