The short of it: I hold a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and have been chasing storms in the plains since 2006.
The long of it: Growing up in Maplewood, New Jersey, its hard to become obsessed with the most extreme weather on the planet. Aside from the occasional burst of wind and clap of thunder, we don't exactly get much in the way of interesting severe weather. To understand my journey towards an obsession with weather is to start over 20 years ago (!!!) when I was in second grade. Every Friday we would get paired up with a third grader who would read us a book. The first week, the boy I was paired with came to me with a book about tornadoes. After having it read to me just once, I was hooked. Frustrating as it must've been for him, I made sure he came with that same book every week thereafter. A curiosity was sparked that has not faded to this day.
Nearly ten years later I convinced my dad to take me storm chasing with a tour group called Silver Lining Tours after seeing a TV show about the tour leader, Roger Hill. My dad was initially skeptical, but we signed up and were ready to take the plunge. Being from NJ, we knew nothing about severe weather much less had the ability to chase it ourselves. The night before we were set to fly out to meet up with the tour in Denver, a video came to our attention that had been filmed by Roger the night before. We watched on our computer as the tour vans intercepted a vicious hailstorm in Montana that blew out all the windows in their caravan and left the passengers with large bruises. My parents, terrified, approached me to ask me what I thought of the video. They very much hoped I'd be scared straight to the point of wanting to cancel the trip. Much to their dismay, my enthusiasm was unwavering; I needed to experience Mother Nature at her fiercest. That first trip was in 2006 and was unforgettable even in a very forgettable year for storms. Looking back now with far more experience in my pocket, we didn't see anything particularly incredible that week. But it was more than enough to get both my father and I hooked for life. Since 2006, we've been out chasing every year save for 2018 when I was writing my Ph.D. dissertation. At the time of this writing, we are planning to head out next week to chase with fellow H&H chasers Travis and John. Since I started chasing, I've seen a host of significant tornado events, including the 2011 Joplin EF5 and the 2013 El Reno EF3 (El Reno was an EF5), amongst many others. I am also something of an amateur weather historian and collector, collecting a multitude of rare meteorological books and documents. I will write about these on occasion, and am most proud of my John Park Finley and Theodore Fujita collections.
While my passion in weather is undoubtedly tornadoes, it isn't quite where my formal expertise lies. As a byproduct of falling in love with chasing, I was fortunate enough to pursue and complete a B.Sc in Meteorology from the University of Miami in 2014 and a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2018. My Ph.D. research focused on using numerical weather prediction models to characterize the predictability of extreme large-scale weather events. Most specifically, I used NASA's GEOS-5 model to examine the dynamics and evolution of rapidly intensifying northeastern US winter storm events. A copy of my dissertation can be found here.
To me, the atmosphere around us is about the most fascinating thing there is. It never fails to perplex, confound and humble us, even when we think we have the smallest shred of understanding. It is this that leads me to continue to head out to the plains each year in hopes that I'll get to take in Mother Nature's most explosive scenery. I'll do it until the day I die.
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