Apr 302010

Sunday, 2 May

We chased yesterday (Saturday) in east central Arkansas and saw several supercells.  None were tornadic while we were near them.  Although, we did see a large wall cloud and an amazing beavers tail on a supercell late in the afternoon north of I-40 (northeast of Brinkley) before the main show began south of I-40 in the evening.  This storm struggled with the CAP during it’s short life.  But, for about 15 minutes it seemed to have broken the CAP and was getting ready to produce a tornado.

Overall, it was a fun chase and nice to see some beautiful supercells and lightning after dark.   The terrain was flat with not that many trees, and the road network is great.  Most of the day it looked like we were chasing somewhere in the Great Plains, no in Arkansas, which was very nice.

After dark we decided to drive to middle Tennessee to document historic flooding.  The next chase opportunity won’t be for a few days…


Saturday, 1 May

We are headed to eastern Arkansas.  The tornado potential looks big along the boundary.  The one problem is the lack of any significant CAP.  So, storms will tend to fire early and be widespread, but the shear and instability should be adequate to produce tornadic supercells.  There may even be a violent tornado if things come together just right.


Friday, 30 April 2010

My wife and I left Connecticut Tuesday evening (April 27) for an extended chase vacation.  I had my eyes on Thursday (April 29) across Kansas for the initial chase, but most of the following week appeared to hold plenty of chase opportunities.  So we got in the car and left.

After a lot of stress, driving, sleep deprivation, road constructions, car accidents, delays and pain, we finally made it to the local library in Wellington, Kansas Thursday afternoon.  There, we were able to check data and be away from the car for a little bit.  We met up with Simon and a few other chasers there as well.  I liked the dryline setup across south central Kansas and stuck with that target.  Unfortunately, the cap was just too strong and no supercells formed in that region.  Storms did fire much further north near the Nebraska border, but the low level shear wasn’t nearly as impressive as our region and no tornadoes were reported.

We ended up spending the night at a friend’s house in Wichita that night (Thursday).  I considered driving through the night to get into position somewhere in eastern Missouri or possibly Arkansas for Friday’s setup.  But the body can only handle so much and I needed some real sleep – finally.  Plus, it’s really hard to get excited about chasing in potentially hilly terrain with horrible roads and lots of trees.

Now it’s Friday evening, I’m in Norman, and I’m waiting for the computer models to update so I can decide whether I’m chasing somewhere tomorrow or not.  If I am, it’s either going to be in eastern Arkansas or somewhere in central Texas.

After that, it looks like there will be two or three days without anything to chase across the Plains/Mississippi Valley.  But by mid and late next week the European model brings a serious of troughs across the Rockies and into the Plains.  This should provide at least one good chase day, and hopefully one or two others that are decent, Wed – Fri.

That’s all for now.

- Jim

Apr 232010

Friday, 23 April

Saturday, April 24 looks like a classic tornado outbreak over the South/Mississippi Valley region (Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee).  In fact, the deep layer shear will be supportive of violent, long track tornadoes.

But there’s more where that came from.  We are entering a very active severe weather pattern, which began over the last couple days as shown by the tornadoes occurring over the Plains.  By mid and late next week (April 28-3) more tornado setups are expected, and this active severe weather pattern will persist through at least the first week of May.  Based on MJO movement and other guidance, I expect this active period of severe weather setups across the Plains to continue through around the second week of May.

Apr 182010

Sunday, 18 April

I’ve been away for the past week, hence the break from my blog posts.  I did want to say that there is finally something on the horizon.  Thursday and Friday (April 22 and 23) both have potential for severe storms across the Plains.   The pattern does look more impressive once we get into late April and early May.  The European Ensembles indicate a series of troughs ejecting into the Rockies and Plains April 28 through May 2.   This will set the stage for a series of chase setups across the Plains as we head into late April and early May.  It’s about time!

