It's feeling like spring here in Denver. We had another day over 60ºF today. Though that streak looks to be coming to an end, severe weather actually made itself known across the Mississippi Valley today.
I just have a few things to share today, so we'll start with a video of the Parkersburg, IA EF-5 someone posted over on Storm Track a couple days ago. The video itself isn't too exciting, but you'll want the volume all the way up on this one. Note: There is some strong language at the beginning.
Last night, I was watching the radars after a few thunderstorms had erupted in Wyoming. As the system moved east and moved out of the Black Hills, there were some pretty impressive returns on radar as you can see in the image below:
The most interesting part was that the surface temps under that 60+dbZ area were under 30ºF! Check out this precip-type radar product! Phillip, South Dakota was reporting "moderate to heavy freezing rain"!
Active Tropical Weather
North Pacific Ocean
Dann. Currently at Denver (Hampden Heights), Colorado: 39ºF A few clouds, calm.
... but it rained here on Monday night. Rain, not snow; nice little shower at that. Temps were in the low 50's and it certainly caught me off guard. I had watched a little convection fire up over the Palmer Divide earlier in the evening, but they quickly faded. This was the case with my little shower as well, which you can see in the radar image below.
Today, we saw a few thunderstorms associated with an approaching shortwave in Wyoming. Again, just a bit excited for spring to be here ... and I have an image. Enjoy!
Active Tropical Weather
16S Hina - Is done. Found a nice image of the remnant circulation center, though.
Dann. Currently at Denver (Hampden Heights), Colorado: 55ºF Mostly cloudy (high clouds). Winds light.
Overview tropical satellite imagery and KRIW radar imagery used with permission; courtesy of IPS Meteostar Inc. Tropical tracking information and additional satellite imagery from Joint Typhoon Warning Center and Navy/NRL Tropical Cyclone Page. Annotations are made by the author of this blog. Click for larger images. **NOTE: If you've reached this page due to a search result, the most current tropical information can be found in the latest post and not necessarily the post you are reading. Visit http://blog.bigskyconvection.com/ for the most recent post.
My family first got the internet some time in 1996. We had the America Online service at the time and a 2400 baud modem. Before we upgraded to a faster modem, I recall actually having to turn "images" off such that a web page could eventually load. Back in the late 90's, I was a weather-obsessed high school student. One of the first outlets for my obsession was AOL's weather chat room. There was a regular set of people in there who talked about, as you could imagine, weather. After a while, I thought it might be a good idea to send out a weather-related newsletter. Thus, the LepWxNews was born. The "Lep" came from my AOL screen name "leporinis" (it's a type of fish). The first issue was sent out on May 29th, 1997 to just under 40 people that I had befriended in the chat. The purpose was to get people to report about the weather at their location which I then compiled and added to the newsletter.
Due to a hard drive failure many years back, I lost all digital copies of the newsletter which I put out for about two years. While I was at my parents' house during the holidays, I dug up a stack of newsletters that I had printed out. In fact, I found issues 1-116. I recently went back and started reading through some of the old newsletters and you can imagine my surprise when I uncovered the account of my very first storm chase! I really had to laugh while reading it, because some of it was completely made up. So, I am going to relay the account with historical inaccuracies and some grammar corrected and a few notes in parenthesis:
Saturday, May 31st 1997 A beautiful morning in the Mining City (Butte, Montana). At 6:30AM MDT, the temperature was 46ºF and the sky was completely clear except for the West. I checked the local Dopp (radar), and a small thunderstorm cell was moving northwest. This was the only cloud in the sky but it was far away. It exhibited an impressive anvil shape. As the day dragged on, the chance of showers and thunderstorms increased. Around noon, after a high of 72º, a squall line passed through bringing a gust of wind near 70mph (I have no idea if that is correct, I'm still looking for an archived METAR from that day) and some light rains. At about rhree, another thunderstorm hit. Two bolts of lightning, one nearly 20 seconds after the first, rocked my house. After some brief heavy rains with that storm, the rain has seemed to end.
