Stormchaser Chad Cowan produced some of the most beautiful time-lapse weather photography you will ever see…

June 5, 2017 4:56 pm Last Updated: June 5, 2017 4:56 pm

If we look across the globe and absorb all of the natural beauty that has been gifted to us, it is no stretch to recognize quickly the flip side of that reality. Sometimes, there is tragic in beauty, or beauty in tragedy—or both.

There is no greater prevalence in this truth than weather.

Spin your globe and stop it with your finger there—wherever it is, that place has probably had a unique experience with weather.

Be it a typhoon or tornado zone or a predictable early evening shower, we build our lives around the weather with which we live. Your snowbanks may be as high as mountains or your ocean beach as warm as bathwater, but we all share the local short-term weather realities as well as the global long-term impacts in each and every one of our lives.

If the weather of our planet were an orchestra, Mother Nature is the maestro.

Chad Cowan is a storm chaser. He is the creator of the time-lapse video featured in this article and experiences the chase, the risk, and the beauty and majesty of weather in real time, and sometimes the unfortunate outcomes of a destructive weather event.

Cowan is awed by the ironic juxtaposition of the tragedies a storm can cause, even when set against the backdrop of some of the most beautiful colors, motion, and sounds that fill both sky and earth with an exclusive seat to the scenery provided.

“There is something about a thunderstorm that makes me feel alive.

I don’t know if it’s the fear, awe, humility or some combination thereof,” Cowan explained. “What I do know is that I love experiencing them. I love predicting them. I love the anticipation of watching them approach, and the uncertainty of their intentions.”

Cowan grew up loving when his little-league games got rained out because he preferred that action of an approaching storm to a baseball game.

While some kids dreamed of hitting a grand slam, Chad dreamt and hoped for a storm!

When a storm did approach, he was the kid running from window to television and back, trying to take it all in while keeping an eye on the radar on The Weather Channel. This enthusiasm was not shared by his siblings, he added.

At age twelve, the sirens sounded warning of an approaching tornado and Cowan was glued to the window rather than the basement. His parents literally had to drag him away for his own safety.

Cowan credits his grandfather for nurturing his interest in storms.
“My grandfather, Dr. Louis Bono, saw this passion in me and fostered my scientific curiosity, inspiring a passion and inherent lifestyle that has put tens of thousands of miles under my tires, ” Cowan said.
“During our frequent fishing outings together at his country retreat south of Kansas City, we would sit on a boat for hours and between casts, talk about why things are the way they are. And while fishing, of course, the weather is a recurring topic.”
The two spent many hours together fishing, but a wise grandfather always understands that there’s a whole lot more to fishing than fish. Chad was lucky enough to have a grandpa like that.
“We spent countless hours trying to explain why certain clouds look the way they do, what causes them, and what they meant as far as rain or severe weather chances,” said Cowan. The bank sign in town that displayed time and temperature was the focus of their attention on the ride home.
“Every time we approached the bank,” Cowan explained, “we would stick our hands out the window and try to guess the temperature. The closest guess won an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen, although he would inevitably find a coupon in his truck for two free cones when his guess was closer.”
Now that’s a grandpa we can all love!
For his 13th birthday, Chad’s grandpa bought him a VHS and a photo book by Warren Faidley, one of the earliest mainstream storm chasers.
Chad watched that video over and over, and that video and those photos of his face-to-face encounters with the most violent weather on Earth was a catalyst.
On his 15th birthday, he was given a trip to the National Weather Service office near his home in Kansas City.
With no lack of excitement, Cowan described his experience that day: “I got to see the radar tower and the computer stations where the meteorologists were kind and devoted. I also got to meet some of those kinds of devoted meteorologists. Papa later commented that I was more awestruck by meeting them than when I met Joe Montana!”
It probably seems no wonder Cowan went on to become an avid storm chaser. He remained hooked to his fascination and sealed the deal when, in 2007, he received information about a potential tornado potential in western Kansas.

Chad loaded up his SUV and headed west on I-70, and found himself in the middle of the biggest tornado outbreak of that year.

He witnessed a large EF-3 wedge tornado from a few miles away after sunset between lightning flashes. “It was an awesome moment, in the awe-struck sense of the word,” he said.

Chad Cowan with “Paddy,” his storm-chasing companion. It seems appropriate that Chad and Paddy met at his grandfather’s farm on St. Patrick’s day. And of course, he named her Paddy! 

What about the destruction and the tragedy that comes with the territory? I asked Chad, knowing that storm chasers are not only the first to be on the scene of the cusp of the action of a storm but also first to arrive on the scene of its destruction. To that, Chad answered:
“There is a moral dilemma inherent in storm chasing: you go out there trying to see tornadoes, almost wanting them to form, but knowing the destruction they’re capable of.
There can be a huge range of emotions experienced within seconds, from the highs of seeing an awe-inspiring sight and celebrating the success of the hunt, to seeing someone’s entire life destroyed, sometimes taking them with it. It took a while to come to terms with this within myself, but I came to realize that there is nothing that I can say, do, hope, wish or pray for that will change what the weather does.

And due to our actively pursuing them, storm chasers are often the closest people around once tornadoes impact towns and are able to render aid quicker than others when the victims are at their most desperate and in need of help.”

After ten years, countless tornadoes, and tens of thousands of miles logged, Chad Cowan still has equal passion for storm chasing as he did when he was a child. “Every chase is unlike any other, and the atmosphere still finds ways to surprise and humble me,” said Cowan.

Source Credit: FRACTAL – 4k StormLapse by Chad Cowan on Vimeo. All video footage and photos provided and given permission for publication directly from Chad Cowan – storm chaser / photographer / timelapser / economist email: