May 292013
 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

 

Tornado near Bennington, KS on May 28, 2013

Tornado near Bennington, KS on May 28, 2013


 

It’s really late so I’ll try to make this brief, but after such a successful day I had to find some time to at least post a few photos. Today I documented a large, violent tornado near Bennington, KS. I had targeted the Salina area for storms to develop along the warm front near the pseudo dryline intersection. Well the forecast worked out well and a supercell indeed developed just northwest of Salina. Before long it became a monster storm just west of Bennington. The tornado developed and quickly became a large cone/stovepipe, becoming wrapped in rain a couple different times before transitioning into a large wedge.

 

Tornado near Bennington, KS.

Tornado near Bennington, KS.


 
Tornado near bennington, KS.

Tornado near bennington, KS.


 

When the wedge transition occurred, I re-positioned a mile or so to the north to get a better shot, hoping I would be able to see around the rain. The re-positioning did get me a better short for a little while. But with time this storm became the monster of all HP supercells.

 

Wedge tornado near Bennington, KS.

Wedge tornado near Bennington, KS.


 

Jim

May 262013
 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

 

Better late than never. I finally had the chance to edit and post my tornado footage from May 19 in central Oklahoma. I was chasing along with Simon Brewer and Juston Drake, who were in a separate car. We also brought along Juston’s sister Mechel, who had never been storm chasing. We documented a rope/mutli-vortex tornado in Edmond, OK. Then the supercell produced a stovepipe that became a wedge near Carney, OK. The terrain wasn’t great but I managed to get some footage of both life cycles of the tornado.

 

 

Eventually the supercell became a HP beast and into an area with a poor road network. Thus, we decided to drop the storm and head south towards a new supercell southwest of Norman, OK. That storm soon produced a tornado that we documented near Dale/Shawnee Oklahoma from I-40.

Anyways, looking at this upcoming week, it appears the atmosphere will be primed for yet another series of severe weather events across the Great Plains. As usual, my free time is limited. So more on this later…

 

Jim

May 242013
 

Friday, 24 May 2013

 

It has been a very busy past few days. I attempted to write a post at the airport on Tuesday on the way home, but that proved to be both too time consuming and much too difficult. At the time I had only slept for about 3 hours two nights in a row. Not to mention the fact that after the Moore, OK tornado and chasing other tornadic supercells across southeast Oklahoma that evening, I needed to find a town with good cell phone reception in order to do a phone interview on CNN with Piers Morgan that night. Afterwards (it was around midnight by then) I had to drive all night back to Wichita – grab a 3 hour nap – and then catch my flight. And remember, upon returning home I went back to work the next day after yet another short nap for sleep. So, it might be appropriate to say I’ve been a little busy!

 

 

So today, after finally having the chance to catch up on sleep, I finally found the time to edit video from May 18 in Kansas. The first tornado was near the town of Rozel, KS and has been rated EF4. I was standing about a half mile or so east of it for a while. Eventually it came much closer to me. I was probably a couple hundred yards away at one point before I had to leave my position. There is more video of the tornado after it crossed the highway and for a few minutes after that, but I didn’t want this clip to be too long. In fact, I had to cut a lot of video from much of this tornado’s life to keep this clip short. (I don’t normally have issues with too much tornado footage…this was an extremely successful chase).

The second tornado developed further east with the new mesocyclone a bit west of the town of Larned, KS. This tornado quickly became a beautiful elephant trunk and had a very long rope out stage. Both tornadoes did little damage, which is always a good thing. In fact the only reason the Rozel tornado was rated so high (EF4) is because the doppler on wheels mobile radar was getting readings and measured wind speeds between 165 and 185 mph, supportive of an EF4 tornado.

