So I get asked a lot about storm chasing. How do I find storms? How do I know what storm to pick? What do I look for when I find a storm? Well I’ll try to answer these the best I can.
PLEASE NOTE: I am by no means an expert on this. These are simply my tips and tricks. Storm chasing is dangerous and should not be tried without proper knowledge and experience.
How do I find storms?:
This question is somewhat complex. There are many different ways to forecast storms. We live in a digital age and the amount of model data available to us for free is amazing. One of my go-to sites is Pivotal Weather: www.pivotalweather.com/
This site is amazing in the fact that you can look at pretty much any model, anytime, anywhere. I use this site a lot when chasing. I usually will use long range models such as the GFS to see about certain weather events a week or so out. I look for consistency. If the model shows the same thing (or nearly the same thing) through several runs, then I usually trust it. However, when the time comes closer for the weather event I like to use the NAM. The NAM is good for about a day or two out from the weather event. Once you hit the 24hr mark before the event I like to use the HRRR. The HRRR is a high-definition model that only goes out about 24hrs. This can be used to see where certain storms might be later on in the day. It’s good for getting into position early. However, as with any other model, I only trust it if the different model runs agree with each other.
Another site I like to use is the SPC’s (Storm Prediction Center) website. I usually use their Convective Outlook. This helps me get a general idea of where and when to look for things when using the models.
SPC Convective Outlook:
How do I know what storm to pick?:
This is a simple question with a complex answer. Once storms go up (usually 3-4pm) you don’t have too much time to decide which one to pick. I like to sit between two storms (if possible) and let them mature. One thing I look for is which storm is further south. A lot of times if you have another storm south of the storm you are on, then it will choke the more the northern storm and kill much of the tornado potential. Another thing I look for is a hookecho. This is a sign that storm has rotation. This DOES NOT mean it will produce a tornado. Not all storms have hookechos. Some storms that produce tornadoes look like blobs of differebt colors on the radar.
Example of a hookecho:
What do I look for when I find a storm?:
The first thing I look for is how high the updraft-base of the storm is. If the storm base is high, then you usually will not get a tornado. A high base usually means the storm is elevated and has lost a lot of tornado potential.
Example of a high-based storm:
A lower base is usually a good sign for tornado formation. This means that there isn’t a low-level cap (or it is weak and storm was able to punch through).
The next thing I look for is a lowering on the base of the storm. This could be a “horseshoe” or a wallcloud. A “horseshoe” is good sign the storm has the potential to produce a tornado.
Example of a “Horseshoe”:
If there is no visible “horseshoe” I look for a wallcloud. This, again, does not mean there will be a tornado, but it does mean the ingredients are there for one.
Example of a Wallcloud:
After I see one of those two, I look for a funnel, or ground rotation. Sometimes you can get a funnel, but other times the tornado is less obvious. Persistent ground circulation under a rotating wallcloud is a tornado. Just because there is no condensation funnel doesn’t mean there isn’t a tornado.
Example of Ground-Circulation under a rotating Wallcloud:
Other times I look for a fully condensed tornado.
Example of a Fully Condensed Tornado (this was a screengrab from my video of a tornado last year near Dimmit, TX at night):
Well guys/gals, I hope this answered at least some questions! If you have any other questions just ask in the comments or send me a note!
Thanks for reading!