In 2023, it isn’t hard to imagine we’re living through the end times, with apocalyptic weather events happening throughout the year and across the globe. Since the turn of the millennium, there has been a “staggering rise in climate-related disasters,” according to the UN. Between 2000 and 2019, 3.9 billion people were affected by 6,681 climate-related disasters, compared with 3.2 billion affected by 3,656 such events between 1980 and 1999. By chasing down storms, one woman is throwing herself in the path of some of the most destructive wild forces on planet Earth, recording images that could help us understand and predict extreme weather events. Ad Feedback Though she is an accountant by trade, Sarah Hasan Al-Sayegh calls herself the first Kuwaiti-Arab female storm chaser. When she isn’t crunching numbers, Al-Sayegh tracks ferocious storms, to both photograph nature’s wild beauty and document our changing weather systems. Photographing our changing weather Before she began storm-chasing, Al-Sayegh, 40, photographed landscapes and cityscapes as a hobby. Her enthusiasm for meteorological phenomena was ignited by chance. In 2011, she went out to shoot a landscape. “All of a sudden, this huge Haboob dust storm [was] coming towards me, and I was fascinated with it,” recalls Al-Sayegh. “Haboob is an Arabic term … a wall of cloud that forms when there is a low-level jet coming from the north and it will lift the dust,” she explains. “I was like, how did that happen? How is that possible? And I was hooked from that moment.” Since then, Al-Sayegh has been photographing the storms that sweep across Kuwait and the Arabian Peninsula. “I want to know how storms are happening, how tornadoes are happening,” she says. Even with no meteorological background, Al-Sayegh has noticed changes in the weather patterns in the Middle East. “Storm chasing made me see the world more,” she says. “It helped me to realize that climate change is something real, it’s a serious thing.” There have been a number of extreme weather events in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years. In March and April 2019, parts of Iran, Iraq and Syria were devastated by heavy floods. Last year, sandstorms hit the region from Dubai to Syria, with Iraq hit particularly hard. Sandstorms are happening with unprecedented frequency, experts say, driven partly by climate change. And this month, nearly 4,000 people were killed by flooding in Libya, according to UN figures, the result of extreme rainfall brought by Storm Daniel. “In the past five or six years, [there have been] tornadoes in Saudi Arabia, in the United Arab Emirates, in Qatar and also in Kuwait,” says Al-Sayegh. She says storm chasers can help inform meteorology, but adds that they aren’t taken seriously in the Middle East. For her part, Al-Sayegh collects her photographs and video footage and compares it with the prediction data she puts together for each chase. She then posts the information on social media and shares it with accounts that monitor international weather phenomena. A dangerous pursuit Storm chasing requires planning, patience, and complicated data-analysis. Mistakes can mean missing out on the action or even putting yourself in danger. Al-Sayegh says that the unpredictable forces of nature are not to be taken lightly. “I have to have an exit plan,” she says. Al-Sayegh recalls that on May 31, 2016, she and fellow storm chaser Mike Olbinski came across a huge storm structure near Lamesa, Texas. “We were taking images and suddenly heard a roaring thunder and felt some electricity,” she says. “After looking at Mike’s video footage of the chase day we realized that the lightning struck just feet away from us.” Al-Sayegh acknowledges that storm chasing is predominantly a male-dominated activity, particularly in the Gulf region, and is hopeful that more Arab women will take it up following her example. “I would like to say to all the girls who want to be storm chasers or go into male-dominated jobs: just go for it,” says Al-Sayegh. “Don’t let people say that you cannot do it because you’re a female.” Al-Sayegh is yet to see the chaser’s holy grail - a tornado - first-hand on the Arabian Peninsula. But she has captured images of some astonishing cloud formations, such as a huge “supercell” or “rotating thunderstorm” that resembles a flying saucer. She now hopes to expand her meteorological knowledge and raise awareness around climate change. “I just hope to be able to put that message to everybody through my photography and through my storm chasing,” Al-Sayegh says.