Taylor was reportedly on a cruise at the time of his death.
From 2008 to 2012, Taylor paired with well-known chaser Reed Timmer on the “Storm Chasers” program, which documented their pursuit of dangerous storms erupting throughout tornado alley.
Timmer said on Twitter that he was “shocked and absolutely devastated” by Taylor’s passing.
“We chased so many intense storms, and I wish we could have just one more storm chase,” Timmer said. “I’ll miss you forever, Joel. We lost a legend.”
Timmer recalled that Taylor had “incredible natural instinct” for chasing storms. “No one better at dominating back roads behind the wheel,” he tweeted.
“We are so saddened to hear about Joel’s passing,” said Laurie Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the Discovery Channel. “We will always remember him fondly as an incredible meteorologist and driver of ‘The Dominator.’ Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Taylor studied meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. While still a student, he chased the infamous Moore, Okla., tornado of May 3, 1999, that caused more than $1 billion in damage and killed 36 people. Winds in that storm were clocked at 301 mph, the highest recorded on Earth. Taylor won a competition sponsored by the Weather Channel for his account of the chase, which earned him a trip to Hawaii to appear on the network’s prime-time program “Atmospheres.”
“I’m heartbroken to hear of the passing of Joel Taylor,” tweeted Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore, who hosted the program. “My heart goes out to his parents. Long before his Discovery fame, Joel and his parents accompanied us on a trip to Hawaii while we taped our show. … His passion for tornadoes was infectious.”
Taylor grew up in Elk City, Okla., and lived in Norman.
Taylor is the second major figure in the weather community to die since the weekend. John Coleman, 83, who co-founded the Weather channel, died Saturday.
To honor Taylor, storm chasers aligned themselves over Oklahoma to spell out his initials:
In addition, many meteorologists and storm chasers posted tributes to Twitter: