scientific tornado research some of the major tornado researchers turtles photogrammetry Tornado Climatology and Data deadliest tornado year in the modern era global warming and tornado Emergency equipment First Aid kit

Tornado Research

Who does scientific tornado research?

The National Severe Storms Laboratory has been the major force in tornado-related research for several decades. NSSL has been a leader in Doppler radar development, research and testing, and has run numerous field programs to study tornadoes and other severe weather since the early 1970s.

Others heavily involved with tornado research include UCAR/NCAR, the University of Oklahoma, the Tornado Project, Tornado History Project, and overseas, the European Severe Storms Lab (Germany) and TORRO (UK). Members of the SELS/SPC staff have done research related to forecasting tornadoes for many years.

Almost every university with an atmospheric science program, as well as many local National Weather Service offices, have also published some tornado-related studies.

Who are, or have been, some of the major tornado researchers?

The list of important contributors to tornado science is so long that it can’t be put here without unjustly leaving someone out. Most of the “big names” in tornado research are found often in Page48 the accompanying list of scientific references. The biggest name, however, is probably the late T. Theodore “Ted” Fujita of the University of Chicago.

Although his meteorological interests and publications covered numerous topics, he concentrated on aspects of tornado research, including damage (yielding the F-scale), vortex structure, photogrammetry, risk assessment, tornado climatology, and mesoscale analysis for forecasting tornado occurrence.

For more information on Ted Fujita, there are tributes and biographies online, as well as a list of his publications.

Has there ever been anything done like “Dorothy” in the movie Twister?

What was TOTO? In Twister, “Dorothy” was a large, reinforced metal bin containing small instrument pods which, with help from refabricated soda cans, were supposed to be drawn into a tornado when the tornado would crack “Dorothy” open.

The idea for “Dorothy” was taken from a real device which OU and NSSL weather scientists used in the early-mid 1980s called TOTO–the TOtable Tornado Observatory. Both “Dorothy” and TOTO now are on display at the National Weather Center in Norman.

What are “turtles”?

Turtles are small, squat, heavy, aerodynamic instrument packages which were designed to withstand tornado wind speeds while measuring temperature, pressure and humidity at ground level. During the VORTEX program, they were sometimes placed on the ground at 100-250 yard intervals in the path of tornadic mesocyclones.

Scientists are still analyzing data from those deployments. [Turtles do not measure winds.] More recent models have been deployed in a few strong to violent tornadoes with promising results. What was Project VORTEX? That was the acronym for Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment, conducted in the springs of 1994 and 1995 in the southern and central U. S. plains, and led by Erik Rasmussen of NSSL.

The basic idea was to gather the most dense possible set of observations in tornadic supercells, from sensors in cars, planes, balloons, “turtles” (small instrument packages which could be placed on the ground), and portable radars. The main goal is to better understand the cause of tornado formation in thunderstorms. Subsequent, smaller field measurement programs were conducted under the name Sub VORTEX.

For more details on VORTEX, go to the online VORTEX storybook page. Was there another VORTEX? Yes. A group of atmospheric scientists (many also involved with the original project) prepared a major follow-up, VORTEX-2, for May and June 2009-2010.

Thanks to a quiet and Page49 uncooperative atmosphere for tornadoes, the 2009 project phase only sampled one, near LaGrange, WY (5 June 2009), but it was the most intensively observed tornado in history at the time. The 2010 version sampled several supercells and a few weak tornadoes. Check the latest status of the project online.

What is photogrammetry?

Tornado photogrammetry is the use of film or video to determine the speed of movement of some kind of tracer: usually a large piece of debris or a persistent cloud element. From these, the wind speed can be inferred with varying and sometimes unknown reliability. Photogrammetric analyses of tornadoes used to be much more common in the 1970s and 1980s than today. Now, portable Doppler radars like the DOW are the main tools used in the effort to determine the strength of tornado winds.

Major difficulties with photogrammetry of tornadoes include: Only the component of motion across the field of view can be measured; Usually, only debris in the outer part of the tornado can be tracked, because of dust and cloud material cloaking any objects farther in, causing a failure to sample many of the theoretically stronger winds; and Debris large enough to film from a safe distance, and to track across many movie or video frames, may be moving much slower than the wind carrying it.