Apr 092010

Friday, 9 April

I do not expect the weather pattern across the Great Plains to be favorable for severe storms and tornadoes as we head into mid and even late April.  The weather pattern across the U.S. for mid and late April, using long range computer models, El Nino and other global factors, does not look good.  It appears like a ridge will become established over the northwestern U.S. into western Canada in mid April.  This will block most of the northern jet stream storm systems from the Plains, making the chase pattern inactive.  There will be periodic storm systems ejecting into Texas from the southern jet stream, which would provide some activity.  But it’s never good for storm chasers when a ridge develops over the northwestern U.S. into western Canada.

Usually, weather patterns last for 2-3 weeks before big changes occur, but not always.  Let’s hope things change around mid May to allow for a more active storm season over the Plains.

Apr 012010

Tuesday, 6 April Update: Today’s setup from Oklahoma to Iowa

Veered (westerly) 850mb winds over KS/OK have really caused this setup to go downhill quickly.  The combination of a stronger cap and much drier air at 850 mb are both huge negative factors.  However, as we continue into the late afternoon and early evening, models suggest those 850 mb winds will back to the southwest/south-southwest, and allow for richer moisture to spread over eastern OK/KS.  This should support supercells and possibly tornadoes where the cap breaks .  Although, the tornado prospect looks more promising over southern Iowa/northern Missouri.


Monday, 5 April: Another Update

Tuesday (tomorrow) is looking better for tornadoes, and the risk is a bit further east.   Eastern OK, eastern KS/western MO into IA are looking better for the formation of elongated supercells with tornadoes, some potentially violent in the afternoon/early evening.  One big problem for anyone chasing is storms will be moving northeast around 50 mph, at least initially.  With very curved low level hodographs forecast by the GFS, the tornado potential will be pretty significant with any isolated supercells that form from Iowa to eastern Oklahoma.   I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one violent, long track tornado reported tomorrow.  My preference right now is eastern/southeast KS ahead of the pseudo dryline/cool front where the cap will be strong enough to keep storms somewhat isolated.


Monday, 5 April Update

4/5/10: Highly conditional setup from western OK/KS into eastern NE/IA

Along the dryline from western OK to Kansas, the cap will be very strong throughout much of the day.  In the absence of large scale upper forcing, it’s unlikely the combination of mixing along the dryline and daytime heating will be substantial enough to support surface based convection by the late afternoon/early evening.  Although, it’s not completely out of the question.  Should a storm or two fire, wind shear will support supercells.  In that scenario, the tornado potential is quite high.  But, the cap may be too strong to allow any storm that does manage to fire to survive long enough to produce a tornado.  Basically, it’s a very conditional setup, with a greater risk for a bust than a tornado.  Then again, crazier things have happened.

Extreme eastern Nebraska into central/southern Iowa looks a little more interesting.  A warm front lifting north throughout the day may become the focus for convection this afternoon into the evening.  But the cap will also be a huge factor.  Models show a weak upper impulse moving through around midday.  If that’s correct, there will actually be subsidence over the region by the late afternoon/early evening.  This will hurt the chances for surface based storms to form along the warm front.  Storm initiation looks highly conditional.  But should a surface based storm form, wind shear would support supercells and tornadoes.

I think the best chance for a tornado today will be just north of the warm front in south central Iowa early this evening.  Get an elevated supercell to become surface based where the cap is much weaker.  Otherwise, tornado potential today is extremely low and highly conditional.

4/6/10: South central KS/northern OK

This setup will depend quite a bit on how much the 850mb winds back late in the afternoon/early in the evening.  If they do, enough 850mb moisture will be in place to support tornadoes – some strong.  But right now models keep the 850mb winds out of the southwest all day.  This will build an enormous cap over OK/KS, and advect dry air into the region.  As the upper trough moves in from the west, it will provide forcing to cool the mid levels.  This, combined with forcing along the dryline and cool front intersection, will aid in storm initiation late in the afternoon.  Wind shear will be supportive of elongated supercells.   But the mid level moisture will be sacrificed, raising questions on tornado potential.

The biggest positive about 4/6 (Tuesday) is the upper air forcing, making storms likely to form.  Today (4/5), storm initiation is highly conditional, but the wind shear is very good for tornadoes, if a storm can actually form.


