The hardest part about being a storm chaser is actually finding the storm that will produce a tornado. That is where the skill is, because a storm chaser will waste a lot of time, burn a lot of gas, and risk speeding tickets if he or she waits for a tornado warning to be issued by the National Weather Service.
So how does one anticipate where a tornadic storm will form? Here at KELO, it starts with morning calls between the four meteorologists. We are looking at weather data and computer models. Models are not as helpful as one would think for storm chasing, because their resolution is not fine enough, and they require parameterizations (read: educated guesses) as to where and when convective storms will fire. So we are looking at the data to try to predict where we have the best instability and forcing for initiation, and try to determine whether there is sufficient wind shear for tornadoes to form.
As we go through the midday period, we narrow our target area. Often, there are two or three potential areas for development, so there can be inter-office debates between the four of us about which direction to send Dorothy, our mobile storm tracker. Dorothy will hit the road with a general direction of movement that will be fine-tuned as the afternoon goes along, and the atmosphere organizes with the solar heating of the day.
It can be a matter of hurry up and wait, because while the location of thunderstorm development is difficult to anticipate, the time of initiation is even more difficult to predict. Last Wednesday was a good example. Our storm chasers sat around in Huron for hours, waiting as an atmospheric boundary that was invisible to the naked eye (except for some cumulus clouds) took its time to produce a storm, and then a tornado.
Another fact of storm chasing is disappointment. Statistically, more chases end up in busts than in successful location of tornadoes. But we still chase on those hot summer days, because if a dangerous storm forms, we want to provide the best possible information for our viewers.