Friday, April 23, 2010

2010 Storm Chase 9 Teaser

Amazing day.

Tornadoes 1 and 2 just east of Las Animas, Colorado

Tornado 3 just west-southwest of Lakin, Kansas

Images are enhanced to show contrast.

I did not take any pictures of Tornado 4, but have plenty of video. We observed it a few miles northwest of Deerfield, Kansas.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2010 Storm Chase 5 Teaser

I haven't spent any time working on my report, so it still may be a few days before it goes up... so I wanted to share a picture of the surprise supercell that we discovered near Brice, Texas on Sunday night.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Severe Weather/Chase Forecast: April 11th (Prechase Update)

Well... *sigh*

The models are tricky and not to be trusted. Bullseye chasing tomorrow based off of what I've seen so far is a BAD idea. Where you think may be a large area of instability or a big hole in the cap is, as best as I can tell, a random guess on the part of the models.

Thus, we will not be bullseye chasing tomorrow. Reiterating what I said before, tomorrow will be all about the subtleties of the surface observations and a whole heck of a lot of mesoanalysis!

I don't really have anything important to say about parameters or numbers or whatever. I'm going to be chasing from the gut. Lol. Please don't judge me. I swear, next time is going to be a "slam dunk" chase. ;)

Will be with Scott Hammel tomorrow, so look for his name on Spotter Network. He may also be streaming on ChaserTV.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Severe Weather/Chase Forecast: April 11th

I have been watching this potential severe weather setup since getting home from chasing on Monday.

A nice deep trough sits off of the west coast and thanks to ridging in the east, is not going anywhere very fast. Out ahead of this system, return flow is a bit deflected by the ridge, but it sill advecting moisture northward into the central high plains.

At the surface, a leftover, a slowly frontolosizing boundary is draped from SE Colorado into the panhandles and then northeastward into Kansas. The southerly flow should begin to push this boundary northward tonight while it continues to slowly dissipate. Still, however, it should exist as a point of convergence tomorrow and will have to be watched.

Where the boundary slowly retreats to the north, moisture should pool (and deeply according to some model forecast soundings), which will enhance instability. Obviously a problem will be capping (EML being the buzzword as of late), so areas of surface convergence will be important in finding actual storms that go up.

The NAM runs have been all over the place as to where the highest areas of instability and inhibition are so it is difficult to trust at this point. The GFS has been more consistent with placement of surface features but not with capping. So, it's hard to trust either of these models as an absolute solution.

It appears that two vehicles of us Colorado chasers will be heading out tomorrow and the plan is to closely monitor surface observations and the rapid-update models.

I really enjoy days like this as they certainly are a challenge. When it comes down to it, you really have to rely on the subtleties in the observed surface network and one's ability to detect them.

For what it's worth, the local WFOs are not talking much in the way of severe and the SPC has only mentioned very conditional risk. You'd think I'd learn my lesson from Bustzilla on Monday! At least the GFS and NAM are both breaking our precip this time, albeit in sporadic, random locations!

However, these days can be very rewarding, especially when many other folks aren't out there cluttering up the roads.

Will post an update tonight after the 0Z models come in.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Hambone And The Inflow Jets Battle Bustzilla

2010 Storm Chase 4 Report
April 5th

Much discussion lead up to this chase. The basic synoptic setup was this:

-Slow moving upper level trough over the Rockies.
-Quasi-stationary boundary stretched from NW Kansas into Iowa.
-Dryline along the I-35 corridor

Okay, so the big problem here was capping. I was wrought with confusion as to how the operational models (NAM&GFS) had high CAPE values and in some areas little to no CINH, but was not breaking out any precipitation. Leading into the event, this was by far my biggest concern. Even the 4.0kmWRF was giving us nothing.

Still, with the amount of CAPE at hand, a tight dryline, and a little luck from the upper levels, we just couldn't sit this one out. Add in the fact that so far this year has been a little tough on us, we just couldn't say know.

So, myself, Tony Laubach, Scott Hammel, and Ben Carr set out from Englewood, Colorado at 5AM, Monday morning. All of us were in good spirits and as things tend to happen, we got a little silly.

The constant bombardment of fan/friend requests on Facebook from "storm chasing teams" spurred me to come up with a mock chase team name for us, complete with awesome nick-names. So, for the trip, we were:

Hambone And The Inflow Jets (although, originally it was Ham Solo And The Inflow Jets).

Scott played Hambone
Tony played Lunchbox
and Ben played Auto

Let's just say there's some humorous video... which I may release eventually.

Anyway, back to the chase. Initially, we were undecided as to whether to play the dryline or head into NE Kansas (or possibly SE Nebraska, SW Iowa, and NW Missouri) to play the warm front.

SPC had been wobbling with the dryline setup, even taking away general thunderstorm probabilities the day before. However, the night before, the area was upgraded to a "SEE TEXT" and that morning, it was up to "SLIGHT". Interestingly, what I saw in the models hadn't changed. I was really hoping that they saw something I didn't and thus lead to higher probability of severe.

