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VT Geography Undergraduate Research
Field Methods in Convective Forecasting: The Great Plains Storm Chase
**Note: Space is extremely limited. Students enrolling in the Field Methods course for Undergraduate Research credit have priority reservation. Others interested in the chase but NOT taking it for credit will fill any remaining spaces. If you would like to join the storm chase but do not plan to take it for credit, contact me as soon as possible for information on reserving a space. Contact me via e-mail if you have any questions. Students who plan to take the course for credit should also contact me as soon as possible for further information.**
Dave Carroll: firstname.lastname@example.org
The idea for adding a storm-chasing segment to Applied Meteorology is a natural one: to actually use some of the forecasting tools we have studied in a real-life, time-intensive field course. We will combine technology with classic field work and observation to track severe weather on the road. Without a doubt you will finish the chase trip with a much deeper understanding and appreciation of severe convective storms.
A special note:
Forget what you have seen at the box-office and on television movies: real life chasing requires a great deal of skill (& luck) in forecasting, a great deal of time spent logging mile after mile on the road, and a sustained effort in locating your team in a favorable (safe) position relative to a storm. It is important for each chaser to understand that there is a good chance that we will NOT see a tornado. However, there is an excellent chance for witnessing severe convection (and supercell thunderstorms) in the Great Plains environment. Before committing to the storm chase trip, you must ask yourself two questions:
1) Are you prepared to ride in a vehicle for very long periods of time, for days on end, without seeing any storms? (and if so, can you be civil to those who share your vehicle?)
2) Do severe storms frighten you? If so, this is most definitely NOT the trip for you, and don't undertake this trip for therapeutic reasons!
Are you a good candidate for a storm chase?
Storm chasing requires a great degree of patience and persistence, with long hours of riding in vehicles. You must be flexible with a daily routine: chasing exerts a toll on team members, and you must be adaptable to the conditions of the day. You may have to be satisfied with a sandwich or chips on the road instead of the 72 oz. steak at the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo! The storms dictate our schedule while we are out there, and every team member must "go with the flow" on the road.
Please note: this trip is NOT appropriate for those with a casual interest in severe thunderstorms and tornadoes! Only those with an intense interest in the subject should enroll.
Risks associated with the storm chase:
There are certain risks inherent to storm chasing, and each student must be aware of these risks and agree to release the Department of Geography, Virginia Tech, and the instructors of any liability. Participants will be required to sign a release of liability statement prior to departure. Travelling long distances on highways is perhaps the greatest risk involved on the storm chase. However, when intercepting severe storms, rapidly developing tornadoes, high winds, and large hail capable of damaging vehicles and causing injury to those in the open are sometimes encountered. Flash-flooding and driving on wet roadways can also prove to be hazardous. Lightning is perhaps the greatest storm-related threat while chasing, and the lightning threat is constantly evaluated by the chase team leaders BEFORE anyone is permitted out of the vehicles. Safety is the primary concern, and decisions in near-storm environments are made with safety in mind before anything else. We strive to be observers and NOT participants in severe weather events!
Activity Cost (not including tuition):
A $100.00 deposit is required to reserve a place on the chase. This deposit is non-refundable unless another chaser is found as a replacement.
This includes ALL lodging and travel expenses, as well as breakfasts and lunches each day. Each van has a cooler packed with lunch items, drinks, snacks, etc., and team members can chow on these items at any time. Dinner costs are left up to each individual chaser, as many times this meal is often eaten on the road, or after arriving at our lodging for the night (which can be rather late). Some chasers elect to eat from the vans at dinner as well, cutting costs even further. It is recommended that chasers bring an additional $50 - $100 for dinner costs, snacks on the road, souvenirs, etc.
Storm chasing is not cheap. However, by combining expenses among team members, we are able to offer the chase at a fraction of the cost compared to most storm chasing tours (a comparable trip could run $3000 - $4000...NOT including transportation costs to and from the Plains, and even most food costs).
May 17- June 2 (we usually leave the day after graduation).
Each chase vehicle will be outfitted with:
Courses Prior to the Storm Chase: (not required, but recommended)*
*if you have not taken either course and are seriously interested in going, contact the instructor Dave Carroll at email@example.com.
T-Shirts & Videos/DVD's:
How to Register:
The storm chase will be open to qualified chasers on a first-come first-served basis. To reserve a spot, you will need to:
1) Print and complete the small application form (find it here) .
2) Attach a $100.00 check for your deposit
3) Get it in the mail soon, as spaces are very limited. WE ARE ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS NOW!
4) If you wish to take the storm chase course for credit, please indicate this on your application form
5) Please make sure that you have both the time and the money for the stormchase before you sign up!
If you have any questions pertaining to the chase, please contact the instructor, Dave Carroll: firstname.lastname@example.org