This goes down as one of my more memorable chase days. I got right up next to a slow moving, photogenic, violent tornado harmlessly passing through a field. The Rozel tornado did pass by a farm and one or two homes were damaged. But nobody was hurt and the tornado, for the most part, missed the town. It’s unfortunate that homes were hit, but I’m glad no further damage occurred and that nobody was hurt. As a storm chaser, you want to see a tornado pass harmlessly through an open field like this tornado did for most of its life. And the second tornado west of Larned, KS danced around open fields for it’s entire life.

More coming soon. I still need to edit all the video from May 19 in Oklahoma. Yes, I saw the Edmond, Carney and Shawnee/Dale, OK tornadoes. So more coming very soon…

 

Jim

May 202013
 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

 

Violent stovepipe tornado near Dale, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.

Violent stovepipe tornado near Dale, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.

What a day! After seeing some very photogenic tornadoes yesterday in Kansas, I couldn’t have imagined actually seeing even more impressive tornadoes today. But I did. I documented a multi-vortex rope tornado in Edmond, a wedge near Carney, and a violent wedge/stovepope tornado near Dale Oklahoma.

Here are just a few screen shots from today. Much, much more to come as time permits of course!

 

Violent wedge tornado near Dale, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.

Violent wedge tornado near Dale, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.

 

Stovepipe tornado near Dale, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.

Stovepipe tornado near Dale, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.


 
Tornado near Carney, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.

Tornado near Carney, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.


 
Tornado near Carney, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.

Tornado near Carney, Oklahoma on May 19, 2013.


 

Jim

May 192013
 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

 

Tornado just south of Rozel, KS with a lightning bolt on May 18, 2013.

 

It’s now the very early morning hours after the chase, so I’ll make this brief. Yesterday (May 18) I witnessed two tornadoes in western Kansas near the town of Rozel. The first developed into a large cone/stovepipe tornado which I witnessed from very close range. The other was an elephant trunk that had one of the longest rope out stages I’ve every seen. These tornadoes were very photogenic and slow moving. What a fantastic chase day!

 

Tornado south of Rozel, KS on May 18, 2013.

Tornado south of Rozel, KS on May 18, 2013.


 
Tornado east of Rozel, KS on May 18, 2013.

Tornado east of Rozel, KS on May 18, 2013.


 

I wish I had time to write and post more but I need to get some rest for tomorrow’s chase day! As time permits I’ll post more photos and updates.

 

Jim

May 172013
 

Friday, 17 May 2013

 

I’m sitting here at an airport, waiting for my connecting flight taking me to the Great Plains, and I’ve FINALLY found a free moment to post about what I’m doing! The last few days/week (mostly the past 48 hours!) have been incredibly busy and stressful with work and life. I had been waiting and waiting for the MJO to reach phase 5 to bring a good chase pattern and it finally has, right at the worst possible time logistically for me!

Nevertheless, despite having a million and one things to do, I’ve put things on hold for the next few days for storm chasing. This is just how it works sometimes and it kinda sucks. I’m exhausted and I have a lot of things waiting for me to do when I get back from this trip. But, the atmosphere brings together conditions likely to produce tornadoes when it wants to. And I think it wants to this weekend through early next week when a series of storm chasing setups will bring the potential for tornadoes – some violent – across the Great Plains. The combination of upper level support, shear and especially instability on a couple of these days looks very impressive as a result of very deep, rich low level moisture. So I want to be out there, and I’ve done literally everything I can to make that happen. After all, this is what I’ve been waiting for!

More to come soon as time permits…

 

Jim

May 112013
 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

 

In just typing today’s date I get an odd feeling. May 11? Yep, we’re well into the second week of May and not much has happened. I found myself rather excited a few days ago, I believe it was May 8. There was a legitimate, half decent chase setup over western north Texas and Oklahoma, featuring the likelihood for supercells to form off the dryline and bring the potential for a tornado or two (see image below). It wasn’t a great setup, but at least it was a setup.

 

Visible satellite image over the southern plains on May 8, 2013.  Supercell thunderstorms are occurring along the dryline from west Texas north into western Oklahoma and Kansas.