Let's face it, with the high dewpoints (and resultant large CAPE), fantastic wind shear, a little lift, things would absolutely explode. We're talking enormous hail and tornadoes likely. ... if the cap broke.

With a little encouragement from the official forecasts, we settled on the dryline. As we approached Salina on I-70, we hit moisture. It felt good to be on the other side of the line again... and it was hot. We stopped in Salina to do some makeshift revisions to Scott's rig which lead us from a truck stop to a WalStarMart to an O'Reilly's Auto Parts store. Eventually satisfied with the modifications, we stopped at Chilli's for lunch. Definitely not being used to the heat and humidity, I was in "hydrate-mode" and quickly sucked down three strawberry lemonades. I also learned that if you order in a fake Australian accent, you may not get what you wanted. Scott learned that if he orders the same thing as the person next to him, he should make sure that person didn't order in a fake Australian accent. We both ended up with matching salads. They were tasty enough.

The southwesterlies ate way at the moisture and soon Salina was dry. Looking at the RUC and observed surface data, we decided to make our way further south, probably west of Wichita. The dryline began to retrograde further south, which gave us some hope we would see some initiation in the late afternoon.

At McPherson, we stopped for gas and all laughed at a gas station marquee which read:


I was later informed that "TORNADOS" are "Mexican treats"

Anyway, we were back on the road, southwest-bound for Hutchinson. We stopped just south of town and kind of hung out. The winds were beginning to back *slightly*. I'm talking about 175º here. Temperatures were in the 80's and dewpoints were in the low 60's.

We continued to adjust south and west and suddenly SPC issued a mesoscale discussion...


There was hope! Right?

As it turns out, this was just another tease. There were a few tiny little baby clouds under CAPZILLA but nothing did anything.

Eventually, we found ourselves just south of Medicine Lodge and running into a few other chasers (Connor McCrorey, Aaron Estman, Jake Wallentine, and Kevin Rider where we just hung around and goofed off, acting bitter about what had become a blue-sky bust.

As we were sitting there, storms blew up in NE Kansas, well out of our reach. None of them went tornadic, but it was still a bit of salt in the wounds.

We (our group and Connor and Aaron) admitted defeat and had some dinner at the Pizza Hut in Medicine Lodge. I spent extra time in the bathroom washing the "hot and humid" off of my face. The wind was pretty constant at about 20 knots, which seemed to deposit grime on me. I felt gross.

We briefly speculated about sticking around for the night and chasing the next day, but I had to be at work at 9AM on Tuesday and was not looking forward to another possible cap bust, so we hit the road home.

We stopped south of Russell to get out and have a look at the sky given reports of aurora up in Minnesota. The sky was beautiful but due to our latitude and the moisture haze, I couldn't resolve anything aside from a lightning flash to our very distant northeast.

I also witnessed a spectacular meteor which streaked and flashed a couple of times before disappearing above the ground. I have seen three such meteors late at night on the way back from chases... I almost expect them now.

Nine hours and tons of tired humor later, we were rolling back into Denver... where it was raining. We made it back to Scott's house and quickly unloaded. As I got in my car, almost exactly twenty four hours after arriving the previous morning, I felt as if in a dream-like state. I went home and went right to bed and strangely, it felt like I had just got up. It was like I had driven to Scott's house and back in the middle of the night and just went back to bed. The whole thing was kind of weird.

Maybe this was a symptom of defeat from Bustzilla.

Trip total mileage: 1100 (year-to-date 2092)


Monday, April 05, 2010

2010 Storm Chase 4 - 15Z Update

I was a bit pessimistic last night, so forgive me. Finally the "official" forecasts are reflecting what we've been watching all along... and to think I doubted myself. Anyway, we've elected to stick to our guns and play the dryline today. Based on this morning's surface, I feel more confident with what will happen today.

So, dryline it is! In Gove County, Kansas right now, eastbound on 70.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Severe Weather/Chase Forecast: April 5th (Prechase Update)

Well, we're going out. Where exactly we will be going is still up in the air, though I have a hunch that it will end up being along the Missouri/Iowa border. I'm still at a loss to explain why the models are showing freely lifting parcels on vertical profiles and not breaking out precipitation along the dryline. I understand that there is a lack of upper level support, but at least there isn't any upper level hinderence. The WRF Precip model, which seemed to handle today's convection well is very gloomy for tomorrow and I'm almost going to pretend I didn't see it so I at least have a little hope for tomorrow.

Wow, that sounds awful pessimistic... not my usual naïve optimism. I really do need to get out and am looking forward to the road trip aspect of it as much as the storm probs. I'd just love to sit in that warm, moist southerly flow again. It's been too long.

Updates on the Facetubes. I'm assuming we'll be on Spotter Network under either Scott Hammell or Tony Laubach ... and I think Scott will be streaming anything worthwhile on Chasertv.

