WX-CHASE: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Roger Edwards

DISCLAIMER: This essay was written on my own time and equipment, and is displayed here in my private account. Opinions contained in this essay are solely the author's, and may not reflect those of my employers or any other organization or individuals in particular.

For latest updates (up to April 2003) scroll to bottom. Links updated thru December 2003.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION, BACKGROUND

THE GOOD

THE BAD

THE UGLY

SUMMARY

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

This web essay is written for subscribers to WX-CHASE, a LISTSERV-based e-mail server operated since 1994 by Chris Novy for the purpose of distributing e-mail posts related to severe storm intercepts and forecasting. [Before that, discussions on "storm chasing" were part of a LISTSERV called WX-TALK, which is a more general weather discussion group still in operation.] When WX-CHASE was calved off WX-TALK, there was a core group of perhaps 50 "charter subscribers," mostly professional meteorologists and non-meteorologist "hard-core" storm enthusiasts. These people had many years of storm intercept and/or forecasting experience and a wealth of variegated knowledge and information to contribute. It was a rather close-knit list, but public, and therefore open to others who could sign up and "learn the ropes."

With the release of Twister and attendant publicity, the ranks of WX-CHASE swelled, so that over 800 people were subscribed as of March 1999. The list now includes many people who have never done storm observing, as well as a tiny remaining minority of the experienced folks who formed the original core. [More on the abandonment of WX-CHASE by experienced storm observers later...] There are TV and radio media people, most affiliated with weather in some way, as well as HAMS, amateur weather observers and people from all vocations who share a common interest in watching violent weather. The ranks of subscribers even includes a sinister Big Brother element: several NOAA bureaucrats who monitor the posts of NWS employees for comments they perceive to be inappropriate, and forward such posts (even when made on personal time and equipment) to the employees' supervisors. Apparently these pinheads lack something better to do with your tax dollars!

[The protocol for WX-CHASE is clearly outlined in NETiquette for WX-lists.]

As the list expanded beyond people who generally knew each other, the amount of irrelevant and frivolous posts, badly written junk and flame wars increased -- exactly the stuff I cite in the "bad" and "ugly" sections below. Many of the long-time storm experts were turned off by it, and have abandoned WX-CHASE largely because they have better things to do than hit the DELETE key 40 times a day -- things like learning more about severe weather themselves). If you want some insight into why many experts have gone off into private e-mail circles, and why I only marginally follow WX-CHASE anymore, take 20 minutes and read on.

Don't get me wrong; there are still a few of the "charter members" around; and there have been some fine additions to WX-CHASE in the post-Twister era. The latter group includes, but is not limited to, renowned storm observing pioneers like Tim Marshall, Jim Leonard, Sam Barricklow and Gene Moore, as well as "newbie chasers" with a level head and an intense desire to learn (e.g., Mike Umscheid, Shannon Key, Steve Miller and RJ Evans, to name just a few). Folks like them are keeping WX-CHASE from becoming a complete waste of time.


THE GOOD

First, the good news. Despite all the deterioration in civility and intelligence in WX-CHASE as a whole, as illustrated later, there have been and will continue to be some great contributions made. Unlike many of my peers, I haven't given up on WX-CHASE, and here are some examples of why.

Concise but informative forecast discussions with reasoning and (if appropriate) relevant links. This post by Sam Barricklow is a fine example:

    Briefly looked at the NSSL MM5 and the NCAR ETA.  Surface parameters
    look powerful.  However, the upper level trof currently has a positive
    tilt.  See:
    
    http://wxp.atms.purdue.edu/satellite/sat_wv_hem.html
    
    Apparently, the upper trof will again assume a negative tilt this
    afternoon as the jet max rotates under the base of the trof.
    The MM5 has a disconnect between 21 and 24 hour "Tornado Potential"
    forecast.  The "favored area" takes a jump to the west from the 21 to 24
    hour panel.
    
    After looking at MM5 forecast upper level winds, my internal pattern
    recognition algorithm suggests that NE Texas (from Cleburne to
    Texarkana), extreme eastern and southeastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas
    and the majority of Missouri should be the most likely areas for
    tornadoes today.  But if today is similar to yesterday, the system may
    evolve more slowly than expected and significant activity may develop
    farther westward than I currently expect.
    
    With the forecast close proximity to DFW of northerly winds, it may be a
    race to develop and mature supercells ahead of an advancing front
    before they are overtaken by the associated squall line.  If this is the
    case, and I can get away from work in time, today may be an I-30 chase
    to NE Texas.
    
    Anyone have a better interpretation of the 21 and 24 hour MM5 disconnect
    mentioned above?
    

Educational discussion on storm structure and morphology. This sort of thing benefits all who are trying to understand and forecast severe weather, whether as a hobby or for a living (post by Al Pietrycha):

    Don Lloyd posted:
    
    ...many good points deleted...
    
    >at the apex of these *fronts*. As boundaries, they help perpetuate the
    >updraft. Along the FFD, there is a strong baroclinic zone (cold air
    >sinking on the cool side, warm air rising on the warm side) which adds
    >vorticity (spin) to the inflow and may contribute to low-level rotation
    >in the updraft.
    