Visible satellite image over the southern plains on May 8, 2013. Supercell thunderstorms are occurring along the dryline from west Texas north into western Oklahoma and Kansas.

 

I have a friend that went chasing that day and I did some nowcasting for him. It reminded me how much constant data you need as a storm chaser to make sound decisions on which storm to go after and when to drop your storm and go after another. It brings me back to days when you are on a storm, fumbling through a map to find the number of the highway heading north. You think to yourself, “How many miles do I have ’till I get there?” You take a closer look at the map, “Ok, 13 miles before we get to that east option, I think we can beat that hail core!” You reach for your camera to snap a picture of a wall cloud, but you do it quickly because you’re also driving. The hail core is getting closer. Now the road is only a few miles away. You’re cutting it close but you’ll make it. Before you know it you will be on that road going east, looking for the updated radar image. Yes, storm chasing is exciting but it’s also extremely stressful at times.

On May 8th there were storms forming along the dryline over the eastern Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma (see image below). The CAP was strong but there was a shortwave moving through the region during peak heating. So the storms which formed had a window of opportunity to become severe and perhaps produce a tornado. But once the shortwave moved too far east the supercells began to struggle with the CAP and the day was pretty much over. It’s sad this setup got me so excited. But like I side, it was at least a legitimate chase setup, and in this slow season those kinds of setups have been few and far between.

 

Radar image (base reflectivity) showing supercell thunderstorms across western north Texas.  I helped direct my friend to the storm just south of Memphis (see arrow).

Radar image (base reflectivity) showing supercell thunderstorms across western north Texas. I helped direct my friend to the storm just south of Memphis (see arrow).


 

In the image above and the image below, you can see a nice supercell south of Memphis, but it weakens. At one point it had a hook like feature on the southwestern side of the storm along with a v-notch. But the storm began to weaken (image below) and the southern storms started to intensify. However, the CAP was beginning to strengthen again as the shortwave moved east of the storms. Thus, the best part of the chase day was likely over.

 

Radar image (base reflectivity).  You can see the storm my friend is on is weakening and the storms to the south seem to be intensifying.  He decided to drop south to one of the southern storms (see arrow).  Unfortunately, the CAP was strengthening again as the shortwave had already passed east of the region.  Thus, none of these storms had much of a future anymore.  But diving south on bigger days can a lot of times be very rewarding.

Radar image (base reflectivity). You can see the storm my friend is on is weakening and the storms to the south seem to be intensifying. He decided to drop south to one of the southern storms (see arrow). Unfortunately, the CAP was strengthening again as the shortwave had already passed east of the region. Thus, none of these storms had much of a future anymore. But diving south on bigger days can a lot of times be very rewarding.


 

This day sorta reminded me about all the little things you deal with while out storm chasing. The hours upon hours in the car. The daily search for food. And while we try to have balanced meals, good luck doing that every day! The lack of solid nutritional meals really takes a toll on the body after a few days, i.e. stomach acids. Factor in a major lack of sleep and a lot of driving and you get the picture. Before you know it you’re exhausted. You’ve been chasing marginal setups every day for a week and your body is just drained. You’ve been getting storms, some supercells, but no tornadoes.

Then you finally get a great setup with a good possibility for tornadoes. You’re still exhausted and your body has been beaten down by sleep deprivation and malnutrition. But you press on. Adrenaline kicks in and the pain is numbed. It’s time to finally get that tornado, but it’s going to take hours of forecasting, navigating and really tough decisions. Oh right, it’s also going to take a little bit of luck! That’s because sometimes the most amazing supercell just refuses to produce a tornado, while the storm to your north for whatever reason drops a huge wedge tornado. Do you have time to get there before it dissipates? This is storm chasing.