We're leaving in five hours so I need to be up in four. Time to hit the sack.


Severe Weather/Chase Forecast: April 5th

I don't even remember what a 65ºF dewpoint feels like. If the operational GFS and NAM verify, then I will likely get a taste on Monday. What we have is massive return flow ahead of a nice upper level system on its way across the continent. The GFS is still slightly more progressive with this feature and as it has been *too* progressive with this type of feature all year, I'll lend my confidence in the NAM's solution.

On Monday evening, a quasi-stationary front will stretch from Wyoming along the Nebraska-Kansas border and become a warm front bulging northward into Iowa. The dryline looks to intersect the QSF in north central Kansas. With backing winds at the surface along the QSF, the dryline should be drawn westward immediately along the boundary. However, just south, the dry southwesterlies look to cause a nice bulge along the line. This is an area that will have to be monitored.

The wind shear is best in this area. However, the models are outputting QPF further south along the dryline into south central Kansas and possibly into northern Oklahoma. The wind shear is still good but less ideal than that of the northern stretches. However, the amount of instability is more than enough to get an atomic tower to blow up.

Inhibition could be an issue though both models are lessening inhibition along the dryline where enhanced moisture convergence will limit the inhibition. Unfortunately, any storm that forms along the dryline will not have a long lifespan. Though storm motion will be rather slow, movement into the heavily inhibited deeper warm sector will likely kill off the updrafts. Also, models suggest there may be some high clouds in the jet further north, possibly over the DL/QSF intercept which could lessen surface heating in this area, keeping it more inhibited.

In the upper levels, the main energy will still be back to the west. However, with its approach, a weak general lift will be in the cards. Weak vertical velocities will still aid in initiating convection.

Further east, along the warm front, there exists an area for significant severe. Due to increased distance to that target, I have not been focusing on it and will not in this forecast. I prefer the dryline play...

Isolated dryline supercells can be very photogenic and it is certainly where I would prefer to be. Multi-parameter analysis points me to two targets, one being Hays, Kansas and the second being Coldwater, Kansas. Perhaps some place in between would be ideal since these two points aren't too far apart. Since I'm not driving, I might not have a choice but if it were up to me, based on the parameters I have seen today, I would be in Kinsley, Kansas, waiting for initiation.

I don't believe by Monday evening we will have a full cut off surface cyclone yet. At the DL/QSF intercept there will be some cyclonic action, but until the left front quadrant of the jet rolls over and really amps up vorticity, we will still be looking at that boundary intersection. Later that night and into the morning, the surface low should begin to get rolling and eventually start dragging cooler air from the north down along the high plains. The Pacific front with this system never really looks to make it through the Rockies, so the eventual cold front, which should really materialize in early to mid Tuesday will be polar in origin. For a while, Tuesday looked like a decent day, but the cold front should sweep down and overrun the dryline Tuesday afternoon, so any convection would be squally, similarly to what we saw on Friday (April 2nd). So, Tuesday looks like a dud to me. So much for all the discussion about all of the other models painting Tuesday as "the day".

Anyway, I will try and update this tomorrow night but if an early wakeup call is in order, I might be heading to bed early after cooking up a ham for dinner tomorrow! ... in which case, this may be the last you hear from me until we're on the road on Monday. If that is the case, I will try and post periodic updates on Facebook. I won't be on Spotter Network, but Tony (Laubach) or Scott (Hammell) may be and we'll all be together. In fact, Scott may be streaming live over at So, if you'd like to chasestalk, there will be plenty of opportunity!

PS: Super glad SPC is only giving my target area a "see text". Hopefully the SPC chasers will all be in Missouri or Iowa! Keep that beautiful Kansas blacktop free of detritus!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Thursday, April 1st

On Thursday evening, while I sat at work, I watched the north-facing window as lee-side cyclogenesis and eventual frontogenesis occurred. Weak to moderate convection formed over the Cheyenne Ridge which included some thundersnow in the Cheyenne area. The generating cold front slowly dropped south along the Front Range but the very strong and dry west-southwesterlies kept its advancement at bay. Along the boundary, convection fired up but the inflow into the clouds had dewpoints between 10-15ºF. The post frontal air had 30ºF+ dews but technially, all the convection was elevated above it. The weak moisture didn't stop the convection, however, and the late-afternoon light lit up the meager towers beautifully. In my convective-deprived stupor, I decided to at least drive out east of town to get a wide look at everything. See, when there's convection in the metro, I get claustrophobic and feel like I need to escape, so I did.

There isn't much to tell about this little journey, except that I drove up Peña Boulevard to get a look at the storms over the metro and then back down to I-70 where I stopped at Airpark Road (a favorite storm haunt for me) to observe for the remainder of the evening. I basically just sat there, watching radar and the skies, enjoying not being cooped up in the city and taking a few photos.

And since I was under the landing path for DIA, I decided to grab one shot of the approach.

Forecast for April 5th coming later tonight.