We all know about the adventures of storm chasers Reed Timmer, Sean Casey and late Tim Samaras, for their appearance in the Discovery Channels series Storm Chasers back in the early 2010s.
The series, which was aired internationally, allowed ‘regular folks’ to follow the three teams on the hunt for one of Earth’s deadliest weather phenomenas – a tornado.
In parallel to those famous storm chasers, there are many other Americans who travel to the plains each year in order to spot tornados. However, since I’m from Europe and have been connected to weather communities for years, I’ve known that yes, there are storm chasers outside of the United States. While this already answers the question, I’m going to dive deeper in this article. For each continent, I’ll take a look at storm chaser culture, to find out what things look there. While this answers the primary question posed above, it’ll also give you insight in what storm chasing is done in other parts of the world. Let’s go!
The thrill of storm chasing: it’s not only the tornado
The Storm Chasers series was all about finding tornados:
- Dr. Josh Wurman and his colleagues studied supercells for tornadic activity.
- Sean Casey attempted to shoot IMAX imagery from within a tornado.
- Reed Timmer chased storms for his TornadoVideos website, and eventually mimiced Sean Casey’s attempts to drive into a tornado.
- Tim Samaras, engineer-turned-chaser, deployed probes in front of approaching tornados, in order to measure weather conditions and shoot footage from within tornados.
Wurman and Samaras both took scientific and engineering approaches to storm chasing, while Casey and Timmer were a bit more adventurous – in the sense that they were primarily there for the thrill, beyond advancing meteorology per se.
Now, my intent is not to spin an argument about who performed what kind of chasing – but rather to illustrate that all of them chased tornados during peak season.
Which makes perfect sense, and from Brantley Hargrove’s The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras (Amazon affiliate link), I know that Tim Samaras also enjoyed lightning chasing when annual seasonal activity turned away from tornadogenesis.
However, we know that Tornado Alley is the perfect place for tornados to form due to meteorological circumstances. We don’t have many places on Earth where circumstances are like the ones out there. However, we do have storm chasers elsewhere, as we shall see.
In Europe, for example, storm chasing activities are not primarily deployed to see tornados. What’s more, storm chasers out there are not on the road for many weeks in a row. Rather, when severe thunderstorms tend to strike, chasers get out there – get some paid or even unpaid leave of absence – drive towards the storm – and capture great footage. Often, in say 90 or even 95 of the cases, they come back with footage that is not related to tornadic activity. But sometimes, they get a hit!
Storm chasers outside the US
Let’s now take a look at whether there are storm chasers and storm chasing communities outside the United States.
Europe has many active stormchaser communities, but they are often bound to their regions of interest – often, single countries, or countries where people speak the same language.
For example, in the Netherlands, there is the Bliksemdetectie.nl network of storm chasers. This network is a group of thunderstorm enthusiasts who are on high alert when severe weather strikes. While taking occasional storm chasing tours to northern France and mid Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium are often main chase territory.
Belgium and the Netherlands also have the Belgian and Dutch Stormchasers Association, where many chasers are active.
In France, too, storm chasers are active, and that’s the same for other parts of the continent. One of the most widely known European storm chasers is Jonas Piontek, who has also visited Venezuela and more precisely Lake Maracaibo, which is one of the thunderstorm hotspots on Earth.
Australia and New Zealand
Australia is a country with a sheer size – and while very dry at some places, with thunderstorms being very unlikely, it provides favorable conditions for storm formation in many places: hot, humid air meets triggers which allow thunderstorms to form.
Where thunderstorms go, people become interested in finding out how they work – and start chasing them.
Daniel Shaw from Sydney is one of them. On his website Severe Storms, he makes available reports from his storm chasing activities in and around the Sydney area.
Another storm chasing group is the Aussie Storm Chasers, who perform storm chases around Australia but also within the United States – which is the holy grail for storm chasing, after all.
While not chasing thunderstorms, Australia also has the OZ Cyclone Chasers, who, as the name suggests, chase tropical cyclones that hit the country.
New Zealand also sees storm chasers, but it seems that the number of communities is less dense than within Australia: the NZ Stormchasers is the only community that we could find online.
On the African continent, storm chasers are also active. However, they seem to be primarily active within South Africa. For example, the Storm Chasers – South Africa is a big storm chasing community in the country. Another group of chasers is the Storm Chasers Diaries & Chronicles South Africa group.
South America sees many severe thunderstorms. For example, within meteorological communities, the so-called Catatumbo Lightning is one of the most widely known lightning phenomena – as it’s incredibly intense and very frequent.
Here’s a brief fragment about the lightning activity picturing Jonas Piontek, a German storm chaser who we in fact mentioned above when covering storm chasers in Europe:
While not much is known about storm chasing groups on the South American continent, it seems to be the case that indeed – there are storm chasers active there. What’s more, Reed Timmer – from Storm Chasers – has chased in Argentina before:
Similarly to South America, we could not find much information about storm chasers and storm chasing teams in Asia. Much seems to be in a startup stage there with respect to storm chasing, because they do have weather phenomena that would validate the deployment of storm chasing teams.
In this blog article, we have seen that storm chasing does not only happen in the United States! While in the US, conditions are very favorable for the formation of severe thunderstorms that can – and some of which are likely – to produce tornados, those conditions are less prevalent in many other countries of the world.
However, we have seen that in those countries, many people are interested in severe weather as well – and given the lack of tornados primarily in lightning and other thunderstorm activity, combined with tropical cyclone chasing.
For this reason, we have found that Europe especially has many storm chasing teams, but scattered across the European countries. Within Australia and New Zealand, some teams are active as well. In Africa, we see storm chasing primarily happen in South Africa. In Asia and South America, storm chasing seems to be less organized, but in the starting position.
I hope you’ve learnt something from this article. For me, it was really nice to see that the world has so many communities filled with people as interested in weather as I am. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a message below. Please do the same when you have additional storm chaser teams that could be added to this list. Regardless of this, thank you for reading MisterWeather today and enjoy the weather! ☀