He’s faced a mile-wide tornado in the US and lives for Queensland’s storm season. Justin Noonan explains what it’s like to be an extreme weather chaser.
He’s faced a mile-wide tornado in the US and lives for Queensland’s storm season. Justin Noonan explains what it’s like to be an extreme weather chaser.

What it’s like to be an extreme weather chaser

It's a natural event most run from, but storm chaser Justin Noonan spends his life hunting out extreme weather events.

The long-time weather enthusiast said this summer has already proven to be a busy storm season.

"For me, chase-wise, it's been excellent," Mr Noonan said. "I've done three or four trips through New South Wales and Queensland."

Gold Coast storm chaser Justin Noonan. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Gold Coast storm chaser Justin Noonan. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Of the 20 chases he's made since the storm season started, only a few have been busts.

Mr Noonan, who has been pursuing this most unusual of hobbies since 2001, said he expected the wild weather to continue through into February.

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

"January to March is generally a time to keep an eye on, especially for cyclone activity," he said.

"It's generally what you do expect with a La Nina weather pattern. The next few months, we'll start to see activity ramp up in the tropics."

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

Mr Noonan said the worst storm he'd seen in southeast was in the Darling Downs in 2015.

"I'm positive in this storm there was a tornado, but it was in the trees," he said.

"That was a very violent supercell, you don't get those more than once or twice a season."

"The structure of it, the intensity of it - it was the perfect storm."

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

But that doesn't even come close to Mr Noonan's most hair-raising encounter, with a EF5 tornado in the US state of Missouri nine years ago.

While he narrowly missed an EF5 tornado packing winds of 450km/h by a mere 200 metres, around 160 people in the town of Joplin weren't so lucky against the mile-wide twister.

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

"It was the seventh deadliest tornado in US history," he said.

Mr Noonan said his hobby is fuelled not by hi-tech tracking systems as seen in the movies, but instead by a laptop and iPad with satellite imagery and radar.

"I don't have any of the stuff out of Twister," he said.

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

 

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

 

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

 

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

 

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

 

 

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

 

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

 

Picture: Justin Noonan
Picture: Justin Noonan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as What it's like to be an extreme weather chaser



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