Still, photogrammetry has been an insightful and interesting tool in determining tornado vortex characteristics and very generalized wind estimates. Have tornadoes been simulated in laboratories? If so, when and how? The late Neil Ward of NSSL began building smoke vortex chambers in his home in the late 1950s, which led to a tornado simulation laboratory at NSSL in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Among other concepts, Ward simulated the evolution of a single, primary tornado vortex into multiple vortices, which was not well-documented in the real atmosphere until films of multivortex tornadoes began appearing in the middle to late 1970s. Subsequent tornado simulators were constructed for Ted Fujita of the University of Chicago, and at Purdue University. The Purdue tornado simulator was much larger and operated such that air flow velocity and pressure could be measured in the vortices.

Nowadays, tornado chambers may be built in the home for fun and study. What are the DOWs (Doppler’s on Wheels)? The DOWs are portable Doppler radars securely mounted on flatbed trucks, and operated in the field by intercept teams from the Doppler on Wheels project. DOWs have measured finescale details of tornado features, including eyes and inflow jets, along with wind speeds a short distance above the ground.

The strongest wind speed determined from DOW data was about 302 mph–about 30 meters above ground level–in the Bridge Creek/Moore, Oklahoma, Page50 and tornado of 3 May 1999. [Please keep in mind that radar-indicated winds can’t be compared well to anemometer winds.

This is because of the difference in height above ground, and because the radar winds are scanned in the instant of a beam (instead of sampled over several seconds, as with anemometers).] Are any other mobile radars in use in tornado research?

A flatbed-mounted Doppler radar called SMART-R (Shared Mobile Atmosphere Research and Teaching Radar) has been developed at Texas A&M University, with help from OU, NSSL and Texas Tech. More information is online at NSSL. Though its first goal is to sample details of the wind fields in landfalling hurricanes, it can be used in the vicinity of supercells and tornadoes also.

As with the DOWs, onboard computers display and store the data. Mobile-radar data aided in the rating of the EF5 El Reno-Piedmont, OK tornado (24 May 2011). Some private chase teams and tours have marine radars mounted on their vehicles; however, these are for promotional purposes and have no use in research.Marineradar signals actually tend to interfere with research units like the DOWs.

Tornado Climatology and Data
How many tornadoes hit the US yearly?

Recent trends indicate around 1300, give or take a few hundred per year. The actual average is unknown, because tornado spotting and reporting methods have changed so much in the last several decades that the officially recorded tornado climatologies are believed to be incomplete.

Also, in the course of recording thousands of tornadoes, errors are bound to occur. Events can be missed or misclassified; and some non-damaging tornadoes in remote areas could still be unreported. How many tornadoes have there been in the US this year and how does it compare to previous years? Killer tornadoes? Such tornado report totals are in an online table of monthly tornado statistics at the SPC.Remember, those are preliminary numbers which may be amended at any time.

How many people are killed every year by tornadoes? How do most deaths happen in tornadoes?

On average, tornadoes kill about 60 people per year–most from flying or falling (crushing) debris. The actual number of tornado deaths in a year can vary wildly — from single digits to hundreds, depending on many factors from both weather and society.

What was the deadliest tornado year in the modern era?

SPC defines the modern era of tornado recordkeeping as 1950-present, the time frame of its database. As of this writing, the record year since 1950 is 2011, when tornadoes killed 550 people in 15 states. Follow this link for the latest map and listing of those events. Before 1950, several years had nearly similar or higher tornado death tolls; but the exact numbers are uncertain due to more archaic communications, more people missing and unaccounted for, unknown numbers of unreported deaths, and then-customary exclusion of certain groups from death tolls in some older events.

The year 1925–including the Tri-State Tornado–had the greatest toll with 794 known tornado deaths. What is tornado season? Tornado season usually means the peak period for historical tornado reports in an area, when averaged over the history of reports. There is a general northward shift in “tornado season” in the U. S. from late winter through mid summer.

