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Extreme Weather Conditions Essays

Issues, opinions and essays on weather & storm chasing topics

With older blog posts getting buried in the archives, I decided to start this section to keep some important weather and storm chasing issues 'prominent' and link to it in this site's main navigation menu. Storm chasing seems to never be without myths, rumors and misconceptions, and this new section intends to address some of that. I don't claim authoritative status on chasing issues, but after 25 years in the hobby, I would humbly say that I have some valid points for consideration.

  • Storm Chasing FAQ
    A list of common questions and answers about the storm chasing avocation.
     
  • Storm Chaser Traffic: Factual information
    Empirical data in the form of full-day dashcam videos showing actual traffic conditions during Great Plains storm chases.
     
  • "Nobody Cares"
    The most important concept a storm chaser should learn when starting out in the hobby.
     
  • Video evidence refutes claims of Kansas storm chaser problems
    Unfortunately for those who make overblown claims of chasers increasingly clogging roads and causing chaos, storm chasers have many cameras rolling which tell a differet story.
     
  • The "clogging roads" myth and the cancer of exaggeration in storm chasing
    Exaggerating the problems of chasing is the biggest problem the activity has today.
     
  • New chaser tips: How to avoid being annoying to experienced chasers
    Some humble advice on how to start out on the right foot as a new storm chaser.
     
  • Is a "Second Home" on the Great Plains worth it?
    Will buying a inexpensive house in a small Plains town save you money on hotels during storm chasing season?
     
  • Pre-chase briefing
    Thinking of asking a chaser if you can tag along on a chase? Read this first!
     
  • Chasing stats: How hard is it to see a tornado?
    Breaking down the numbers to reveal the best states, regions and times of year to see tornadoes.
     
  • The Top 5 ways to be known as an idiot storm chaser
    Five guaranteed ways to earn a reputation as an idiot storm chaser both inside and outside of the community.
     
  • The actual risks to the lives and well-being of storm chasers
    If you were to poll non-chasers about what they thought the biggest risks to a storm chaser were, you'd almost always hear tornadoes, hail and lightning mentioned.
     
  • Chasing revenue sources
    Storm chasing-related business ventures are not wise investments, and here's why. Save your money and keep your day job!
     
  • Lightbars and supplimental hazard lighting: finding the balance
    Are any type of supplimental hazard lights completely useless in storm chasing and spotting?
     
  • Severe thunderstorm warnings and awareness - worth it?
    Severe thunderstorms have long been overhyped to the tune of significant wastes of resources.
     
  • Vehicle hail shields for storm chasing: my build & why I'm adding them
    Plans and thoughts on protecting windows from large hail during chases.
     
  • Short commentary on common chasing issues
    Using a computer in the car, weather instruments and yes, even a paragraph on lightbars *gasp*!
     
  • A few thoughts on chasing motivations
    Does chasing in the Great Plains make a difference, and are there alternatives?
     
  • Does a 'storm chasing community' exist?
    Thoughts on the question if chasers are a united group or complete isolationists.
     
  • Enjoying storms
    Should chasers feel guilty for deriving enjoyment from watching tornadoes and severe storms?
     
  • Lightning photo fakes: how to spot one
    A how-to guide on detecting fake lightning photographs.
     
  • Storms are not dangerous to chasers
    Don't listen to all of the hype! Non-storm hazards are the biggest threat to the lives of storm chasers.
     
  • The chaseability of non-traditional US regions
    Storm chasing can be done outside of traditional areas, this collection of storm images shows what it's like.
     
  • Using rental cars for storm chasing
    Renting a car for storm chasing is a big financial risk. It amounts to taking someone else's property into a high-damage-risk situation, and the industry is starting to 'wise up' to chase-related damage claims.
     
  • The Myth of the Money Chaser
    I always thought that for someone to be into something for profit, there had to actually be profit involved.
     
  • Stock footage pointers
    Some basic information on the hows and whys of the stock footage business for chasers.
     
  • Ranking risk factors of storm chasing
    A brief survey of storm chasing risks and related injuries.
     
  • Chase tour legalities
    Thinking of starting a chase tour operation? Read this first!
     
  • A pictorial case for Midwestern storm chasing
    A collection of personal storm chasing photos from the Midwestern region demonstrating the value this region offers.
     
  • Lightning video ghosting artifacts
    A common artifact with lightning video clips fools many chasers and photographers into thinking they captured a very close strike.

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Featured Weather Library Article:

On a Rainy Day
11/28/95

November bows to December, and Fall to Winter. The Oregonian claimed that there were only two clear days in October, and if it is possible, this month has been even more cloudy. We deserve the rain, for drought has plagued our region for years. This is merely a year of above-normal precipitation, not a disaster. Still, it is difficult to look out the window without cursing. When will the skies clear again? I missed most of Fall's astronomical events: the Orionid and Leonid meteor showers, Saturn's ring crossings and transits of Titan, and several planetary conjunctions. Last winter's sketches of Mars and Jupiter stare at me from the back pages of my notebook, whetting my appetite. However, this astronomical thirst is itself denied by the moisture-providing clouds. I am drawn to observing logs from my past, and electronic news from areas with clear skies. I know that I can hold on until an East Wind comes shooting down the Gorge once again, driving the clouds back to the coast and drying everything up. On that night, bitterly cold though it may be, I know that I will be outside.



Observations of "Object Y"
12/6/95

Full Moon. Bad seeing. High relative humidity. Limiting magnitude no better than 4.5 at the zenith in a light-polluted sky. In short, the conditions make for a deep-sky observer's nightmare. When there hasn't been a clear night in over a month, a true amateur astronomer can't be picky. There is the obligatory view of Saturn with its rings and moons. On a night like this, enjoy it fully. There is no reason to rush to another object. Planets survive the poor transparency, although bad seeing detracts from detail and resolution.

An 8" telescope makes the Messier objects easy targets, if the sky is halfway decent. With the Moon's glare centered in the southern sky near Taurus, no object is easy. M1 is gone, M35 a washed-out collection of a few dim stars. M74 and M76 are on the very edge of visibility. The Andromeda Galaxy is stripped of its dust lanes and outer regions. Small objects with high surface brightnesses, like M77 and NGC 2392, are the only ones that really hang in there.

Why look for these objects on such a poor night? One answer is: "A bad night skygazing is better than a good night watching TV." The clear weather, as ill-timed as it may be, will probably go away before the Moon departs from the evening sky and is therefore precious. The artificial and natural sky glows combine to send a warning. Unless we control light pollution, this may be as good as the sky ever gets. M35 would normally be a showcase object, a textbook example of an open star cluster for beginning astronomy students. Tonight, it is distinctly unimpressive. Already, Portland's lights drown out the excitement that should go with a first view of the Great Cluster in Hercules or the Ring Nebula. Forget about seeing spiral structure in galaxies from the city. Central and Eastern Oregon still offer dark skies, but not everyone can be persuaded that the trip is worth it. Even when the weather is good, few people will leave an introductory astronomy class with an appreciation for what can be seen in the night sky.

These thoughts are sobering, but a view of the Moon lightens my mood. I forgo the polarizing filter, instead projecting the image onto a sheet of paper held behind the telescope. If it works with the Sun, why not with the Moon? I trace Mare Crisium and the rays of Tycho and Copernicus, enjoying a new perspective from which to observe our satellite. I shut down the observatory, and notice that the conclusion of my observing run coincides with the arrival of the night's first clouds.

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