Young Meteorologist Chases Storms for Fun and Science

Young Meteorologist Chases Storms for Fun and Science

Roswell native Craig Tillison chases storms in his spare time. Based on what he’s seen, he says, “It’s clear that we must act before the ‘climate emergency’ becomes irreversible.”

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Roswell High grad Craig Tillison chases storms for fun.
Roswell High grad Craig Tillison chases storms for fun.

Craig Tillison says he’s always been obsessed with weather. Now, he’s chasing storms instead of waiting for them to come to him.

“Craig’s passion for meteorology goes all the way back to first grade,” his mother, Nancy Rosenblum, recalled. “Over the years, he has chased every type of severe weather, including blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes. As a child, he would get really upset when the National Weather Service canceled a previously posted Roswell tornado warning!”

“I’ve always had a deep passion for the weather,” says the Roswell native. “My interest in science became evident after a rare ice storm hit Atlanta in 2000, when I was four.”

Tillison graduated from Mississippi State’s program in broadcast meteorology, but soon realized that being on TV was not the right path for him. He switched his focus to professional meteorology, which emphasizes the scientific aspects of forecasting and focuses on theory and physics. After classes on dynamic meteorology and statistical climatology, Tillison kicked off his career with Fleetweather Group in Fishkill, N.Y, which provides forecasting and weather routing that keeps vessels safe at sea. But after two-and-a-half years in New York, he decided to move back to Atlanta this September to work remotely and pursue his weather-chasing passion.

One of Tillison’s big thrills was witnessing a rope tornado in the Texas Panhandle.

“I storm chase in my spare time, pending financial situation and time,” Tillison said. “Just to be clear: it’s not work related, but for my own pleasure. I have chased storms in the Plains states, where I saw my first tornado in 2017, a beautiful rope tornado in the Texas Panhandle. Another adventure was with Mississippi State, where we saw an EF-2 tornado in southeast Wyoming, with rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. The most recent storm chase was in western Alabama, where I saw a small EF-1 tornado in Moundville.”

One of his most memorable professional successes came when Tillison “noticed a favorable pattern for tropical cyclogenesis in the Indian Ocean.” He was able to “accurately forecast the tropical activity due to the transition in monsoonal winds flipping from being the seasonal summertime, strong southwest-driven wind to the wintertime northeast-monsoonal winds (and contrasting lulls)” such that he was then able “to predict Tropical Cyclones Gulab and Shaheen back-to-back over a short amount of time.”

When it comes to the sources of catastrophic weather events, Tillison is emphatic. “Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is very real and accelerating at rates higher than what is already modeled by our current projections,” he says. “The amount of carbon emissions in our atmosphere due to industrialization has impacted the global mean temperature, causing it to rise for both bodies of land and sea, driving the jet stream patterns and sea surface temperatures to coalesce and create more extremes, [as well as] an increase in the frequency of powerful major hurricanes, an increased risk of mega droughts, record high and low temperatures becoming more common and sea level rise due to arctic ice melt. In my lifetime I have experienced many extremes from Hurricane Katrina’s devastating blow to the Gulf Coast in 2005 to the California megadrought and subsequent historic wildfires that have been ongoing. It’s clear that we must act before the ‘climate emergency’ becomes irreversible.”

When he’s not chasing tornados, Tillison enjoys ghost hunting, tennis, golf, hiking, fishing and urban exploration.

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