25th March 2014
So I’m now an official Storm Spotter
Yep, gonna get a certificate and everything!
I found out that the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma was running a couple of online classes, both basic and advanced.  I signed up to both of them.
Even though there were some sound issues, I really learned a lot about spotting tornadoes.  Things like where to look on a cloud and some of the science behind updraft and downdraft.
Spotters are incredibly important to the warning process.  If you think of radar and the curvature of the Earth, you can probably understand why radar will only measures what’s going on above the tornado.  That’s helpful and vital, but there’s this phrase used in the storm spotting community called “ground truth”.
I think they call it spotting rather than chasing to make it sound a little more respectable to the wider general public.  Spotters look for storms and report back vital details that get used in this weird collaboration between spotters, government and media.  Chasers are seen as people who are doing 90mph taking pictures out their windows.  In reality, they are one and the same, with the complaints about chasers based largely on stereotype and a little unfair.  Being a spotter kinda legitimises your chasing in some ways and all it means is reporting the “ground truth”.
I figured if I was going to chase, I didn’t just want to be a tourist in a bus, I really wanted to get involved, understand the science, become compitant enough that I could eventually chase on my own one day.  I reckon I will have a better time being fully immersed in it.
The course meant staying up until about 3am, but I’d arranged that with work and with the leg at the moment, I’m not exactly sleeping anyway.
I can now legitimately go out chasing, and call in reports as a storm spotter.  How cool is that?  Of course, can’t tell anyone other than my work colleagues about this.  You have no idea how much I want to tell people.  Oh well,  you’ll all find out in good time.
I have the advanced course next week and I’m really looking forward to it!