    During VORTEX/subVORTEX it has been found that the surface
    baroclinic zone along the forward flank (FF) is not always particularly
    strong in supercells.  In some cases no temperature gradient at all existed
    across the zone.  This is not really too surprising, given the wide range
    of wet bulb temperatures that exist in the boundary layer, i.e., warm/dry
    (larger amount of evaporative cooling), or warm/moist(very little
    evaporative cooling).  Also, the FF baroclinic zone should not actually
    be thought of as being in a steady state during a storm's lifecycle
    since temperature perturbations do exist, which in turn can alter
    the production of stream wise vorticity along the FF.
    
    

Handy tips and info useful to at least a substantial minority of subscribers. This includes information and reviews of common storm intercept gear (cameras, camcorders, cell phones, laptops, radios, tripods and such), as long as it doesn't become limited to some very obscure subset of gear which most people don't and won't use. Here is good example of such a post, contributed by Paula Bailey:

    PCS phones, being basically tiny and meant more for city use, generally
    don't have jacks.  I've also never seen a PCS "bag phone", and I'd be
    concerned on the coverage in many of the prime chasing areas (question to
    the WX-CHASE folks on this--has anyone ever actually TAKEN a PCS phone on
    a storm chase in rural areas?  If so, what's the coverage vis-a-vis
    regular cell phones?  I'd expect smaller).
    
    Your best bets, I'd think, are probably the following:
    
    a) A regular cellular modem.  These beasts do exist, but as was
       forewarned, you won't get better than 9600 bps, likely.  Also,
       if you get out of the coverage areas or get into an area with some
       heavy radio congestion you might have troubles.  (You should hear
       some of the sales-booth folks in the trailers at NASCAR races curse
       cell modems sometimes. :)  They use them for credit card transactions,
       and with 50+ cellular modems operating at once there is some radio
       congestion and bad connections and whatnot.)
    b) Find a PCS or regular cell phone with a phone jack, and use it.
       (Normal cell, you won't get over 9600 bps usually; as noted above,
       I've never seen a PCS phone with a jack in it.  If the beasts exist,
       you should get pretty good results, I'd figure.)
    c) Check about to see if PCS modems are being made yet.  (I will be
       just a bit surprised if they don't eventually make them.  As noted,
       cell phone modems exist, and PCS modems would have higher quality of
       transmission and whatnot.)  This would be your best option if they
       exist yet.
    d) If you can afford it, consider one of the satellite services,
       especially if you're just downloading info.  Most of the computer
       "internet by satellite" deals use those little DSS dishes, and
       one can find more info on these at pages related to trucking and
       RV's on the web (these services are somewhat popular for truckers
       and for folks doing fulltime RVing, especially since a lot of trucks
       and RV's have DSS dishes anyways).  There are portable dishes also
       available that can clip on for ~$99 in RVing magazines...most of the
       services are functionally on ISDN or better, and prices for the
       service itself vary so it pays to shop about.
    

Other good examples include any number of posts in the past couple years by Sam Barricklow, containing web URLs for handy websites for storm intercept and/or equipment info. Also very useful: any news about areas of road construction or detours in chase land during spring and early summer. Bill Gross did a great job of both:

    The Texas Highway Department, (ok this time around it's TexDot)
    maintains a web site with road info.  It's
    http://www.dot.state.tx.us
    for a listing of road closures either due to weather or construction.
    You can also get a weather update on selected cities in the site from
    that site.
    

Posting brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) storm intercept summaries, and/or links to more detailed trip reports. Others who were on the same storm -- and even many who were not, can benefit from a carefully constructed, concise summary of a day's storm intercept strategy and observations. But please recount only the most informative or interesting parts and leave out irrelevant minutae like: "...and we stopped at the AmeriPride off I-90 near exit 204 to pee and get a Coke...").

Insightful and/or thought-provoking discussions not directly about storm observing but at least about severe weather issues of general interest to chasers. There actually have been many examples, and here I will cite just a few. For starters, take almost anything by Chuck Doswell, who is thought-provoking by nature. Here was one of his replies after the FL outbreak of 22 Feb 98:

    > Is this another case of the news jumping the gun again?:  Dateline
    > reported that one of the tornadoes down there in Central Fla. might have
    > been an F-5.  Even in the midwest, don't those most experienced still raise
    > a doubtful eyebrow at first at any mentioning of possibilities that any
    > tornado be an F-5?  And here we are in Florida and someone somewhere is even
    > daring to suggest it.  Is that even possible here in Florida?  If so, I
    > think this would be the first one recorded as F-5, would it not?  Thus, my
    > doubt.
    
