HOW TO CHASE STORMS – For Photography & Spotting


Hank’s storm footage currently airs worldwide in productions from BBC Earth, National Geographic, The Weather Channel and many more You can also see Hank’s lightning captures in Motion pictures “The Last Witch Hunter” and Netflix original “TAU.” The Pecos Hank YouTube channel features educational and cinematic delivery of severe weather as well as frequent encounters with with wild animals and interesting people he meets. while living on the road day to day. He is going to talk about anticipating storm development & transitions for optimal viewing and I think this is going to be some optimal viewing for us. Come on up. Guys thank you so much for having me out here. The welcome has been so warm which is nice considering how cold it is. The commute, I gotta tell you, it wasn’t the smoothest. I flew up from Houston last night And I’m sitting on the plane and next to me there’s a woman and her four year old girl It was the first time she’d ever been on an airplane. And so she kind of had this look of… I’m kinda nervous and I’m excited And we were trying to say this is going to be safe and fun. and the little girl looks out the window and she says… “Wing!” And I said “Yeah, that’s a wing.” And the plane started to back up and she goes… “We’re Flying!” And her Mom goes “We’re not flying yet” And the plane started to move forward and she goes “We’re flying!” Mom said “No, we’re not flying yet” And then the plane gets o the runway and takes off and she sinks back in her seat. Her eyes are the size of small goldfish bowls And here face was teetering o the edge of astonishment and panic. Kind of like that child that’s running… And it falls and hits the ground and you don’t know if it’s gonna laugh or cry. And so you immediately go into preventative maintenance. So we’re taking off and I said “Look at all there sparkly lights!” and she starts to get a smile on one end of her face. And then her mom goes. “Look at the pretty clouds!” It’s working. She’s starting to feel good… And she’s smiling and I’m looking at this child looking out the window seeing the miracle of flight for the first time. And then her smile starts to go away. She reaches up for her head And I thing, Oh no! The change in pressure is starting to effect her. And so I go, “Can you yawn?” And she goes “What?” And I go “can you yawn?” and she goes “What?” And I go, “Go like this.” and she started SCREAMING AND CRYING and backed away from me. Her mom looked at me like, What are you doing? And then it was awkward for a couple hours after that. It doesn’t get any better… So I get to the hotel. It’s about 1AM. And I’m walking into the hotel. And I meet the really nice desk clerk at the beautiful Inn at Waters Edge. He says. “Here’s your clicker. Use this to get in the elevator. It won’t work unless you use the clicker. I said OK. He said use the same clicker to get in your room. I said OK and then walked into the elevator. I hit the button. It starts going up and I’m standing there. We get to level three and the door doesn’t open. I’m thinking Okay… SoIi hit number 3 again. I can kind of hear this whirring. I’m deaf in my right ear so I can hear sounds but I can’t place sounds. I kinda hear this whirring noise. It stops and I’m thinking okay great. I’m stuck in the elevator. So I hit the door open button. And it makes a noise. I’m thinking what do I do? So I start pulling on the door and that didn’t work at all. And I see the emergency ring button and I though… Let me go down and I’ll let them know it’s not working maybe So I hit level 1 and as I’m getting out a woman is walking in. And I said excuse me I done think the elevator is working. and she goes… Really what’s wrong? I said the door’s not opening. and she said “I just took it. It’s fine.” I said Okay. (huh, we’ll see about that!) So I go back up with her. I’m sitting there waiting. I hit 3. I made sure I used my clip. We get to the third level and the door doesn’t open. And so I turned around like “uh huh!” And I look and she’s walking out the door that’s opening behind me. I didn’t know what to say so I just said “I’ll be speaking at the weather seminar tomorrow.” I wanted to talk to you guys about anticipating storm development & transitions for optimal viewing. I’ve been chasing for over 2 decades Over the years I’ve seen some patterns and I’ve learned a few things. And I wanted to share them with you guys. And uh… Some of it might even be accurate. I’m going to take you guys on a hypothetical storm chase. It’s not one of those chases where there’s tomatoes the whole time. Theres going to be a lot of transitioning and a lot of development that we’re going to anticipate. I’ve got a mosaic of radar grabs and different storms This talk is geared more towards photographers and chasers But I think there’s going to be a lot here for spotters as well. A little bit for everybody. Maybe not for little 4 year old girls. If you’ll notice the SPC says “Perhaps supercells initially but with a rapid upscale growth into cell clusters or an MCS So what that means for us burrito aficionados is We want to get on these cells early right? For most of us, it’s probably tomatoes that got us out of bed at 2am. Made us leave our families. Driving all night long drinking truck stop what-not. Some of us lied to our bosses. Some of you bailed on your mom on Mother’s day. So it’s probably tornadoes that are getting us out. We want to see those and monitor those. So we want to get on these cells really easy and really fast. Before the cluster or get messy or