Monday, May 25, 2015

Odd Season

Its been a pretty odd chase season. It started off incredibly slow, breaking records in fact. The gulf coast and dixie alley seemingly got skipped altogether (good, they needed a break, and chasing down there sucks anyways.)

Then an El Nino pattern developed, and May suddenly has gone bonkers, but basically in the same spot every day, unlike 2011 which was country-wide chaos. Most of this years tornadoes have been HP and difficult to see unless you were willing to give up your windshield (I paid for 2 replacements this year)

There have been a few photogenic treats mixed in, most noteable in KS on May 6th, a day that was way under-forecast. A day I unfortunately could not chase. Then you have the rainbow-nado in CO a few days later...thats a year maker for those who were there. We had Elmer on May 16th, which is my year maker...and since then, just about every day has seen more low contrast non-wall hanger HPnadoes in the same spot over and over again.

I had to return home for normal life. I envy those who have found a way to chase everything, have money, and not be bound by work. I need to achieve that in my life...some how...some way. 
I have decent flexibility, but clearly not enough yet. Im beginning to think its time to just flat out tell my company "I can't work for you in the spring anymore" and see what the response is.

Now it looks like the jet is about to make its leap to the north. What will June bring? I have no idea. I hope for at least 1 more Elmer-type day. I need at least 2 more Elmer days to consider a new DVD at the end of this year.

Perhaps I should have chased this weekend? Eh...I'm 50/50 on that. Nothing Ive seen has made me jealous...and assuming I was on those storms while I was out there, Im not sure I would have been personally satisfied. Oh sure, a nighttime wedge is awesome to see in person, but like the best structure in the world, Im not upset to miss it. Afterall, I dont get my amazing DVD shots from that. Maybe I need to lower my standards and learn to be happy with less? Or is this a defense mechanism I've created for myself because my life still wont allow me to chase everything? Whatever the reason, its saving me from the looney bin right now.

Overall though I can't complain. There haven't been many blue sky busts this year, unlike years past. Almost all the chases featured intense supercells with good structure and at least hail. 2012 and 2014 were still dismal at this point. 2013 had turned itself around in a big way at this point last year. Its not even fair to compare any recent season to 2010 or 2011...those 2 years rose the bar high when it comes to chase seasons. 
I've had a good year so far, the main struggle has been finding a way to be out there for all these marginal events that keep producing. Oh well, cheers to hopefully an awesome June for us all!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chase Dates

Me being a stat junkie + a February that refuses to let up with frigid temps + being bored at 3am during the off season = what Im about to post. 

I've wanted to do this for awhile now, I've decided to see what dates I have chased the most to see if any trends or patterns would emerge. There is obviously no scientific value in this at all, but sometimes its fun to see how things come together. I went back and plotted all my chase days during traditional chase season. Chase dates during other months are so obscure and random there really was no point in doing the entire year. 

Here is how things stacked up between 2004 and 2014. 10 years of documented storm chases. 

So there really isn't a whole lot to conclude here but a couple things did emerge.

April takes the lead with most chase dates, which surprised me. Only 2 days in that month have not featured a storm chase in 10 years, compared with a surprising 5 in May. Shear tends to be stronger in April, which prompts more "potential tornado days." There is also a lower "death ridge" potential since the summer airmass hasn't quite taken hold yet, something that can sometimes completely shut down May. It appears that in any given year, April is at least likely to give me the most chase opportunities.

May does lead the amount of repeat chase dates though. Instability tends to be higher, shear decreases and weather patterns move slower, leading to more multi day chase setups. The longest stretch being May 19-24th which also includes 3 of the months 4 3-peats. The statistical peak of tornado season is May 22nd, and it looks like my personal chase stats reflect this well. I can probably conclude that this period is in fact, when I am most likely to chase.

There has not yet been a date where I've had 4 chases on. Will 2015 break that? It seems probable.

June 5th is the only date with a star on it. Meaning that it is the only date with multiple chases that featured a tornado on each of them (2009 and 2010.) I can therefore conclude June 5th is my best chase date.

You can also see how quickly things shut down in Junes final week. So when that June 20th setup presents itself, it might just be worth biting on, despite any negative parameters. That could be it for the traditional chase year!

I also realize there aren't 31 days in June. I used the same blank calendar for each month and forgot to delete it. Seeing as how this is not a scientific study and it really has no value to anyone but myself, it is prone to laziness and personal error.

Bring on chase season 2015 already...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015 Game Plan

Ah the winter doldrums. Preperations for chase season 2015 are well underway. Its been a fairly productive winter for me in that regards. I've tackled quite a few items on my to do list. That list seems to have this magical power of being able to regenerate itself when I knock an item off though. Like how starfish can regrow a severed arm, I cross an item off and *poof* another one pops up in its place. The end of the list only exists in theory...anyways...

I often get asked what will I be doing different this year and if I've made any big upgrades etc etc etc.

The answer to that is this year will be pretty straight forward. The biggest upgrade is the creation of a new website with one of my regular chase partners. This site has some good potential, and we've got big plans for it. Its only 2 weeks old and the response has been good so far. Aerostorms will always be my "personal" brand that I identify with, but ISC will be more of a collaborative effort with greater public outreach potential.

Chasing wise, I will be adding a dash cam this year. Over the years there have been random surprise moments I wish I had captured on film. Things such as very close CG strikes, near misses with animals, drunk drivers careening off the road and smashing into a telephone pole ahead of us, and even quick spinup tornadoes that come and go so fast by the time I hit record I've already missed it.

Over the years Ive continued to develop my chase strategy, and am finding a personal preference as to where I want to be in relation to the storms and tornadoes. I am going to focus a lot on that this year, and plan to be in a similar position on all the storms if possible. This will hopefully lead to an increase in quality footage. Too many times in past years Ive sat idle too long and let storms slip away because people I am chasing with want lightning photos or shots of distant anvils. No more. There are dozens of chances to get those shots in a year...only a handful of chances for tornadoes...and while I'm at more sitting behind the tornadoes while they slip away, making for a more difficult pursuit of the next cycle (Pilger day.)

Hoping the chase-mobile survives the season. Overall it runs good, but the 9 year old vehicle with 227,000+ miles is starting to show its age and abuse. Its beginning to get a little moody and quirky. I've begun putting money away for the inevitable replacement...but I need to get at least 1 more year out of it before the purchase wont become a complete financial burden.

Hoping 2015 is a better year than 2014 obviously. Every chase knows I don't even need to explain why. Not just for tornadoes, but even structure. I've barely used my DSLR and want to get some great images.

I've cleaned up my social media presence, got my Youtube channel all updated and spiffed out. Same with twitter. I have a far greater understanding on how this stuff works than I did in previous years. I now know what kind of content people want, so Im hoping I get a chance to deliver it this year and increase my numbers/revenue. In the end that part is up to the weather. Years like 2012 and 2014 do little to help me out there.

One big new thing Im going to attempt this year is a chase-cation. Ive always been a marathoner and will continue to be one, but I've missed being out there for the long hauls, playing some really marginal days that can still pay off big, and spending time with all the awesome people out in the plains. I havent nailed down the dates yet, but Im thinking something like a May 20-June 10th unless an awesome pattern presents itself before that.

Thats about the extent of my plans. Nothing extreme, just going to continue advancing in my self driven chase career, hoping to achieve that next milestone while figuring out ways to make chasing more sustainable for me. Never give up the passion, its worth fighting for!

See you all out there!