Amateur Storm Chaser? How Exactly Does One “Turn Pro” in Iowa?
While the dead of winter doesn't exactly elicit the thought of chasing storms since in the winter they sort of chase us, maybe you're not thinking tornadoes. Understandable for sure. But if you're excited for the day when you can again see low-hanging wall clouds and see storm warnings crawl on the bottom of your TV for hours, it may be time to consider becoming an Iowa storm chaser.
Amateur storm chaser vs. "pro" storm chasers
Okay so for starters, there's no "Major Leagues" for chasing storms. There are amateurs who do it for fun/interest. And there are those who can make money off of it. Before I jump into how to profit off Mother Nature's cruel creations, let's start with defining what exactly is a storm chaser. The website Oklahoma Shelters defines one as,
A storm chaser is anyone who goes after a tornado or hurricane, collecting various data, including photos and videos, recording numbers, wind speeds, and more.
So with that in mind, it seems there has to be a way to turn this into a job, right Obviously an amateur storm chaser does it for fun/recreation or to make YouTube videos, while a "pro" would be employed by a larger entity. While being a pro may not be a full-time job, it's a chance to make money and do something you enjoy non the less.
How to become a professional storm chaser
The job website Blues Explosion points out a professional storm chaser is responsible for collecting data on winds and storms. This information is used after the storm ends to determine, among other things, the power of a tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. They also help determine weather patterns. Quite often meteorologists, like the ones we see on the nightly news, are storm chasers in their spare time.
Another venue where you might find work as a professional storm chaser: colleges. Iowa State University, for example, has employed storm chasers. There is also money to be made in freelancing. Think photos, videos, etc. I mentioned YouTube earlier, if you gather good enough footage, that's a great place to make some cash storm chasing.
You will need some weather-cation too. Because storm chasing is under the meteorology umbrella, be prepared to take classes. Or, a degree in meteorology or atmospheric science would certainly be a boon as well. You'll need to be tech-savvy, and will want to be sure you have dependable transportation.
If you're deadset on doing storm chasing as a profession, you should first check out the National Weather Services SKYWARN program.