Later that evening, about at ten (which seems weird, because my memory of the day has it still being quite light out), I noticed that the western sky was really starting to light up. I decided it was the perfect time for a chase. As I reached Rocker, a town about seven miles west of Butte, the lightning began to come close and the wind was howling. I pulled off at the Ramsay exit, about (8) miles west of Butte, and watched the lightning. Imagine, for a second, the fireworks on the Fourth of July. The lightning was hitting different spots on the ground just like fireworks. One bolt must've made contact with the ground on a hillside nearby for over five seconds. (this was true, there were many, many return strokes on this bolt) It was absolutely amazing. After the hail began, I decided to head home. The frequent lightning bolts along the side road reminded me that I should really watch. I pulled off at the Rocker exit and sat for another ten minutes. I had outrun the precipitation and the lightning was becoming more frequent if you could imagine that. As I sat there, without warning, a blinding light filled the car. I couldn't pick out the source of the light (but it was close). Let's just say, I was pumped. Then, knocking me out of my daze, the thunder violently rocked the car. Then, BOOM, a hailstone the size of a quarter smashed into the window. At this minute, I realized it was time to get the heck out of the there. The hail was just evil. I could barely see the road in front of me. I finally reached the on ramp to I-90. On the way home. I battled water rushing across the road and the heavy rain. (I can recall hydroplaning) But, thank God, I didn't see any more hail. Even Butte was getting socked, I had trouble driving up Montana Street because of the blinding rain.
I can't even remember if I was a trained spotter back then. Reading it really amuses me ... it's been so long. It reminds me of some of the new excited chasers that show up, the young ones. I've been pretty quick to judge and it's interesting for me to look back and realize I was just like them.
Active Tropical Weather
16S Hina - Unless you're on a boat, don't sweat this one. I don't expect it to gain much more strength before drifting south into the Southern Indian cyclone graveyard.
Dann. Currently at Denver (Hampden Heights), Colorado: 66ºF Mostly cloudy (cirrus). Winds calm.
Well, it's been rather quiet for the past few days here. It was a beautiful day today ... temperatures approaching 60ºF this afternoon. While I was at work, I glanced outside and saw a tree swaying in the wind. Through the Venetian blinds, the tree appeared to have leaves on it. I was struck with this feeling of it being a summer evening, the winds from collapsed storms that had moved off the mountains, blowing the trees around. It warmed me up inside for a moment. Well, that came to a halt near sunrise when a cold front plowed through from the north. The temperature dropped 20ºF in almost an hour and then it snowed a half inch or so.
Though still only February, the season is almost upon us. We've had a number of severe events over the past month and I felt like sharing some radar, so ... enjoy!
February 10th, 2009 (KTLX) Four hooked-out supercells blacken the skies west of Oklahoma City.
February 18th, 2009 (KFFC) A very strong velocity couplet south of Atlanta, Georgia.
February 11th, 2009 A thunderstorm over Oahu produces two landspouts!
Active Tropical Weather
Dann. Currently at Denver (Hampden Heights), Colorado: 21ºF Cloudy with light snow. (1.5" of accumulation)
Overview tropical satellite and KTLX & HMO radar imagery used with permission; courtesy of IPS Meteostar Inc. Click for larger images. **NOTE: If you've reached this page due to a search result, the most current tropical information can be found in the latest post and not necessarily the post you are reading. Visit http://blog.bigskyconvection.com/ for the most recent post.
Hey! Did you know that the past weekend was the National Storm Chaser Convention? This, the 11th annual event was my fourth one to attend. Over this past year, I've conversed with many chasers online that I had never had the opportunity to put a face to. This year was much more fruitful from that aspect than years previous. While I met many chasers from across the country (and world!), I was able to connect with a few local chasers I had never met before.