    I certainly am not even remotely capable of judging whether or not one of
    the tornadoes might or might not have been an F5, and I am quite confident
    that there will be pressure from various sources (including the media, but
    not limited to them) to make various claims about the intensity of the
    tornadoes.  Skepticism would be an appropriate response, but I don't
    believe that the skepticism should be motivated by the absence of an F5
    event in Florida's history.  Rather, it should be motivated by the
    relative rarity of F5 events in general, and the well-known problems with
    the F-scale being a DAMAGE scale, not an intensity scale.  The fact that a
    Florida F5 has not been recorded before does NOT preclude that one can
    happen.  I think that the possibility of an F5 in Florida is quite real... 
    none of us really know HOW tornadoes form (in general), much less what
    controls their intensity.  If you can have an F3 or an F4, why would an F5
    not be possible?
       Chuck Doswell
    

This category can certainly include discussions on controversial subjects related to severe storms and storm observing, if done in a civil manner, as in this post by Alan Davis (quoting Tim Marshall and Chuck Doswell):

    tim p. marshall wrote:
    
    (much deletia)
    
    > CHUCK: "I vote for 2 inch diameter hail and 65 knot windspeeds as the
    > criteria."
    >
    > RESPONSE: Significant storm damage would no doubt occur over populated
    > areas with such a criteria.  However, the committee's task, in part, was to
    > determine the onset of such damage.  A summary of our engineering test
    > results indicated that hard one inch diameter is just below the damage
    > threshold for most  light weight roofing products, skylights,  vehicle
    > metals and windshields.  This no doubt, would get the publics attention and
    > most of the committee members believed the public would want to be warned
    > for this.
    
    Tim (and all):  Is it not the purpose of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings to
    alert people to an imminent life-threatening hazard?  If so, then IMHO,
    the criteria for the same should not be based upon what will or will not
    cause damage to property.  The criteria should be determined based upon
    what is likely to cause serious injury and/or death.
    

That whole exchange over 3 or 4 days was a rational, intelligent debate which doubtless gave others less familiar with the warning issue some valuable insight. Level heads with different viewpoints such as Chuck's, Tim's and Alan's prevailed; and the thread didn't drone on endlessly, either. That's how it should be!

Web links of general interest to severe weather enthusiasts, whether photographic, theoretical, news, data sources, or writings and musings. Here is an example of such a message which is concise and brief:

    Check this site out for pics of this afternoon/evening's tornadoes in Indiana:
    
    http://www.starnews.com/news/indianapolis/98/june/0611SN_storm.html
    
    

Humor is a good thing! Steve Miller's Supercell Deprivation Syndrome is hilarious; and it got its start on WX-CHASE. Same with Al Rosenberg's Gilbert Zone a.k.a. Negative Tilt. Some healthy doses of storm intercept humor certainly relieve the stresses of the day and help us keep a happy perspective on this weird hobby called "storm chasing." One of my favorites was this funny banter between Al Rosenberg and Gene Moore:

    Allan Rosenberg wrote:
    >
    > Now that the newbie thread is dead, I'd like to clarify the language we
    > use to categorize various chasers.  These are my suggestions only.  For
    > fairness, I've identified where I fit with asterisks:
    >
    > Experience:
    >   1.  old-timer = chased before the NOVA special
    >   2.  veteran chaser = chased before the IMAX film
    >   3.* pre-twister chaser = though about stormchasing at least once
    > before the summer of 1996
    >   4.  newbie = occupant of *our* precious discount motel rooms; maybe
    > we'll see you next year, maybe not
    >   5.  local = Hey, ma!  Look at that cool storm!  I'm gonna take a
    > closer look...........chop
    
    My almost 10 year old daughter is disgusted, the ultimate newbie and you
    didn't have her listed.  She's working to be a post-Twister II chaser;
    although, the storm shots on her wall are slowly getting replaced with
    "Hanson Posters"
    
    I'm being careful about training her to chase safe.  There are vicious
    old-timers out there that like to see how many newbie's they can get in
    the front grill, before the first tube comes down.  I intend to stop the
    vulger practice myself, as soon as she starts to chase.
    
    Since this post, yet again speaks of newbies, perhaps someone will
    goose-step it to the Illinois State Legislature.  Of course we'll be
    safe for years, as they will have to put it in committee to figure it
    out.   Or perhaps worse, they will put a Quality team on it.
    
    Chase Happy,
    Gene
    
    Gilbertzone 1-2-1-2 chaser with 21 (15 in the can) for 97 (still trying
    to catch up with Pietrycha)
    

We need humor to keep ourselves from taking all this too seriously. I find nothing frivolous or wrong with posting "chase humor" on WX-CHASE, especially during those times when SDS runs rampant. Of course, there will always be those with little or no sense of humor who take such posts seriously and go bonkers with the "How could you..." reaction; but there's no cause to give them much consideration.


THE BAD

Now, the bad news. WX-CHASE has been deteriorating in overall quality since Twister -- and the non-coincidental swelling of its subscription base -- because of the festering pervasiveness of the sorts of e-crap described below. This includes examples of how to ruin a good thing on the Internet, taken verbatim from the archives of WX-CHASE. Consider these in aggregate and you should begin to understand the WX-CHASE "brain drain."

Irrelevant and/or frivolous posts. This worthless little gem is a good example, with plenty of bad grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation to boot:

    I live just outside D.C. & iT ALWAYS SEEMS THEY PREDICT BETTER FOR
    everywhere else but D.C.    Just look at the mess of screw ups from this
    past tuesdays storm. we were susposed to get 1-2 inches of snow, WE GOT:
    8-12!!!
    