Saturday, 3 April Update

4/5/2010: Risky chase setup from the Texas panhandle into Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa

Now that we are only a couple days away from Monday’s setup, things are coming into better focus.  The slower eastward ejection of the trough as shown by the European/Canadian models on Thursday looks correct.  The GFS, and now the shorter term NAM, has slowed down the system.

What we have for Monday is intense lee troughing with a well pronounced dryline mixing east across the western plains during the day.  Unfortunately, all the large scale lift associated with the trough will be over the Rockies.  In addition, 850mb winds will be out of the southwest throughout much of the day from Texas to northern Kansas.  This will create an enourmous capping inversion, making storm initiation difficult, without some upper support.

By the early evening, models show the 850mb winds backing to the south across Texas, Oklahoma and most of Kansas.  This will allow for deep moisture to move into those regions and provide great low level wind shear for supercells and tornadoes.  But the only mechanisms available from this setup to get a storm to fire is from forcing along the dryline and daytime heating.  This will make storm initiation highly conditional.  No further interpretation can really help at this point, unless something in the models changes.   A storm or two may develop along the dryline.  If so, the storm would quickly become a supercell and have tornado potential.  On the other hand, there may just be a clear sky bust given the strong cap and lack of upper support.

Another area of interest is along the warm front from eastern Nebraska into Iowa.  There, the 700mb temperatures won’t be as warm as over TX/OK/KS, which suggests the cap will be weaker.  For Iowa, the 850mb winds will remain out of the south throughout the day, advecting warm, moist air into the region all day (as opposed to advecting very warm, dry air like over Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas). So for the eastern Nebraska and especially the Iowa region, the cap has a slightly better chance of breaking.  However, convergence along a warm front boundary is usually much weaker than along the dryline.   So even this area has a decent shot of seeing a clear sky bust in the evening.  For what it’s worth, the GFS does show convection firing just north of the warm front in central Iowa by 00z.

As you can see, the lack of upper support is really hurting this setup.  The storm system needs to speed up.  If it doesn’t, the strong cap could win.  If a supercell manages to form along the dryline (it’s possible), the wind shear would be very supportive of tornadoes.

4/6/2010: This could be a big day from Missouri into Illinois and Iowa.  The upper support will be ejecting into the Plains.  A strong 850mb jet underneath 70 knot 500mb winds could provide shear for strong tornadoes, should things come together correctly.  One big problem is storms will be racing northeast at an incredible rate.  As stated on Thursday, 4/6 could be the bigger tornado day vs. 4/5.  We will have a much better view on 4/6 tomorrow as models update.


Thursday, 1 April

Early to maybe even mid next week (April 5-7) looks primed for severe storms and tornadoes across the southern and central Plains.  If you look only at the GFS Operational model, Monday (April 5) looks like a big day, with numerous supercells and some tornadoes possible from Texas to Nebraska.  It would be nice if it were that simple.  Look at one model and see an amazing setup.  Unfortunately it’s much more complex than that .

The European models (as well as the Canadian) are slower to eject the shortwave into the Plains early next week.   That means the current GFS solution for Monday should be taken with a grain of salt.  This may actually be a good thing.  The European models suggest that Monday, Tuesday and even Wednesday could all be chase days across the southern/central Plains (the GFS only has Monday being a good setup).  According to the European models, Monday looks like a potentially good setup, but with cap issues.  Tuesday might be the best day for tornadoes as the leading upper impulse associated with the larger trough reaches the Plains, and provides enough upper support to break the cap.  In fact, it’s possible the good tornado setup the GFS currently shows for Monday will be delayed and occur Tuesday.  That’s what I would hope for based on the available data.   But, whatever the details may be, we do have to question the GFS solution for Monday.

Over the next couple days I’ll watch the model trends and see which day (or days) truly look the best next week for tornadoes.   But the bottom line is this:  There should be at least one big day with supercells and tornadoes across the southern to central Plains April 5-7.