What exactly are Sturmjaeger doing

How to become a storm chaser in Germany.

In the meantime there is already literature on how to learn to chase electricity, or in German: How to become a storm chaser. However, this literature only refers to the USA. The basic approaches are of course the same, but in Germany, in addition to completely different sources from which we obtain the necessary weather data, we also have a different road network. If you can simply drive in a square in the USA, after a certain number of miles driven, there is simply a cross street, with us you have to look closely at the jumble of streets and highways in order to choose a good route. In addition, Germany is more densely populated, so you have to skilfully bypass towns if this is possible. The next problem is the many low mountain ranges and the forest. In the USA you usually have extensive, large fields where you can easily get a clear view of the thunderstorm. So there are some fundamental differences in the approach.

A car

To properly chase thunderstorms, you need a car. There's no way around it. The car not only offers you an ever-present refuge from lightning, hail, wind and rain, but also takes you to the thunderstorms.

A team

Without a team, storm chasing is very difficult, especially as a beginner, and is also a risk, because you cannot also have a look at the weather data while driving the car, which as a beginner need a little longer to interpret. Therefore, you should definitely look for someone who would like to try it out with you. It's also really fun and Stormchasen is always a fun road trip with friends. If the thunderstorm doesn't work out on the first tour, you can still look at the area where you just landed.
So, the driver concentrates entirely on driving, the passenger will take care of finding a route to the thunderstorm and tell the driver where to go.

Mobile Internet

The most important thing of all. You need the current weather data from somewhere, you can easily get it freely available from the Internet. So you should have a large volume of data and a provider with a well-covered network so that you can get the data anywhere. Also, remember to provide a good power supply for all smartphones in the car. If you live on the border to other EU countries, it is best to get a prepaid card from the neighboring country, because thunderstorms do not have national borders.

navigation

This works best with a combination of Google Maps (Apple Maps) and an offline navigation device. This can either be installed on your smartphone (e.g. HERE Maps) or an external device. With the satellite image function of Google Maps (Apple Maps) you can see where there are free fields and you will have a clear view of the thunderstorms. With the offline navigation system you can then start the route guidance there, you want to save data volume.

A camera

In principle, a simple camera that you should be able to operate is sufficient. I personally recommend a reflex camera, of course, because you can simply use it in the automatic mode at first and then operate it like a professional later. You just work better with it than with a small handheld snap-in or smartphone. There are photo workshops here, for example, to understand the basics of the camera.

The right knowledge for storm chasers

Now you know everything you need to be a storm chaser. As you can see, it's not much and everyone has the necessary equipment! The special equipment, which you cannot avoid, is the right knowledge in your head, and you are learning that now.

The storm

Of course, everything starts with the thunderstorm. For a start it is enough to understand that a thunderstorm cell is not just some gray part of the sky from which some rain and lightning magically come out, but that it is a concrete, demarcated cloud. The following gallery shows some examples. You can see very well that the so-called thunderstorm cell is a closed object in the air. One must also regard the thunderstorm as this self-contained cloud unit that it is. That means, you can clearly say what is a thunderstorm and what is not. Every thunderstorm has this clear structure, which you will get to know over time.

I recommend that you read the following Wikipedia articles at this point, because I couldn't put it better:

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gewitter

And every thunderstorm is actually just a cumulonimbus cloud:

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumulonimbus

The wind is now driving this cumulonimbus cloud over the land like a sailing ship over the ocean. Just as such a sailing ship always has a specific route, such a thunderstorm cell also has a specific trajectory, it follows the wind in the atmosphere. That is also the reason why, as a storm chaser, you can simply catch such a thunderstorm cell by car! You just have to bring yourself with the car into exactly this fixed trajectory of the thunderstorm cell and if this then draws towards you, then you can observe and photograph the thunderstorm cell. So all a storm chaser wants is to place himself in the path of the thunderstorm cell. But first you have to know where a thunderstorm cell is currently located. Two important tools are used to do this.

The lightning detection

As the name suggests, lightning from thunderstorms is located in real time! If there is lightning anywhere in the world, it will be detected by the lightning locator. The whole thing looks like this:

As already mentioned before, you can see here again that a thunderstorm is a compact and closed cloud, because the lightning does not just come from somewhere in the sky, but exactly where the thundercloud is. Each of the points or crosses is a lightning strike on the ground. If you now look at the lightning bolts over a certain period of time, you can easily see a train path. If you look at the train track for the past few hours, you can easily infer the train track for the next few hours. So you just have to be in front of the thunderstorm cell in a place that will be in this same train path for the next few hours. Of course you have to be there in time for the thunderstorm!