The peak period for tornadoes in the southern plains, for example, is during May into early June. On the Gulf coast, it is earlier during the spring; in the northern plains and upper Midwest, it is June or July. Remember: tornadoes can happen any time of year if the conditions are right!

If you want to know the tornado peak periods for your area, Harold Brooks of NSSL has prepared numerous tornado probability graphics, which include distribution during the year. How early in the year do tornadoes start happening? Tornadoes can happen any day or night of the year. Indeed, the earliest on modern record (since 1950) was two minutes into the new year–12:02 a.m. CST, 1 January 2011, in Attala County, MS. The average first-tornado date in the U. S. is January 11, for the entire 1950- 2011 time frame.

The latest first-tornado was on 15 February 2003, in Marengo County, AL, meaning that the nation had 45 days of tornado-free weather to start that year. What is Tornado Alley? Tornado Alley is a nickname in the popular media for a broad swath of relatively high tornado occurrence in the central U. S. Various Tornado Alley maps which you may see can look different because tornado occurrence can be measured many ways–by all tornadoes, tornado county-segments, strong and violent tornadoes only, and databases with different time periods.

Most recently, Concannon, et al., have prepared a “Tornado Alley” map using significant tornado data. Remember, this is only a map of greatest incidence. Violent or killer tornadoes do happen outside this Tornado Alley every year. Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere in the U. S., including west of the Rockies and east of the Appalachians, and even in Canada and overseas.

 Does “global warming” cause tornadoes?

No. Thunderstorms do. The harder question may be, “Will climate change influence tornado occurrence?” The best answer is: We don’t know. According to the National Science and Technology Council’s Scientific Assessment on Climate Change, “Trends in other extreme weather events that occur at small spatial scales–such as tornadoes, hail, lightning, and dust storms–cannot be determined at the present time due to insufficient evidence.”

This is because tornadoes are short-fused weather, on the time scale of seconds and minutes, and a space scale of fractions of a mile across. In contrast, climate trends take many years, decades, or millennia, spanning vast areas of the globe. The numerous unknowns dwell in the vast gap between those time and space scales.

Climate models cannot resolve tornadoes or individual thunderstorms. They can indicate broad-scale shifts in three of the four favorable ingredients for severe thunderstorms (moisture, instability and wind shear), but as any severe weather forecaster can attest, having some favorable factors in place doesn’t guarantee tornadoes.

Our physical understanding indicates mixed signals–some ingredients may increase (instability), while others may decrease (shear), in a warmer world. The other key ingredient (storm-scale lift), and to varying extents moisture, instability and shear, depend mostly on day-to-day patterns, and often, even minute-to-minute local weather.

Finally, tornado recordkeeping itself also has been prone to many errors and uncertainties, doesn’t exist for most of the world, and even in the U. S., only covers several decades in detailed form.

Does El Nino cause tornadoes?

No. Neither does La Nina. Both are major changes in sea surface temperature in the tropical Pacific which occur over the span of months. U. S. tornadoes happen thousands of miles away on the order of seconds and minutes. El Nino does adjust large-scale weather patterns. But between that large scale and tornadoes, there are way too many variables to say conclusively what role El Nino (or La Nina) has in changing tornado risk; and it certainly does not directly cause tornadoes.

A few studies have shown some loose associations between La Nina years and regional trends in tornado numbers from year to year; but that still doesn’t prove cause and effect. Weak associations by year or season may be as close as the ENSO-to-tornado connection can get–because there are so many things on the scales of states, counties and individual thunderstorms which can affect tornado formation.

For more detailed information, see The Relationship between El Nino, La Nina and United States Tornado Activity, a research paper by Schaefer and Tatom, or this paper by Cook and Schaefer on wintertime tornadoes and the ENSO cycle.

What city has been hit by the most tornadoes?

Oklahoma City. The exact count varies because city limits and tornado reporting practices have changed over the years; but the known total is now over 100. The Norman NWS has prepared a detailed listing of OKC-area tornadoes. Another way to measure tornado count Page53 and avoid the vagaries of political boundaries is to use tornado hits within a radius; though this method will include tornadoes in some nearby communities.