become more of a linear mode. And so they’re off. We’ve got discrete cells. Remember how I said we want to be on them, but we’re way back here because We were craving a grand slam. we wanted a hot meal. We’re tired of bananas and gas station sandwiches. So this is where we’d really like to be We’ve got a well developed supercell. A hooking appendage. It’s already severe warned. They surprised us a little early, however this might work in our favor. We’ve got another cell that’s developing down here. It’s heading in our general direction and we can head it off at the pass So this might actually work in our favor. Let’s go see what that cell looks like hypothetically. So here we are underneath the base It’s still got kind of a bow-ish look to it… A heavy downdraft behind it But it’s developing nicely. We’ve got a mean storm so that’s a good thing. Let’s sit and watch it and see where it goes from here. Now we’ve got a pretty good wall cloud right? We’ve got a tail cloud here. The rain-cooled air is condensing sooner. It’s streaming up here. So we know there’s a motion of wind going up through here. We kind of see some spokes here maybe suggesting some inflow coming in up here. And right here the end of that wall cloud has a rounded edge. And up here we can see the towing cumulus towers At our back the inflow is just gushing into the storm We put all this together and we can pretty much calculate this thing is rotating. And here’s our next slide. The same storm maybe 5 or 10 minutes later. And something has happened to it that if we’re hoping to see a tornado we don’t really like. Notice the wall cloud has been kind of blasted in half. It’s no longer got that rounded nub up here. It’s almost starting to look like curtains in your house are blowing outward. This storm is being undercut by cold outflow. Our storm, I think we can anticipate it’s becoming outflow dominant. We all know an outflow dominant storm is less likely to produce a potato. We’ve got kind of a shelf cloud forming here, but notice underneath right here we do have a spin-up. This particular scenario is burrito warned right now We’ve got this rotation here and we’ve all invested a lot into seeing tomatoes We tweeted our forecasts coincidentally 45 minutes after the SPC gave their outlook. So we really want that to be a tornado so that we have something to write home But we know that is a gustnado. Even though it’s underneath the storm still. It’s an easy pick when its pushed out in front of the storm and somebody might argue They’re saying “No, i saw circulation directly above this.” You guys have seen these storms. There’s turbulence everywhere. It’s going to be really hard to not find some kind of rotation above. But in their defense. You can see how it can be an easy mistake. That dust, debris cloud has a very similar appearance. But obviously we’ve got a funnel cloud above that. That’s obviously a potato. What about this one? This is actually a tornado. There’s clear rotation co-located directly above that. So gustnadoes and tornadoes can be a little tricky to decipher. We look back at our storm now and it’s clearly an outflow dominant storm. At this point we’ve got a lot of options. Let’s look at some of those options of what we might want to do in order to, or anticipate with this storm. A lot of people go home at this point they say “Eh, I’m done.” So we’re right here. One of our options is to back up. A lot of times when you have these lines forming you back up, roll the time lapse and get these beautiful structures Of storms approaching. And it might look something like that. Notice we can see the lightning. We got a shelf cloud forming here. Or it might look something like that. I’m going to come to this monitor and give this monitor some attention. So that’s one of our options. But a lot of us have seen that so we might want to do something different. So let’s go back to our radar. Ok, we could let the storm overrun us and that could be really neat. You get up in that and its really eerie. So that’s another thing we can anticipate to see when that shelf cloud overtakes you… Is to see the “whales mouth.” Now notice that we’ve got several tornado warnings on this mosaic that I put together here. We could come up here to this QLCS or this tornado warning right there. But generally as you guys know the odds of seeing that tornado are really slim. There’s probably going to be a slim window of there even being a tornado. And that can be a wild goose chase. However if we were there, It might look something like that. They’re generally not these beautiful amazing burritos. They tend to be weaker, but not always. Another option. We could come up here. It looks like we’ve got a supercell embedded along this line. That can happen in kinks sometimes. Other times it was perhaps that other supercell that we initially wanted to be on and as the line came, the supercell was so powerful that it was able to retain its identity. So we could go up there and see that. I generally don’t mess with those unless there’s nothing else. It might look something like that. They generally for me in my cases they tend to be more high precipitation The odds of seeing a tornado in that are really slim. And it can be really dangerous as well. Maybe we’d get lucky and see something like that. Obviously I think we all know what we should do. We want to go down here to Tail-End-Charlie, the tail end of the line. That’s probably going to be a better place to see Just have more visibility and it’s the more likely place i think to see a photogenic tornado.