After Friday night's mixer which was nice for networking, I arrived early (but late) for the beginning of the talks on Saturday. Jon Davies spoke about nighttime and rain-wrapped tornadoes, Dr. Jack Beven about chasing the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. Dr. Howie Bluestein spoke about VORTEX 2 and Rich Thompson discussed SPC high risk cases and verification. Later in the day, Dr. Greg Forbes of the Weather Channel took a broad look at the 2008 severe weather season, Dr. Josh Wurman also talked about VORTEX 2, and Tim Marshall entertained everyone with "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". Tim's talks are always good for a laugh.
They keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. Steve Lyons of the Weather Channel. He also talked about chasing tropical cyclones.
Saturday night was "the famous video night", which was fun as always.
Sunday's talks were great too! Shawna Davies started things off by talking about something I have really felt important in the storm chasing world and that is first response. Dr. Forbes was up again and did a few case studies in forecasting. Jon Davies did another talk on forecasting and Rich Thompson talked in details about some forecasting parameters.
As it has been the past few years, the experience was very rewarding for me. I'd like to publicly thank Roger Hill and Tim Samaras for putting all the hard work into making this convention happen year after year.
Me and Haave hoping to win prizes!
I think Wurman was speaking some place in the back ground ...
Dann. PS: There is one current tropical cyclone, but it's a weak one. I'll get back to more frequent updates soon!
2009 Storm Chase I - February 8th New Mexico & Texas
I suppose it would be polite to get around to telling of our first storm chase this year! My chaser partners were Tony Laubach and Michael Carlson. We set out on Saturday, February 7th with our destination being Amarillo, Texas for the night. The forecast called for a very weak, marginal setup in the Texas Panhandle and possibly eastern New Mexico on Sunday. Both the GFS and NAM/WRF showed the same general solution, though the timing and placement was a bit different. The NAM/WRF had storms breaking out along a narrow axis of instability in eastern New Mexico late in the day and then lining up and heading into Texas that night. The GFS had this action forming further to the east and with less instability. Since Michael's family has a place in Amarillo, it seemed to be a good place to base our operations for the night.
The trip down wasn't uneventful, however. As seen in my previous post, we ran across a large structure fire in the city of Trinidad, Colorado. Needless to say, when we piled back in the car to continue on the trip, we all reeked of smoke! In New Mexico, it became evident to me that we were going to be looking at a fantastic sunset. Pair the amazing topography with a huge wave cloud and I knew we were in business. Sure enough, we pulled beside the road in Mt. Dora, NM and spent twenty minutes or so shooting the sunset (pics in a later post).
In Amarillo, Michael and I went and got a beer. The bar keep was very enthusiastic about storms, using the word "cantaloupe" to describe his favorite type of hail. He was pretty funny. Later that night, we did a bit of a forecast and then hit the sack ... to dream of tornadoes.
On Sunday morning, we spent a lot of time forecasting. The RUC seemed to mirror the NAM/WRF save for the fact that it showed MORE instability in Eastern New Mexico. It was pretty much a no-brainer at this point. We were heading to New Mexico.
Just after noon, we hit the road. The night before, it had been relatively dry but it was now very humid, albeit cold. A field of stratocumulus allowed sunlight to the ground and we all know that nothing but frontal forcing was going to make anything happen. Finally in New Mexico, we started seeing breaks in the deck.
By a radar perspective, a few showers and storms were firing over the mountains deep into New Mexico. We could see the front still on the west side of the state and knew that when it arrived anything in front of it would be collected into the line.
Luckily, a little heating went a long way. Storms fired on the east side of the mountains, not too far from us. We couldn't see much of anything at the point. The heating was beginning to mix out the stratocu and soon they were gone. Storms congealed to the west and were already forming into a line, though the front was not there yet. The motion of the line was slow to the east, though individual cells seemed to travel rapidly northward along it.