I noticed the word “preliminary” used a lot in the SPC tornado stats, and “final” too. What do those mean? Tornado data usually reaches SPC first from local storm reports (LSRs), warnings or other bulletins sent by local NWS forecast offices. Such reports are usually sent within the first day or two after a severe weather event, before all the information on a tornado is known.

In fact, some tornado information might not be known for many weeks or months–for example, if someone who was injured dies from his injuries a long time afterward. That is why we call all tornado data “preliminary” until the National Climatic Data Center publication Storm Data is completed. Storm Data contains the “final” information on all severe weather events.

How many tornadoes have there been in my state or county?

The actual number is unknown, because it is likely that (throughout the course of history) many tornadoes were either not reported or erroneously categorized. Recorded tornadoes nationwide are listed and described in the National Climatic Data Center publication Storm Data, and listed in CSV (comma-separated value) files at the SPC’s WCM website.

NCDC has developed an interactive online severe weather database which you can use to search your state and/or county for tornado segments and other severe weather reports. Jeff Evans has broken down the SPC tornado data into table of tornadoes by state for three decades ending in 2009. NOTE: NCDC tornado data is not for whole tornadoes, but for county-segments; and there are still some incorrect county codings or other errors as documented by Doug Speheger of NWS Norman.

Where can I obtain SPC tornado data?

A variety of tornado data and plots, including several decades’ worth of tornado records in CSV (comma-separated value) files, is freely available for all on the SPC Warning- Coordination Meteorologist’s page. The SPC CSV files are called “ONETOR” because they represent whole-tornado paths instead of county segments.

Where else can I obtain climatological tornado data?

Besides the NCDC online lookup, an increasing number of local NWS offices have posted tornado stats and event descriptions for their warning jurisdictions. [Reminder: NCDC and most local data are broken down by county path segments and not whole tornadoes.] Stateby- state value-added data can also be obtained from the Tornado Project databases.

What are county-segments in NCDC tornado data?

A county-segment is that portion of a tornado’s path within a single county. If a tornado stays in one county, then a “tornado” is the same as a “segment.” But this also means that tornadoes are counted twice when they cross into another county, three times when they enter a third county, and so forth.

The reason for county-segment tornado recordkeeping is that the National Weather Service historically has verified tornado warnings by county. So when you look at NCDC tornado databases or the NWS Natural Hazard Statistics (based on Storm Data), you are not counting tornadoes, but instead county-segments of tornado tracks.

This causes inflation of the tornado totals often reported by media and others who do not notice this important distinction. Is there a listing or data set for tropical cyclone tornadoes? Yes. A data set in MS Excel format is maintained at SPC (links to Excel file and readme.txt documentation).

The data is updated yearly and may change as new or corrected information arrives. For an explanation of the tropical cyclone tornado data, the background and how it is compiled, please see this paper. Why do ratings from the original F-scale differ between SPC and others’ tornado records? Both original F-scale and the Enhanced F-scale are based on a subjective judgment of damage intensity, but the EF-scale has very specific guidelines for rating an assortment of damage targets.

By contrast, the F-scale only specified “well built homes” with all else left to guesswork. Consistency was a major problem as well, because hundreds of people rated tornadoes for Storm Data during the F-scale era. Currently and in recent decades, damage ratings for the “official” database are made by meteorologists at each local forecast office where tornadoes are reported.

Sometimes, first-hand damage surveys are done, but because of travel budget constraints, ratings often must be made from spotter, chaser and/or media accounts. In order to assign F-scales to tornadoes from before about 1978 (the year varies from state to state), NSSFC contracted with college students to cross reference the NSSFC file with newspaper articles.

When information that conflicted with Storm Data were uncovered, a judgment call was made as to what most likely occurred; and if necessary, the NSSFC information was “corrected” in the final data base. Also, several “new” tornadoes (previously unreported ones) were uncovered and added to the record.

