George Kourounis, is a Canadian adventurer and storm chaser who specializes in documenting extreme weather and worldwide natural disasters. He presents the television series Angry Planet
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Hey guys. I chase tornadoes, hurricanes, avalanches, forest fires, any kind of severe weather or natural disaster... Oh, and I climb inside active volcanoes. I also document how humans are affecting our climate and changing our atmosphere.
Ask me anything!
Edit: Thanks guys. It's been fun. Stay safe.
Hey George, after years of chasing storms do you know what you're going to do when you finally catch one?
Ha, That's a good question. I guess technically, I don't "catch" them at all, just photograph them.
Hey George, would you ever consider going / would it even be feasible for you to go to space? ANGRY PLANET X, anyone?!
That would be AWESOME! I'd LOVE to go into space. I've done some of the training (zero gravity flight, centrifuge training) but the opportunity has yet to come up. If Elon Musk or Richard Branson are reading this.... I'm available.
We're at the cusp of something big... "Affordable" space travel and I'd love to be right there, watching the Earth from orbit.
Hey George! What's the most dangerous situation you've found yourself in while storm chasing?
Being in the middle of Hurricane Katrina was harrowing. The storm surge flooding was 28 feet above normal high tide. I had to shelter in a steel reinforced parking garage. The wind was so strong, I couldn't stand up in it.
Do you think animals truly have the power to warn humans about a natural disaster coming? Have you witnessed this in person?
I've never witness it in person, but many animals have senses that go far beyond what humans have (such as an elephant's ability to detect infra-sound, frequencies lower that 20hz) that we humans can't hear. It's conceivable that some animals could detect things that we cannot.
Hi George! I just stumbled upon this, but thanks for doing it! What was the single moment that you were the most frightened for your own personal safety during your adventures?
There've been a lot of "close calls" over the years. I think the most frightened I've ever been ahas when I was bitten by a bat in Kitum Cave in Kenya. The cave is known for Marburg Fever (similar to Ebola). One of thecae's bats bit me, and I didn't know if I was going to catch the virus. The bats in there have been known to carry it. If you get it, there's 50%-90% chance of death by liquefying organs. Not fun. I didn't catch it, but still had to get rabies shots.
Hi George! I've been a fan of you and Angry Planet since I got a box set for Christmas a few years back. I'm currently in high school and I'm looking to pursue a career in the field of Atmospheric Science and Meteorology (like yourself and your friend Mark who visited my class last year) in the future. Can you give any program recommendations and tips for people like me? Thanks!
Awesome. I love hearing things like that. The Atmospheric Sciences program at York University seems to be the popular choice in the Toronto area.
Study hard, love what you do, and make your passion your career.
George- what's your favorite location you visit this season? Least favorite? and lastly- what's on your bucket list?
So far this season...
Hmmm... Favourite = Returning to Marum volcano on Ambrym Island, Vanuatu. It is one of the most breathtaking places on the planet. The lava lake inside the crater is so violent & difficult to get to that getting up close is a real accomplishment.
Least Favourite? I loved ALL the locations we filmed in this season (so far, we still have a few more to shoot)... The bugs in the Amazon were vicious, man-eating monsters. a constant irritant that wasn't dangerous, but made everything so much more difficult.
As for the bucket list.... LOTS! - Japan, China, Mount Erebus in Antarctica. It is the southernmost active volcano in the world.
What made you interested in being in dangerous situations?
As a kid, I was always interested in science & nature. When I got older (and more foolish, some would say) I started to combine my love of exploration and nature with photography. I chased my first tornado in 1998 and I've been returning to Tornado Alley every year since. Seeing nature's display of power is very humbling and awe-inspiring. I never want to see a town get hit by a damaging storm, but if it happens, I want to be there to document it & show the world what's happening.
One more thing! My family is traveling to Greece this summer… an plan on visiting Akrotiri in Santorini – have you heard of it? The volcano erupted there in about 1500BC. The inhabitants of the settlement were warned to flee- However no one knows where they fled or if they survived. Akrotiri is nicknamed “Minoan Pompeii” but unlike Pompeii, no human remains have been found here. Just curious if you’ve ever been there/ have any theories- thanks!
I've never been to Santorini (yet). My father is from Greece, and I've been there a few times, but never to that beautiful island. I'd love to see it. Take some pics and send them to me on Twitter.
The volcano is dormant right now, but if it starts to wake up, I'll probably be close by.
My campers absolutely love your videos/pictures when I show them at camp!
If you could travel anywhere in history to experience a known natural disaster, which one would you travel to?
Second, What does one's resume look like as a storm chaser? I imagine it looks like,
"Professional Badass, 13 tornadoes chased.".
Thanks for the AMA!
Thanks so much.
Anywhere in history... Hmmm. Witnessing the Big Bang would be fascinating... Hey, you said any time in history, right? Perhaps witnessing the asteroid impact 65 million years ago that took out the dinosaurs. That one event paved the way for mankind and was so significant for so many species.
Tornadoes chased = Unknown, probably around a hundred or so.