What the hell does that have to do with WX-CHASE? Posts like that cause hundreds of DELETE keys across our great nation to be pounded every time. End keyboard abuse; avoid posting irrelevance!

Quoting way too much -- from an entire digest to a whole long post. This is useless, inconsiderate, bandwidth-wasting and annoying. Those who receive daily digests do not want to page down through a re-post of the whole previous day's digest too. The inconsiderate slackers who cause this deserve to have their enormous posts returned to them in sets of 1000 until their mail servers fry. Such messages get instant "delete" treatment from me, regardless of content, and they are a royal pain in the butt to everybody. I will quote directly from WX-list "netiquette":

    If you are replying to another person's post it is acceptable to include a *portion* of that person's original message in your post. The standard way of doing this is to preface each repeated line with a greater than sign ">" so that people reading your post will know that the following words are being copied form another post. You should only repeat the minimum number of lines necessary to make your reply understandable.
If you're too lazy to select only those lines of relevant text to reply to, then stay off WX-CHASE.

Failure to consider what your non-ASCII mailing software is doing. Some e-mail programs (such as Netscape) attach a useless pile of HTML to a post, which unnecessarily inflates some people's mailbags, and which confounds plain-text mail readers like Pine. This was my response after one such HTML-infested post:

    As a courtesy to those of us who have plain text only mail readers, please
    don't post HTML or binary stuff as part of your message.  In Pine, this is
    what I get instead of a message when attachments or HTML are included:
    
    
      [Part 1, Text/PLAIN (charset: ISO-8859-1 "Latin 1")  88 lines]
      [Not Shown. Use the "V" command to view or save this part]
    
    
      [Part 2, Text/HTML (charset: ISO-8859-1 "Latin 1")  230 lines]
      [Cannot display this part. Press "V" then "S" to save in a file]
    
    ...This means that, to see the HTML, I have to go through a few steps just
    to save the file, then FTP it to my home PC and/or crank open Netscape (a
    big memory hog) and point it to the file.  If this sounds like petty
    whining, try it sometime.
    
    Based on the response to a previous post making the same request, I ain't
    the only one who simply *deletes* such messages without reading them, to
    save time and hassle.
    
    So please post your e-mail as plain ASCII text if you want everyone on the
    list to see it.
    

And please, no file attachments of any kind; they similarly confuse many plain-text readers. Also, turn on your automatic linefeeds if your mail software has them turned off by default. Here is an actual example of the chopped-off result, pasted from my shell account's mail reader:

    Here's an idea.. If some of you experienced chasers could put together a driving guide fo
    
    This would be a valuable reference since this issue really hasn't been covered on many ch
    
...and what it would look like with line feeds set:

    Here's an idea.. If some of you experienced chasers could put together a driving guide 
    for storm chasing (hazardous conditions, off-roading, etc.) I could get Gilbert to put it 
    on the Storm Chaser Homepage.
    
    This would be a valuable reference since this issue really hasn't been covered on many 
    chaser sites.
    

People (including me) will simply delete posts they can't read, rather than going through the hassle of saving them as a file and possibly FTPing them elsewhere, then cranking up some other software to view them. So if you want your posts to be legible to everyone, either turn off HTML tagging and turn on line feeds, or just use a plain-text e-mailer like Pine or Eudora. And if you don't know how to send mail in plain-text format, learn! Every mailer I have ever heard of can be configured to do so. Todd Sherman summed it up well:

      I suspect that some people don't realize what's going on when they use
    software which sends e-mail messages in an HTML(-like) form, enabling bold,
    italics, etc., etc.  They don't realize that some readers - not being able
    to figure out what to do with the strange codings, which obviously isn't
    ASCII or one of the other usual text formats - remove this from the body and
    then reattach them as a file.  In their grandiose advertising to sell these
    products which support such fancy e-mailings, these advertisers must not be
    advising the fact that "some other e-mail readers may not be able to
    interpret your messages properly."  And I think they should if they don't.
      These people need to keep in mind that not everyone has such a fancy
    e-mail package, nor the ability to READ such-made e-mail without having to
    first SAVE the message as a file, exiting their e-mail reading program,
    entering the fileshell, and finally reading the mail...with all embedded
    codes included uninterpreted, to boot, I might add.
    
      I have to ask these people...is it that worth it?
    
      I just delete such mail, and it never gets read...never gets seen.  Just
    trashed...cause I can't see it at first glance.  If it says "Part 2 of
    message included as attachment, HTML, 2K, unable to process" - the delete
    key just gets a hard, loud "BAM!"  End of problem.
    

Unsubscribe requests posted to the list. There is no good reason for this:

    Subject:      Please unsub me from wx-chase
    
    Automatic digest processor wrote:
    >
    > There are 13 messages totalling 563 lines in this issue.
    >
    > Topics of the day:
    >
    >   1. Wx-photography (2)
    >   2. Soundings (6)
    >   3. towers!
    >   4. Microphones and SDS
    >   5. SDS Cure
    >   6. New Caledonia getting hammered!
    >   7. Satellite photo Cyclone "Frank"
    
    
...followed by the entire regurgitated digest!