There were enough of these changes that the NSSFC (now SPC) database sometimes has differences with Storm Data, even before accounting for the county segments of paths done at NCDC. Tom Grazulis (1993) sometimes changed the “official” tornado ratings for Tornado Project records based on his judgment of damage from historical tornado accounts in newspapers and photographs.

So, with all this interpretation going on, it is easy to see how tornado records have become inconsistent for many events.

Do countries other than the US get tornadoes? How many? How strong?

We know that tornadoes have been documented from many other nations, but we don’t have a solid record of their frequency or damage potential in most areas. Several European countries, including the United Kingdom, Romania and Finland, have begun keeping detailed tornado records in recent years, as does Canada. Tornado records even in those nations are not as detailed or comprehensive as those in the U. S., and can’t be compared directly.

Indeed, in most of the world, there is no systematic documentation of tornadoes, other than those that happen to cause great damage and death, or that are caught by chance on someone’s camera. To judge where else tornadoes are most common, we have to use a mix of actual tornado reports with heavy statistical analysis of weather records that indicate conditions favorable for them.

Such a blend of recorded and inferential study indicates that the U. S. remains tops in tornado production, with secondary tornado-prone areas including the Canadian Prairie Provinces, Bangladesh, Britain, northeastern Mexico, northern Argentina and southern Brazil, and portions of southern Russia. The Mexican maximum (northern Coahuila, east of the Serranias del Burro range) and Canadian tornado prone zones each are border-crossing extensions of U. S. conditions.

Do we know of other F5 or EF5 rated tornadoes besides those in the U. S.? Canada had its first recorded F5 tornado on 22 June 2007 near Elie, MB (documentation from Environment Canada). [As of this writing, Canada officially has not adopted the Enhanced F-Scale.] There is an old legend that my town is protected from tornadoes by the (hill, river, spirit, etc.). Is there any truth to this? No. Many towns which have not suffered a tornado strike contain well-meaning people who perpetuate these myths; but there is no basis for them besides the happenstance lack of a tornado.

Many other towns used to have such myths before they were hit, including extreme examples like Topeka KS (F5 damage, 16 killed, 1966) and Waco TX (F5 damage, 114 killed, 1953). Violent tornadoes have crossed rivers of all shapes and sizes. The deadliest tornado in US history (Tri-state Tornado of 18 March 1925, F5 damage, 695 killed) roared undeterred across the Mississippi River, as have numerous other violent tornadoes.

Almost every major river east of the Rockies has been crossed by a significant tornado, as have high elevations in the Appalachians, Rockies and Sierra Nevada. The Salt Lake City tornado of 11 August 1999 crossed a canyon–descending one side and rising up the other about halfway along its path. In 1987, a violent tornado (rated F4 by Fujita) crossed the Continental Divide in Yellowstone National Park.

What is the highest-elevation tornado? Do they happen in the mountain West?

The highest elevation a tornado has ever occurred is unknown; but it is at least 10,000 feet above sea level. On 7 July 2004, a hiker observed and photographed a tornado at 12,000 feet in Sequoia National Park, California. That probably was the highest elevation tornado observed in the U. S. On 21 July 1987, there was a violent (F4 damage) tornado in Wyoming between 8,500 and 10,000 feet in elevation, the highest altitude ever recorded for a violent tornado.

There was F3 damage from a tornado at up to 10,800 ft elevation in the Uinta Mountains of Utah on 11 August 1993. While not so lofty in elevation, the Salt Lake City tornado of 11 August 1999 produced F2 damage. On August 31, 2000, a supercell spawned a photogenic tornado in Nevada. Tornadoes are generally a lot less frequent west of the Rockies per unit area with a couple of exceptions.

One exception is the Los Angeles Basin, where weak-tornado frequency over tens of square miles is on par with that in the Great Plains. Elsewhere, there are probably more high-elevation Western tornadoes occurring than we have known about, just because many areas are so sparsely populated, and they lack the density of spotters and storm chasers as in the Plains.

Why does it seem like tornadoes avoid downtowns of major cities?

Simply, downtowns cover tiny land areas relative to the entire nation. The chance of any particular tornado hitting a major downtown is quite low–not for any meteorological reason, but simply because downtowns are small targets. Even when tornadoes hit metro areas; their odds of hitting downtown are small out of space considerations alone.

