Storm Chasers are not Adrenaline Junkies

Storm Chasers Brian and Tam Barnes with Tornado

Storm chasers are many things, ranging from meteorologists to photographers. Others chase for the mere curiosity of validating their own forecasts. Some are tourists on storm chasing tours. But all often earn the title of “Adrenaline Junkie” in the media.

The term “Adrenaline Junkie” is a colloquialism describing someone who has an addiction to a natural high from adrenaline.  Studies have shown that adrenaline can be just as addictive as synthetic drugs, such as narcotics like cocaine. And addicts of adrenaline behave similarly to addicts of such synthetic drugs.

Adrenaline junkies participate in activities that stimulate the adrenaline glands. The glands are responsible for a broad sense of hormones that cause Acute Stress Response. This is also known as the “fight-or-flight response,” first identified in 1929 by Walter Cannon.

The Risks Associated with Storm Chasing

Lightning is a risk when storm chasing

Storm chasing is the pursuit of severe storms, regardless of motive. A chase can be as simple as following a storm near the town a storm chaser resides in. Or, it can be as complex as driving across several states. Like most activities, storm chasing includes associated risks. Mitigation of such risks will increase overall safety through knowledge, preparation, and making good decisions. Is Storm Chasing Dangerous? The honest and simple answer is yes, storm chasing is dangerous. It involves a lot of driving, and whether storm chasing or not, driving is often dangerous. Traffic-related fatalities make up for the largest number of storm chaser deaths while storm chasing. Storm chasing began in the late 1950s when David Hoadley started pursuing storms in North Dakota for photography. Chasing gained in popularity throughout the 1970s and 80s as research into severe storms began to grow. About 50-years after storm chasing began, chaser Jeff Wear lost his …Read more »

Why Do Storm Chasers Chase Tornadoes?

simla colorado tornado

Storm chasers have their individual reasons why they began chasing storms. Most have had a life-long interest in severe weather. All share a commonality, a passion for storm chasing. Storm chasing is the pursuit of severe weather regardless of motive. Some people stereotype storm chasers as being “adrenaline junkies” who only chase storms to get a natural high. While that might be true for a small number of storm chasers, nothing could be further from the truth for most storm chasers. In fact, I’ll bet those who say such things couldn’t name five storm chasers. Further, those they can name are likely all former reality television subjects. Storms capture the imagination. Their structures and processes, while potentially destructive at times are some of nature’s most awe-inspiring beauty. While some people view anything that is potentially destructive as negative, others with positive attitudes realize that storms are natural scientific processes that will happen regardless. There is …Read more »

Importance of Ham Radio in Storm Chasing


On Memorial Day in 2007, a violent tornado happened in southeastern Colorado. Our storm chasing tour group witnessed the tornado from birth to its death. But, something else interesting also happened. The local cellular tower was damaged in the resulting hail storm. I attempted to call the NWS office in Pueblo to inform them a tornado was in fact occurring, but couldn’t. Thankfully, I never actually rely on my cell phone as a reliable form of communication. I’m an amateur radio operator and always have a ham radio in my chase vehicle for situations just like this. While most NWS Warning Forecast Office locations also have a ham radio, I wasn’t entirely sure of local repeater frequencies. And, we were pretty far from Pueblo. So, even if there was a local repeater, I wasn’t sure if it’d be able to handle the distance. I did the next best thing, I called the police and I …Read more »

The Definitive Storm Chasing Bible

Storm Chasing Handbook

You probably came to because severe weather fascinates you and captures your imagination. There is a strong chance that you’re looking for information about chasing storms. If so, you’re in luck because we have it! But, there is one offline resource you should definitely read, the Storm Chasing Handbook by Tim Vasquez. The Storm Chasing Handbook by Tim Vasquez has been an invaluable resource to thousands of storm chasers over the past 20-years. This book is of great value to seasoned storm chasers and newcomers alike. Newcomers will enjoy learning about severe weather forecasting. Seasoned chasers will enjoy the “Tornado Alley Travel Guide” section to discover good places to eat and things to do on severe clear days when there are no storms. Storm chasing is a lot more than just “chasing storms”, for many it is a way of life. Just as people who ride Harley Davidson motorcycles consider it a lifestyle (it’s …Read more »