100 Replies to “HOW TO CHASE STORMS – For Photography & Spotting”

  1. Hank, I'm a neuroscientist who gives quite a few talks per year as a consequence of my profession. I hate giving talks. It's not in my blood. That being said, as someone who has witnessed a critical mass of talks delivered across a decade or so, I have to applaud your general casual style. I personally have little luck with the casual style when delivering presentations and data to other scientists (and I do imaging, so trust me, it is very similar caliber to the data delivered for storm chasing), but I always strive to reach the right balance/tone that you deliver here, between scientific and anthropologic. You done done did it here. Cheers for the non-PhDs trying to eke-out a living among the PhDs, slowly building our expertise over the course of decades, rather than hinging it all on a supersonic 4-7-year-stint under abusive academic advisers.

  2. Oh, the joke took me two passes to get it. Really well constructed, but wow, a difficult delivery to pull off on that tapeworm.

  3. Really really awesome as always Hank. You're a legend. Also I love your speaking style, you really had the crowd over, and as usual wonderful information.

  4. you are the king of photography! the most amazing pix of lightening I think that has ever been captured. 20 plus years has really paid off. (how much are you rally getting paid for your work?)

  5. This was a great ‘course review ‘ on the ‘curriculum ‘ of your video ‘classroom ‘.
    Digestible knowledge presented in an entertaining fashion. Thanks Hank!

  6. Pecos Hank, I'm a truck driver, have been for half a year now.

    I just got into using an app called Windy, and I'm wondering. Would you know what I can look for to avoid driving where the probability of a tornado is high?

    I've gotten very interested in this after getting hit by a 43mph sandstorm in Wyoming, and it was not pretty.

  7. I would really like to be one of the students sitting there right now. Thank you for sharing this educatinal video. Keep it up. You make absolutely ashtonishing content.

  8. Thanks for posting Hank. Still waiting to see more of your videos from this years storm fest. Be safe out there. Keep these great bits of entertainment coming.

  9. Bravo! Excellent presentation! Nice Storm chasing story format, packed with information, awesome pictures and videography. Well done!

  10. What beautiful footage of that particular storm. The cloud formations are nice and clearly defined, and the lightning is just magnificent. (Nobody photographs lightning as well as you do.) The only thing missing was background music.

  11. You are the man, Hank! Love photography, and I love weather and studying it. Can't wait until I am able to get out and learn some more, and chase one day.
    I'm stuck to my house. Doesn't matter much, I live in OK.

    You're work and music is aweosme and I aspire to do the stuff you do someday. Cheers.