For example, downtown Dallas (inside the freeway loop) covers roughly three square miles, Dallas County, about 900 square miles. For a brief tornado in Dallas County, its odds of hitting downtown are only about 1 in 300. Still, downtown tornadoes have happened, including at least four hits on St. Louis alone. The idea of large buildings destroying or preventing a tornado is pure myth.

Even the largest skyscrapers pale in size and volume when compared to the total circulation of a big tornado from ground through thunderhead. What’s the risk of another super-outbreak like April 3-4, 1974? It’s rare; but we don’t know how rare, because an outbreak like that arguably has only happened once since any tornado records have been kept. The Dixie outbreak of 27 April 2011 is the only other roughly comparable event in the era of modern records, 1950-present.

There is no way to know if the odds of such events are one in every 50 years, 10 years or 1,000 years, since we just do not have the long climatology of reasonably accurate tornado numbers to use. So the bigger the outbreaks, the less we can reliably judge their potential to recur.

What are the chances of a tornado near my house?

The frequency that a tornado can hit any particular square mile of land is about every thousand years on average, but varies around the country. The reason this is not an exact number is because we don’t have a long and accurate enough record of tornadoes to make more certain (statistically sound) calculations.

The probability of any tornado hitting within sight of a spot (let’s say 25 nautical miles) also varies during the year and across the country. If you want detailed maps so you can judge the tornado probabilities within 25 miles of your location, Dr. Harold Brooks of NSSL has used statistical extensions of 1980-1994 tornado data (believed to be the most representative) to prepare many kinds of threat maps and animations.

What was the first tornado climatology?

John P. Finley, in the 1880s, was the first person to intensively study U. S. tornadoes and their patterns of occurrence. His pioneering volume Tornadoes (1887) discussed his effortintensive compilation of tornado records, as well as many (now outmoded) safety and meteorological notions about tornadoes.

The History of Science department at the University of Oklahoma has a full scan of this book online. NOTE: Tornado climatology information used here may come from either the SPC database or Grazulis (1993). Recommended Chaser Equipment List Vehicle – You need something up to the task that is reliable, has decent ground clearance, possible off road ability, mud tires a plus, AWD / 4WD recommended, can be serviced easily with local parts, reliable, can hold and mount your equipment the way you want it set up, decent gas mileage (if that is important to you), and can carry your chase buddies and their equipment (if you need this ability).

Also you might want a vehicle that you don’t mind getting dinged with hail. If you heavily chase it isn’t a matter of if you will encounter hail. It is a matter of WHEN you will encounter hail. Tow Rope- Even the best trail ratted vehicle can find its self getting stuck when chasing. For this reason you will need tow ropes.

Even if you do not travel on dirt roads it is still a good idea to have tow ropes in case you slide off or are forced off a paved road and into a ditch. Laptop, or suitable modified desktop and monitor that is securely mounted to avoid airbags. all equipment must avoid airbag deployment zones Laptop Stand – such as Jotto Desk.

I forget the brand I use. It seems to work…I could look it up. Ram mounts also makes similar devices. Cameras and Camcorders if you wish to document Page58 Dashcam mount – if you wish to mount and use a dashcam while you chase. Stickypod is one… Ram mounts are another. Cell phone – for calling in reports, getting help, talking to buddies, nowcasters, etc.

Gps enable phone with various features such as IPhone is even better. Some folks tether the cell phone to their notebook for internet data whereas others use a separate USB or slot aircard for data. Cell Power Booster – optional but some chasers swear you have to have this for consistent data by wireless internet Cables/connectors – for all connections such as phones, aircards, antennas. Weatherband radio / scanner – for picking up NWS Warnings.

This is somewhat optional if you have other means of getting this information (ex satellite, or cell data) but is a good redundant backup as well. Paper maps and Atlas (as primary or backup navigation) – Roads of Series are nice. Delorme also has a decent series along with their Road Atlas Internet connection – via cell, or wifi or USB wireless modem / aircard Flashlight Work Gloves- These can come in very, especially if you have to help move debris ff the road or are assisting with search and rescue in heavily damaged areas.

