Virginia Tech Field Studies Course

Virginia Tech Field Studies Course


Storm Chasing and Tacit Knowledge

I've been an amateur storm chaser and Skywarn Storm Spotter for nearly a decade and I've learned a lot about the different motives and methods of this sub-culture. Many people chase because they're curious about storms or are fascinated by the skies. Others chase because they hope that their research helps us understand more about tornadoes and therefore how to protect people from their destructive winds. I chase for a whole host of reasons--passion for storms, interest in the people, and love of the Plains. 

My research on storm chasing focuses on tacit learning of novice meteorologists and the different risks people associate with this pursuit.  To conduct my research, I've joined the Virginia Tech field studies course over three different summers. Several research questions have developed for me over the years, though the ones below are most pressing to me at this time.

  • How do experienced storm chasers in an educational setting pass on their tacit knowledge to novice forecasters?
  • How do different chasers conceptualize and talk about risk? What does this risk say about this culture?
  • What ought to be the protocols for training new chasers? Who's responsibility is it to teach chasers about responsible behavior on the roads and safety in the face of storms?

This past summer, we were part of the chase group out in the field during the Oklahoma City tornadoes, which killed citizens and destroyed homes, and the El Reno tornado, which killed three prominent storm chasers. My research hopes to address some of the issues raised during these events.