If you want to unsubscribe, please do it yourself! You were automatically provided with the instructions upon subscribing; and they are also posted on the WX-CHASE website. No excuses!

Posting binary files such as photo scans to WX-CHASE. A definite no-no! Besides the problems of dealing with large files in some mail systems, the binary image gets converted into huge piles of ASCII gobbledygook:

    Subject:      Tornado near Houston - Houtor.gif (1/1)
    
    begin 644 Houtor.gif
    M1TE&.#=AP`+@`?<``)"8>)B8@*"@@)B@>)B8<)"0@*"HB)B@B)B0>)"0<*"H
    M>*BH@*B@B(B0>*"8>)"8B)"8:*"@D*B@>*"@<*BPB*"8B*BHD(B0:(B(<(B8
    M<)BH@)"@@("(:*BP>)B0B)"@<+"P@+"HB("`<(B8@)"(>)B8D("`8*"P@(B`
    M:*B8@+"PD+"XB(B(8)BH<*"0@)B@:*BH<'B`:)B0:)"(:+"H>+BXD+BPB("(
    M>(B0B,#`D(B(@+C`B*"0<'B`6+BX@*"HF*BX@(!X:("0<("(6+C`F*B@F+"X
    MF*BPF)"08*B8D+"@@*"8:)BHD(B`>)"0D*"H:(B@>+"X>+"HF+"@D*"PD)"H
    M>'AX8*"P<)B(@(B88,"XB)B(<'B(8+"P<*B@:*BXD)"`<)B88)B@F,"XF("0
    M8'AX<*B8<+BPF+#`D+BH@+BP>,#`H"@H**"8F*"0D(B`6+BXH)"(B+#`@,#(
    MF,C`F(B@:+"PH*BX<(B06'B(<("8>(!X6)BP>+BHD)"@8'B`>(AX<+C(D)"@
    MD"@H&"`@&*BHH*"@H)BPB(AX8+"@<("0@,#`@#`H(("8:,"PD)"HB("`@'"`
    M8*BP:#`P*(!X>+"8B"`H(*"XB)"`8"@@()"86("`4"@P((B8D,C`B"`H$,#(
    MB)"`@*"@8*B0B,C(D*"X>,"P@'!X:+C`>+"8>(B@B#`H,)BH8,C(H*"(>,BX
    MD)"8F)"(6*B0>#@P,+C(H"@P,+C`J(B(4,#(J'!X6*C`B$`X*"`@*)"H:+C(
    M@,C`J,BXH+"H:'AX4+B@B(B(D,"XJ#@P("`P&*"(B)B(8)B0F+BX<)B`>'!P
    M<'"(:+"XJ+"X:*BH8"@8&'B0:#@X.'B`2+#`H'AX@+"@H'"`4+BHH("(B$!`
    M0("@<,"PH'B(4$A`,+BH<#@H*)B8H)BP:%!`.,"X>"@@$&!@8)!X:&AH:$@X
    M.$A(2%!04,#`L("04#`P.*BXH*"08*C`F"@H.%A86*C`>"@@,)BX@'AP:'"`
    
..and on and on for uncounted pages. Don't subject your unsuspecting fellow storm enthusiasts to scrolling down through miles and miles of that garbage. Instead, upload your cool picture to a website or FTP server and just provide its address so people can actually see it.

Is your keyboard equipped with a SHIFT key? If so, please use it at the beginning of each sentence and proper noun! Posts like this indicate unadulterated laziness on the part of the typer, and make me hit the DELETE key faster than I can down an Allsups chicken chimichanga:

    i've been interested in severe storms and tornados since i was very 
    young, but only within the past year or so have i been able to take up 
    chasing.  i'm enrolled in the only meteorology class offered at oklahoma 
    state and have been reading up on the web, but i'm still very much a 
    rookie to all of this.  i haven't noticed many of your addresses from 
    oklahoma, but if there are some of you from aroud stillwater who wouldn't 
    mind me tagging along, please drop me a line. 
    

[Of course, we are dealing with an OSU Aggie; and rumor is that OSU doesn't require that their applicants know about capitalization. :-)]

Discussion topics (threads) of marginal relevance which go on and on and on and on...zzzzzzzzzzzz. A sure example of this is the "performance driving/off-roading techniques" thread of January 1999, which contributed to the biggest weekly WX-CHASE file in a 13-month period (fig. 1 below). How many safe, responsible storm enthusiasts really care -- especially after the 20th-something post? To borrow a phrase from Al Moller, stop beating a dead horse to death until it is dead. I got so accustomed to hitting DELETE during that period that I inadvertantly lost several valuable personal e-mails which were sandwiched amidst seemingly endless kilobytes of such droning rubbish. It was so tempting just to sign off for good, rather than see the same subject header yet another 15 times each day.

One who can't spell, capitalize or punctuate, and who is utterly and hopelessly clueless! This was a quote I pasted from WX-CHASE to my first website circa late 1994. It is the worst of many worlds, and the single post which started the downward spiral of WX-CHASE in my book.

    where can i purchass equiptmant to become an amature tornadoe hunter ?
    