We were having difficulty getting data and finally just decided to drive into it. For the first time in a long time, the western sky was ominously black. We were aware of a severe thunderstorm warning along the line and had a good US Highway (70) to travel on ... so we went in.
Out of some stroke of luck, we ended up in an inflow notch on the line. The lightning was incredible ... but I was more interested in the embedded supercellular structure. We watched one and then another wall cloud form. Neither of them really had much of a chance of doing much as the circulation was weak, though the second one had a much tighter inner circulation (see the end of the first video). As we were watching the second wall cloud, the quasi-RFD wrapped around and cut off the updraft, giving us some hail and wind as we left the line.
Arrow points to our location and the inflow notch on the line.
Quasi-RFD precip bulge on the line.
First wall cloud.
Second wall cloud.
Video capture of some of the frequent lightning.
As we pulled ahead of the line, the cold front caught up and began to push it hard eastward. We didn't have any data and it was starting to get dark. Since the inflow was from the southeast, there wasn't a shelf cloud so the storm was relatively featureless. We traveled north and then east and got into Portales, New Mexico where we awaited the arrival of the line. As luck would have it (again), we were right at the apex of a bowed out section of the line.
Video of the second intercept.
We saw some intense wind and minor flooding in Portales. The thought occurred to head east and get back ahead of the line to get lightning shots, but it didn't make mathematical sense. So, we just continued east and reentered the line, only to stop for dinner and begin the long trip home.
Total path of the trip.
All in all, I had an absolute blast on this trip. I can't believe I actually got out to chase in February and that it was successful (I don't measure successful chases by tornadoes, by the way). It was so fun, in fact, that I almost don't mind missing out on Tuesday's outbreak.
Just a quick note to let you all know that I survived my first storm chase of the season. I'm still buried in unedited photos and video, but figured I'd at least share a few photos from the Lonestar Building fire in Trinidad, Colorado. We saw a plume of smoke being emitted from the city's downtown area and stopped to check it out. The photojournalists in Michael and Tony took over, so we took some photos and video of the scene and tried not to get in the way.
Smoke pours from the building as the fire is brought under control.
Michael documents the firefighters in action.
A cluster of fire trucks in front of the building on Main Street.
Chase is a "go"! I've been keeping an eye on the model runs for the past five days or so (GFS/NAM) and they've been consistent on painting some action along the New Mexico / Texas border late afternoon Sunday. While this setup isn't anything to get too excited about, the feeling among my chase partners is that it is very early in the season but also a long time since we've been out. If anything, this may turn into more of a road trip than anything else. I still have hope for some good hail and lightning.
So, I'll be heading out Saturday at noon with Tony Laubach and Michael Carlson. We'll be in Amarillo by 7PM Saturday night and ready to go where needed on Sunday morning to set up. I'll be posting updates on my Facebook page.
So, just a reminder, this blog will not be updated for the next few days. I'll be returning on Monday and may or may not have time to update then. So ... see you all soon.
Active Tropical Weather
13S GAEL - All I can say is "wow". This storm has gone through rapid intensification over the past 48 hours. Luckily, no one seems to be in the core path. If she holds course, only her outer bands will have any effect on Madagascar or La Reunion. I've included plenty of imagery of this beautiful storm below.
14S Freddy - This storm is heading off into open water and expected to strengthen slowly.
Northwestern Pacific Ocean
Dann. Currently at Denver (Hampden Heights), Colorado: 39ºF Clear.
"Always Chasing" describes my desire to never stop pursuing my goals and dreams (pardon the cliché). There are always storms to chase and trails to explore. This blog is a repository of those adventures... pursuing severe/adverse weather, visiting new places and exploring the natural topography of my surroundings. It is an outlet for my amateur pursuit of photography with my point-and-shoot camera as well as a forum for discussing meteorological events. The name "Big Sky Convection" will remain, but I feel that "Always Chasing" more accurately describes my direction.