Hail Goggles – in case you get caught in a core of large hail you must protect your eyes Helmet – in case you have to run in the hail. (This is optional – but nice to know you have) ANSI reflective traffic vest- This is a must have if you chase at night or in areas with poor visibility. It is also highly recommended if you have a vest when chasing in high traffic areas or roads that may have a lot of curves and blind hills.

Emergency equipment / First Aid kit

– to help others and yourself. All the general stuff is good such as spare tires, fix a flat, air pump, road flares, – some people carry defibrillators for lightning strike victims, and a mouth apparatus in case of need for emergency respiration – if you are into all that. Various antennas for your scanner, and cell phone(s) Power invertor – and I also like to use a power strip with it.

Power Strip- with surge protection Rain X- Anti fog and water repel treatments are both highly suggested.

Clear plastic film and tape – in case your window gets broken and you need to repair so you can drive the vehicle and keep the rain out. Cig lighter splitter accessory – For plugging in devices for power, but you may wish to plug everything via AC into the power strip that is plugged into the invertor. Mobile Threatnet – also known as Wx Worx by Baron. This provides satellite full time radar and other products. Different service levels available. (This is another option, but is a reliable data source for radar).

Streaming video account – via Severestreaming, or ChaserTv, or Tornadovideos.net, etc Meteorological software – such as Digital Atmosphere, GR3 (by Allisonhouse/Gibson Ridge). Navigational software – such as Street Atlas GPS – used for navigation, and broadcasting your position to others, and as input to your Navigational software such as Street Atlas above. GPS Splitter software – such as GPSGate that allows you to split your gps signal to be used by multiple software applications at the same time. Paper maps/ Atlus- It is always good to have a a paper back up to your GPS device in the event something goes wrong with your laptop or stand alone GPS unit.

Internet Data Sources – They are numerous. This includes sites like the Storm Prediction Center, NWS, Weathertap, UCAR forecast models, etc. Emergency lights / Lightbars – I don’t really believe in it, but some chasers / spotters fully believe in the need for all the lights so others can avoid them when driving in low visibility conditions. Also fog lights, etc. This is a debate in the chaser community.

Full size spare tire- This is not a must have but is highly recommend, especially if you are on long distance chases. A donut is NOT a long term substitution for replacing a full sized tire. Slime (or other flat repair kits)/ Small air compressor- This can be a good quick fix if you happen to damage more than one tire and only have one spare. Most jump boxes that you can buy will also have a little air compressor in it.

If you can afford one of these I would get it as the jump box is also a good piece of equipment to carry with you (see bellow). Empty gas can- Better safe than sorry. It is always a good idea to carry a small gas can you can have filled in case you misjudge distances between gas stations. Cash- Some gas stations in rural areas may not take cards and checks.

There are also some times when you will find a station that normally can take a card but the storms in the area have brought down their card machines. Jump box/ jumper cables- For those times you forget to turn off your inverters or other car powered electronics. GMRS Radios – If you wish to convoy with other chasers or buddies then it’s good to be able to talk without using a cell phone. Spotting / Chasing – knowledge to keep you safe and to help you find the right storm and the right place on the storm.

(I know – not equipment but thought I’d throw it in). We chasers are always in classroom mode..we are always learning. Learn to fully understand storm structure, types, and behavior. Your life in the field will depend on it particularly as you become more skilled at finding that which you seek. Severe Weather Forecasting – Not equipment, but you may wish to learn to forecast severe weather for yourself. I really enjoy this aspect of chasing as it makes it a bigger puzzle to solve.

The list I have (I probably left out some things). It seems like a lot, but there are lots more details, options, choices between each. Also not all of these things are necessarily required. It based on what you desire, and are comfortable with as well as how you want to chase and possibly how close you want to get. Note: Earlier this year I chased with just my Iphone and my notebook running Delorme Street Atlas. It was successful, but a bit tough. When I started back in ’93 I only chased with a paper road map, my NOAA Weather radio, and a camera / camcorder.

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