Good websites with lightning location for smartphones are:

www.blitzortung.org
www.lightningmaps.org

Just go to these pages and you will see where a thunderstorm is during a day on which there is a thunderstorm. If you are traveling by car, your co-driver or you have to make sure that you are in the train path from your current location in good time, at least 15 minutes, before the thunderstorm. You see, that's the big trick. So you have to know roughly in advance where the thunderstorms will pass, more on that later.

The precipitation radar

The radar measures the precipitation that is falling to the ground in our atmosphere. Only in thunderstorms can the rain get so heavy that it reaches the upper end of the scale. Thunderstorms always put local maxima on the precipitation radar, as can be seen below:

Here you can see several concrete maxima, each of these maxima is a thunderstorm cell. If you now run the animation of the precipitation radar, you can also see how the thunderstorm cells move across the country. But beware! The latest radar images are usually 5min-10min old, you have to keep this in mind when you estimate the train path and it gets tight to reach a certain place before the thunderstorm. At the beginning you don't even need to pay attention to certain shapes, because different types of thunderstorms also look different on the precipitation radar, but that doesn't matter for the first attempts at Stormchasen. All you have to do is realize that it is a thunderstorm.

Otherwise, I would like to refer to the relevant literature on the topic for those interested:

http://www.d4n.nl/files/docs/How%20to%20read%20and%20interpret%20weather%20radar.pdf

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/Image/dmx/New_Technology.pdf

The right forecast for storm chasers

So now you know the absolute basics of how to catch a thunderstorm. Now all you have to do is know when and where thunderstorms can actually occur. There are actually weather models for this and professional storm chasers look at them to know exactly what is to come, but for you to start it is enough to know when and where and not yet what.

The months April to September are generally interesting for thunderstorms in Germany. This is the thunderstorm season. During this period you should therefore keep your eyes and ears open to see whether there may be thunderstorms. Just as the daily look at the weather models should not be missing for me during this period, you cannot avoid a daily weather report. For this purpose, I recommend that you look at www.unwetterzentrale.de or www.wetteronline.de for current forecasts on the subject of thunderstorms. There you can also see the dangers that can arise. Just take a quick look every day and you will know whether there may be a thunderstorm in your area in the near future. If so, then you should prepare to go out and let your teammates know.

During the storm chase

Now comes the last part of the introduction, the behavior during storm chases. Basic rules no. 1: Take plenty of time with you! Then you don't have to rush to drive, nor do you run the risk of missing thunderstorms because of the traffic. If Estofex now announces the target area, then you should act cleverly and cleverly go to the waiting position. For example, motorway junctions or crosses on federal highways offer a good waiting position. For example, if thunderstorms move from west to east, as they do most of the time, a motorway junction with north-south and west-east routes is a great starting point. Because you can intercept the thunderstorm on the north-south route when it approaches the autobahn from the west, but also thunder towards the east over the autobahn and get a good head start, as the drawing shows. It therefore always makes sense to act in such a way that you make good time on the motorway and then go to a location near the motorway in order to document the thunderstorm from there. You should never stray far from the motorways, because that way you can get back on them quickly and make up a lot of time. Tracking thunderstorms on country roads is only possible in less densely populated regions!

So drive to such a good starting position in good time and wait there for the first thunderstorm cells to form, patiently observe the lightning location. As soon as the first thunderstorms have formed there, estimate how fast they are moving and in which direction. You can then take a route that brings you close to the thunderstorm. Then look for a location that gives you a clear view of the thunderstorm. You can find this out with Google Maps (Apple Maps).

The danger

Thunderstorms are dangerous! Never forget that. As a beginner, in particular, you cannot assess this risk, so two rules for you to ensure that nothing happens to you:

  • During the trip to the thunderstorm, find a place of retreat, such as a gas station or an open barn, then you can wait for the thunderstorm.
  • As soon as the thunder gets loud and it starts to rain, get into the car immediately. Then you can be struck by lightning.

Take the dangers seriously. Large hail and tornadoes are also represented in Germany. Take the warnings from the weather services seriously.

Otherwise, I wish you every success! And yes, Stormchasen is try & error, even as a professional I only catch a thunderstorm in about 50% of the cases when I drive off. First stay with you in the area and practice a little.