In short, can you say BOZO? I'm sorry; but a post like that leaves me with no other impression. That post makes it seem like the writer needs to be working very hard on his G.E.D., not roaming loose on the highways around storms as a "tornadoe hunter" and putting all of us at peril. Do you feel serenely comfortable with the concept that this person may be just around the bend next time you get caught in a core? Or are you thinking, "It's a mystery how he could even read the See Spot Run series without a tutor, much less pass a driving exam!" Here's what I was thinking: "Oh s__t! What is WX-CHASE coming to?"

Those kinds of posts began in earnest shortly before Twister and has only recently abated somewhat, hastened by Chris Novy's wise decision at the end of 1/99 to take WX-CHASE off the NetNews gateway. Most such idiocy seemed to be spewing out of the newsgroup audience, unfortunately for the admirable few who were using their newsreaders to post intelligent questions.

Occasional typos are understandable; however, messages full of bad spelling and rotten grammar are major turn-offs. Use your spell-checker. Better than that is the spelling and grammar checker you have between your ears...though that piece of software was apparently never installed in some people.


THE UGLY

Flame wars. This needless lunacy has driven away more charter subscribers and serious storm experts than anything -- thereby depriving us all of their valuable insight. Personal attacks posted on WX-CHASE also shock and repulse new subscribers who are genuine in their love and interest for learning about storm observing.

Rational, reasoned disagreement is a good thing; it helps us see many sides of an issue. Matt Crowther and I, for example, have posted opposing essays in the debate about commercialization of storm chasing; but we remain good friends who know when to just "agree to disagree" about it. No hard feelings. But some WX-CHASE debates the past few years have degenerated into personal insults and childish sniping, for example:

    From sources I won't disclose, I have been told that you pay ~$150 a shot
    for rain, now why the heck would you only give $50-100 more for
    tornadoes!?
    
    > We could not run our operation if we were paying what production
    >companies pay.
    
    Maybe, you guys should stop wasting your money on sending out Mike Seidel
    to watch waves, and if you paid better money to chasers, you might
    actually get some good stuff!
    

Uh, fellas, please take your sophomoric sewage-spraying elsewhere!

And of course, who can forget the infamous DilloCam flamewar, an unabashed volley of embarrassing spitefulness from both sides. This represented perhaps the all-time low in WX-CHASE history. For those who missed this classic pissing match, here are some excerpts (names deleted), perfect examples of what not to post in a public forum:

    > They might complain if someone created a DoDoCam and got in front of
    > a 1/2 mile wide killer bird and dropped it there hoping to make thousands of
    > dollars and getting more fame from other bird watchers?
    >
    
    If you are implying Mr. _____, that the "Dillo-Cam" that I elluded to
    in an earlier post was created for the sole purpose of making thousands of
    dollars and to get more fame than other chasers, then you are sorely wrong!
    Before you go off spouting on WX-CHASE, maybe you should rethink what you
    are saying!
    

Hiss, rowrrr....

    You shouldn't have challenged me to rethink my position ______. I have and now
    I will say what I should have last year.
    
    I am not implying the primary purpose of the DilloCam is for fame and fortune,
    I personally know it was soley created for that purpose. Science was almost
    never discussed. How to sell and market any video was frequently discussed.
    Science is only mentioned in order to make it seem its not for Yahoo glory.
    If you were only really interested in science then why didn't you request to
    borrow a unused VORTEX turtle? Why is _____ claiming he was more
    successful in his deploy than the scientists who made much more successful
    deploys in Friona, TX and Allison, TX during VORTEX? At least they got data
    and not a totally black video. At least they did it for science and not greed.
    
    If you are not in it for money then why don't you pledge now to give any
    future video from it to NOAA and sign an agreement that puts the video in the
    public domain?
    
    I was there when the concept for the device was formed. Its purpose was to get
    similar video to the underpass video but without the danger of leaving someone
    behind. You and _____ almost never discussed science during the time the
    Dillocam went from concept to a actual device. It was all money, money, money. 
    

Spit spit...hisss...yowwwwwwlllll...

    This person who has decided to write a blasting e-mail condemning the
    efforts that _______ and I have been working on for the past 2 years
    is a lying scumbag. 
    ...(deletia)...
    He isn't going to tell you that he spent 2 years at _____ doing jack crap and
    sitting on his ass all day looking at model data when he should be
    working! And that supposedly they got rid of his job title, when actually
    the work he was supposed to do is still being done today.
    ...(deletia)...
    _______, you don't have a damn clue!!!  All you are, are a sniveling, whining
    baby, who gave up a perfectly good job in Norman, OK becuase you couldn't have
    things your way. Well, now is your chance to shine buddy. Show the whole world
    how you like to treat people everyday. People, ask anyone in  Norman, OK if
    they like ________, and you will get a huge NO!. If you deny that
    ______, then prove it!! I would love to see you come down here again with out
    being thrown out of this town.
    ...(deletia)...
    P.S Folks, just to give you a taste of what this person is like, for
    those of you who don't remember it, this is the same person who suggested
    that we shoot down the weather modification planes out in Western KS,
    because they were getting in the way of storms. Sounds to me like we
    are dealing with a deranged fool!!!
    