Hurricanes/Tropical Storms = 18
Active Volcanoes = About 20 or so.
I don't keep score, I just keep pursuing Mother Nature.
(thanks for the badass comment, you made my day)
Hi George. Was there any way for Tuvalu to be prepared or know of the cyclone?
Cyclone Pam was such a monster. Luckily for Tuvalu, it didn't hit them directly. Vanuatu on the other hand felt the full brunt of the category-5 storm. I had just been to both nations just a few weeks before the storm. I wasn't there when it made landfall, but there really wasn't a lot that the locals could do, other than get to higher ground and seek shelter. Stay away from the coastlines and ride it out. A storm that strong is difficult to survive, especially near the water. If the same storm had hit Tuvalu directly, it would have been catastrophic.
I watched that video of you rappelling into the volcano... first of all -WOW. was that the craziest experience ever!!!? What kind of camera did you bring that can withstand that type of heat? What does the heat intensity feel like at that point? Will you ever get that close to a volcano again?
Thanks. Yes, it was an extremely intense experience. I've now been down inside that crater (Marum on Ambrym Island) three times. Will I ever get that close again? Yep, absolutely. The heat is so intense that without my protective heat suit, I couldn't have stood there for more than 5 or 10 seconds. It was beyond anything your oven could produce.
I actually melted my videocamera a little bit. The lens hood started to warp and melt. Luckily I moved it in time and it still works. http://www.ibtimes.co.in/canadian-man-takes-incredible-selfie-inside-active-volcano-photosvideo-608838
Have you ever been to Iceland? I recently went and had the time of my life! What do you find most fascinating about volcanoes in the Arctic Circle?
I love Iceland. We filmed there a few years ago, and it quickly became one of my favourite places. I wish I had been able to go to the most recent eruption there, but it just never worked out for me, schedule-wise. The geology of Iceland is so unique. It's the only place where the mid-Atlantic Ridge come up out of the ocean. Iceland is slowly splitting apart and when the volcanoes there erupt, they tend to do so spectacularly, with fountains of lava.
What is the angriest planet you have ever been to?
There are lots of "Angry" places, but the Danakil Desert in Ethiopia comes to mind. I was there on an expedition in 2004. It is the hottest inhabited place on Earth. It is incredibly dry, and has a lunar-landscape of volcanic rock. There's volcano there that's been active for decades, and the Afar nomads who live in the region have a reputation for being hostile to outsider, including murder and castration (not in that order!). The whole area is along the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea and there is constant tension between the 2 nations.
Don't book a vacation there any time soon.
How did you get into storm chasing? Do you ever take "normal" people with you on chases or is it too dangerous? Must be thrilling to be 10ft from a tornado...
I remember when the movie "Twister" came out. It was fascinating & It was aligned with my interest in nature, photography and adventure. I hooked up with a team of experienced storm chasers in Oklahoma in 1998 and chased with them for a couple of seasons before starting to do it on my own. I learned a lot. Now, I guide with the same group and we take "normal" people with us. If you are really interested, you can check out
It can be dangerous, of course, but we take pride in our safety record. Nothing worthwhile comes without risk, and we try to minimize it, but we still like to get close. It's a fine line sometimes.
Last season, we had a close encounter when a tornado started to form right beside us and it heaved a piece of irrigation equipment into our windshield. Scary!
Have you noticed the weather becoming more extreme?
In many places, yes. California is in the middle of one of the worst droughts on record, Vanuatu and the Philippines have both recently been raked by category-5 storms. These are just 2 examples. It really does depend on where you are, but generally speaking, as the atmosphere continues to warm up, the number of events at the extreme ends of the scale will increase. This means more drought for some, more flooding for others. Increased ocean heat also provides more fuel for tropical storms and hurricanes. One other thing to consider is population density. As more people sprawl out and occupy more area, they now become bigger targets for natural disasters.
I think you did a speech at the school i was attending along time ago. It was near grand rapids. Was that you?
I do a lot of speaking at schools, but I don't think I've ever done one at a school near Grand Rapids.
Thank you so much for your reply! Happy trails, sir.
Thanks so much.
Hey, so there's a bunch of guys out there claiming that there was an ancient advanced civilization that was wiped out during the end of the last ice age. They claim evidence of this account culture are the Pyramids in Egypt, Baalbek, Gobekli tepe, Tiwanaku, etc... Do you think this is a realistic assertion?
Well, I'm no archaeologist, but it seems to me that historians already have figured most of these things out. There's no credible evidence of any ancient "advanced" civilizations that I know of.
What's it like to be inside a volcano?
Well, yes, of course it is hot, but the biggest danger actually comes from falling rocks. Inside a volcanic crater, especially an active one is not a place that is conducive to life for very long. You get in, do what you have to do, then get out as quickly as possible. There are tremors and earthquakes, the smell of sulphur gas is choking (a gas mask is required much of the time) and the whole scene is surreal.
The heat is not that intense until you get up close, then it gets REALLY intense.
Really? Anything in west michigan?
Nope, wasn't me.