  12. It's great hearing you talk about something you're so passionate about. You did one hell of a job public speaking too. Thanks for the upload Hank 🙂

  13. You're my hero of photographing Mother Nature's many moods! And you're friends with Scotty Kilmer, my hero of saving me many bucks DIY mechanic-ing my own vehicles. And I'm my hero of making up words 🤪

  14. If anyone needs a reason to watch HANK at work and has to explain him or herself to the boss when caught doing so,
    … you can show this vid and yell with passion IT'S SCIENCE!!!
    And you're golden!

  15. This video is so educational and informative for taking beautiful storm pictures or videos. Great job Hank, for providing this video for most of us who can't attend your seminar. Thank you.

  16. Hank, another great video! Is that your footage in "God's Country" by Blake Shelton? About 1 minute in, then again about 2 minutes in.

  17. Pecos – please be writing a book with your cool weather images. I'd buy it. And find a way to include that video you made about the moon…I can't remember the name right now but I love that video. I'm going to go watch it after I finish typing this message. And find a way to talk stuff in your book…hey, maybe you should just make a Blu-ray movie! I'd buy that. Just make something.

  18. Hank you’re everywhere! Congratulations!
    Thanks for the upload!!!

    And hahaha those opening stories! 😭😂😭😂😭😂 classic!

  19. Hank bro- you're a star man. How are you not all over television? I bet you could make a kickass storm chasing show. You know how to speak, you know how to chase, and you know how to entertain. Its right there man

  20. I once made the grave mistake of trying to pacify a very agitated fellow passenger on a flight from Mumbai to Kathmandu during monsoon, I said as soon as we take off it will be very smooth and you won't even notice we're flying, and 10 minutes later has he started to relax, we hit major turbulence like a mid air roller coaster and I looked at him and said "you know you can't predict monsoons" lol.

  21. I usually don't like lectures or presentations but I just could not turn away from this one. Very informative and captivating. You've graced us once again with your knowledge and awesome video footage Mr. Pecos Hank 🙂

  22. There's nothing like listening to someone enthuse about something that they are passionate about, but this is also about an amazing subject. The images are out of this world to me. I've seen some lightening before, but nothing like that. Nature is so beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed the fascinating talk. Thank you.

  23. I have a question! Have you ever seen the movie twister? If so how accurate was it based on real life facts? I’m new to your channel and find this so fascinating to watch! Your videos are the best by a wide margin!

  24. Because the acoustics aren't great in this video, I put the closed captioning on. So according to the subtitles, this video is for "burrito aficionados" and "it's probably tomatoes that got us out of bed at 2am".

  25. "And please guys, don't do this at home…"
    Me: yeah, so likely you're gonna catch a tornado at home 😀
    "… you're gonna have to wait a long long time"

    Did the audience even get it?

  26. great fan of all your videos especially the lightening ones, i’m hearing impaired and wear hearing aids this is the only video i cant watch because the audio is so bad

  27. My 6 year old son, Ashton, loves tornadoes and we happened to find your videos one day. Now, he watches them each morning before school and then draws what he remembers later on that day. Your videos are so informative and entertaining! Just wanted to share that with you 🙂

  28. I love your shots pecos hank you inspire me to get awesome shots like your’s I have one of your shots as my desktop screen saver it the one with the house and the bubble clouds with lighting my favourite shot from you.

  29. Hey Hank thank you for taking all of us along with you on this awesome journey that your living man …. your channel has shown us so much of the things that most will never observe in entire life time.

  30. You have a new fan. I have been a big fan of your channel for years. My wife hates my storm chaser videos, including yours. Last week I tried to get her to watch your AZ video. No go. She is a snake and bug person. I showed her this video. After watching this vid, she is a huge fan. She even watched the AZ vid and loved it. Keep up the great work.

  31. Oh boy, a storm chaser YouTuber is lecturing at the local SkyWarn training class! Congrats man! Hence more reasons to watch Pecos Hank than Reed Timmer lol

  32. kind of ironic how you chose to do a how to right after I started following you thinking you were different than all the rest but I guess I was wrong,. yuck. you went all kindergarten TEDx

  33. Wow! This is fantastically interesting. I love your videos because they are beautifully shot and informative. You would make a great university lecturer.

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