RRRROOOOOWWWWWWRRRRRR!!!!

I admit I used to get quite a laugh out of the inevitable 3 a.m. cat fights under my bedroom window as a kid. Those tomcats could make an impressive amount of racket without accomplishing a thing; but don't you think the Internet version of same is just a tad ridiculous?

[If any of the unnamed participants don't like the fact I dredged up this embarrassing stuff, on a web page which is not going away, then too bad. Your personal vendetta should never have been expressed in a public forum; but fellas, it was -- for everyone to see. You reap what you sow. Live with it.]

Flame wars usually start when someone makes an insensitive comment, whether intended or not, and someone else gets overly steamed and goes ballistic in public on WX-CHASE. Sometimes it just happens out of the blue, as a response to some general comment(s) made on the website of a WX-CHASEr. Either way, how stupid and useless. What a waste of everyone else's time.

Nobody gives a damn about personal feuds; we're here to talk about storm observing! Chris Novy summed it up well after one of the flame wars in '98:

    Yikes!  Man was I surprised when I read my e-mail today.  I had at
    least ten people write me asking me to cancel certain people's
    WX-CHASE subscriptions or to at least say something to them.  There have
    already been several good posts from subscribers imploring people to
    behave so I don't think I need to repeat the message.
    
    I do not want to turn WX-CHASE into a moderated group (a group where I
    decide what gets posted and what doesn't).  I don't want to set up
    filters to block people from posting to the list.  Finally, I don't want
    to discourage healthy discussion of issues pertaining to chasing.  That said,
    I feel it's important that we all refrain from personal attacks on people
    and corporations.  That's not to say we can't disagree or relate our
    first-hand experiences but some of the recent posts in my opinion (and
    apparently a number of other people's opinions) are nothing more than
    vicious personal attacks.
    

Stop flame wars before they start. If someone says something you consider overly personal, wait at least 24 hours to cool off, then take it up with them directly, in private; and do not reply to WX-CHASE! Frankly, outside the amusement factor, most people simply do not care for flame wars and will hit DELETE en masse.

Of course, WX-CHASE flamethrowing can lead to public embarrassment, broken friendships, borderline criminal behavior, legal action, and all other sorts of ugliness even when finally made private. This is vividly illustrated by these excerpts of threatening personal e-mail sent to me, after being publicly torched by the same individual during the "female chasers" thread:

    Obviouslly, I think you are a jack ass.  You don't cut somebody's life's work
    down publicly and expect them to be other than a sworn enemy (enema?) forever.
    Hey, Bob Livingston?   I will continue to return the favor a million times
    over, every chance I get.
    ...(deletia)...
    I'll write a few letters, or make some calls to people and places that could
    possibly hurt your career. I'll make up anything I feel necessary to dis-
    credit you.  I will disclose skeletons in your closet.  Or anything else that
    comes to mind to point out to your superiors and associates that cast some
    shadows.
    
    

Considering the source, I dismissed it as entertaining bombast. However, some people can really be disturbed psychologically by that kind of stuff. And all because of some WX-CHASE thread or web essay? What good comes of it? Get a grip, people. If you can't control your temper and impulsiveness, seek professional counseling and stay off WX-CHASE.


SUMMARY

So why do I still subscribe? There are still just enough handy tips, interesting discussions and humorous amusements to make it worthwhile. But I'm hanging on, barely at times, through the increasing frequency of "bad" and "ugly." They all get the old DELETE button. I also hit DELETE on a lot of stuff that is relevant to many chasers, but not me personally -- such as discussions on mounting satellite dishes in a Ford Bronco or navigating some stringent RACES protocol in a faraway county. Those are personal preferences only, nothing more. Sometimes the same sorts of questions keep popping up every few months; and if I or someone else has dealt with them before, I probably will not do so again. Finally, I have found myself increasingly loaded with family and work responsibilities which often preclude logging in for days on end -- sometimes a week or two at a time -- and I just don't have time to respond even to some of the good questions and posts.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Biggest thanks to Chris Novy, for managing WX-CHASE all these years and for furnishing me with valuable info. My WX-CHASE criticisms are by no means intended to indict Chris, but instead, the "bad" and "ugly" posts themselves, over which Chris had no control. In fact, I admire his patience and fortitude in enduring a lot of the useless garbage posted on WX-CHASE, while still maintaining a "hands-off" style free of censorship. Thanks to everyone who put up the "good" posts; I have named you because you deserve recognition for keeping the signal/noise ratio from reaching zero, and for motivating the very few remaining charter subscribers to stay aboard. Thanks even goes to the authors of the "bad" and "ugly" posts, whom I don't name so they could learn from themselves, and ponder their embarrassing spew in private without undue motivation to start more flame wars. You "bad" and "ugly" folks gave me some great material, and provided me with lots of laughs along the way. [That's the real reason I'm able to put up with a lot of the b.s. -- as a source of amusement!]


NOTE: Ralph Forsythe has put together a nice FAQ for the WX-**** lists -- including WX-CHASE, at http://ralph.centerone.com/wxfaq.html.


UPDATE: Fall 2001

When I first wrote this essay, I typed the following:

    I won't just say "to hell with this" and unsubscribe altogether; but admittedly, my motivation and time to actively participate is far from what it used to be. When choosing between WX-CHASE and reading a professional journal, or reading WX-CHASE and reading to my kids, it is no contest.

I was wrong. Life got too intense, and WX-CHASE too irrelevant, to continue. I apologize to those on the group who genuinely miss my contributions; but the noise simply got too loud to listen to anymore. I now subscribe to a private, monitored and strongly regulated discussion forum. [Do not ask me for additional information or to join. Such requests will be ignored.] I still see excerpts from WX-CHASE fairly often, from friends who subscribe or from occasional wanderings into the archives; so I can keep up with the basic threads. Many other friends and colleagues have left or are considering it -- people who can teach us all a lot about severe storms if WX-CHASE would just calm down, become more civil and intelligent, and stick to the topic at hand which brought us here in the first place: studying and tracking severe weather! So with or without me, WX-CHASE will be what it will be; and that's entirely up to those who are there now.


UPDATE: Spring 2003

The ugly seems to be winning. With the possible demise of WX-CHASE all of us may lose what was once a tie that bound, what instead has become a whip that lashes. Here was a note from Chris in March 2003, posted here with his permission:

    
    ------------
    Date:    Wed, 19 Mar 2003 23:46:39 -0600
    From:    Chris Novy 
    Subject: ADMINISTRIVIA: The Psychopath Video... THREAD CLOSED
    
    This thread has gotten out of hand.  I don't like to slam down on people
    after the first comment because often there's more to the conversation
    worth hearing but personal slams will not be tolerated.  It also never
    fails, I don't ready WX-CHASE for a day or two or I skip reading a single
    post and there's a frickin' bomb hidden in there.
    
    I'm *very* close to shutting down WX-CHASE permanently and getting out of
    storm chasing altogether.  I no longer enjoy the hobby and I find myself
    concerned with other more pressing matters and realities than chasing water
    vapor for glory and wasting gas.  I've seen the hobby and the discussions
    steadily deteriorate in the past 15 years.   An outsider reading WX-CHASE
    could easily be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that all storm
    chasers are egotistical, back-stabbing, pharmaceutical lab rats out to get
    rich by destroying the competition.
    
    We are in storm season now (have been for a month) and that's the only
    discussions I'm going to allow on here.  Don't like it  --start your own
    list and you'll enjoy the same headaches I've had to put up with.  Doug,
    Sam, take it off the list.
    
    Finally, there will be no more mentioning of personal businesses allowed on
    WX-CHASE unless cleared by me first.  This includes videos for sale,
    solicitations for video (stringers), and products.
    
    Send all complaints to /dev/null
    
    .Chris..
    
    
    

What sort of toxic, noxious environment must exist for someone who was once so devoted to the concept of a forum like WX-CHASE for sharing ideas, and who used to be so deeply in love with storm observing, that he now would consider getting out of both the listserv and chasing altogether? How bad has it become to result in this?

Although I am no longer actively subscribed, I care about the kind of forum that WX-CHASE once was, especially its ability (unlike another vehicle) to interchange tips and knowledge between the experienced veterans and the newbies and general public regarding storm chasing. It's not doing that anymore. Realistically I don't see that it ever can, consistently anyway.

Each time I casually peruse the WX-CHASE archives (every several months), I see nothing that would make me disagree with what Chris and others have said. Instead, more and more turds float atop the steaming cesspool.

As a charter (but now former) member, it saddens me to observe that the present state of WX-CHASE seems to be doing far more harm than good to the hobby. This is certainly not the fault of its administrator, but instead, because of its overpopulation of egomaniacal slope-heads who have no learning or contributory ethic, who think they know far more about storms than they really do, and whose crass commercialism and stifling one-upsmanship poison things for everyone. WX-CHASE has been sickened by its own sewage for so long that its demise would be no net loss to the hobby.

This piece of self-evident stupidity will be my final excerpt from WX-CHASE. It seems that, every year, some self-styled innovator of deductive brilliance (sarcasm dripping here) brings up gaining an hour from Daylight time. Sometimes it's a joke; more often not. Even if it is, it's old and stale, and the creators should grow up.

    Tonight we set our clocks forward, which means Sunday
    we finally get that extra hour of convective heating!
    
    By the way, I was thumbing through the ETA progs and
    noticed the jump in CAPE from today to tomorrow.. really
    quite impressive.  This underscores the importance
    of the extra heating:
    http://www.rap.ucar.edu/weather/model/eta12hr_sfc_cape.gif
    http://www.rap.ucar.edu/weather/model/eta36hr_sfc_cape.gif
    
    The extra daylight will also be great for storm shots.
    I've never liked those dim, muddy March photos that
    are all so common.  Never a problem when on daylight
    savings.
    
    
    


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