 

Jim

May 042013
 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

 

It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through the first week of May! You wouldn’t know if you are looking at forecasts from the Storm Prediction Center showing a lot of “See Text” areas or looking at the way the weather has been the last several days. With historical snowfall and record low temperatures occurring from Colorado to Kansas and other areas of the Great Plains, it just hasn’t felt like spring. Not at all. In fact winter hasn’t given up. But I’m finally seeing the beginning stages of spring and yes, the storm chasing season, coming back to life!

Right now as I type, a large area of thunderstorms (convection) continues to grow over the Indian Ocean from just east of Africa to just west of Indonesia (seem image below). This is the birth of a new MJO (Madden Julian Oscillation) wave. And the future strength and especially movement of this MJO could have a significant impact on the storm chasing season in late May or early June. So it has this storm chaser’s full attention.

 

Satellite image on May 4, 2013 over the tropics from eastern Africa to the Indian Ocean and Indonesia area.  The MJO convection is circled.

Satellite image on May 4, 2013 over the tropics from eastern Africa to the Indian Ocean and Indonesia area. The MJO convection is circled.


 

Ok, please brace yourself for three paragraphs of a bit of meteorology (weather nerd) talk. It’s necessary to explain how all this stuff can result in large tornadoes! Below is the MJO forecast for the next 15 days from the European Ensemble. Notice how most members bring the MJO to phase 4 in about two weeks while a few bring it all the way to phase 5. Phase 4 would certainly bring more troughs to the west coast of the U.S., but it would be a split flow type pattern with a continued ridge over western Canada to Alaska (not shown). This would probably bring severe weather setups to the southern plains (TX/Oklahoma) from the subtropical jet, with some limitations given that the main jet energy source would be blocked.

 

MJO forecast for the next 15 days from the European Ensemble valid May 4, 2013.

MJO forecast for the next 15 days from the European Ensemble valid May 4, 2013.


 

However, the greater pattern impacts which would bring the potential for a lot more significant storm chasing setups to the Great Plains, would occur if the MJO makes it out to phase 5 (see image below). Phase 5 would bring a full jet stream extension across the northeast Pacific (ridge just south of Alaska) and a corresponding trough to the western U.S. and western Canada with a ridge over the southern U.S. Basically, it would bring a great synoptic scale weather pattern for severe weather and potentially tornadoes to the central parts of the U.S. including the Great Plains. Just how long this good chase pattern lasts would largely be dictated by just how long the convective feedback remains in phase 5.

 

500mb height anomalies for MJO phase 5 during the month of May.  Should this occur in late May it suggests a favorable storm chasing pattern.

500mb height anomalies for MJO phase 5 during the month of May. Should this occur in late May it suggests a favorable storm chasing pattern.


 

Ok, now that I’ve talked about how great it would be for storm chasers if the MJO makes it all the way to phase 5 and those convective feedbacks remain in place, we can talk in a bit more realistic sense. It’s a bit unclear just exactly how quickly and how far east the MJO will move over the next 15 days. I’m not seeing a lot to suggest significant eastward progression right now, based on current data across Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Though some data strongly suggests quick eastward movement over the next week, or at the very least continued strength of the MJO wave. Beyond that again it’s unclear how far east this MJO will go at this time. But the one thing that convection has going for it is warm sea surface temperatures from the Indian Ocean all the way to the western Pacific. So again, it could be just a matter of time.

It’s definitely interesting to note the latest European Weekly model brings a pattern change during the last 7-10 days of May, bringing a trough to the western U.S. and a ridge to the eastern and southeastern U.S. This would loosely fit the approximate MJO phase 5 timing if it indeed takes perhaps 15 or 20 days to make it that far east.

In a nutshell I think it’s safe to say it’s just a matter of time before the chase season comes back to life! And this shouldn’t really be a surprise. I mean, mother nature cannot just keep the pattern perpetually crappy for the remainder of the season. Something’s gotta give. And that ‘give’ is showing up right now in the form of growing convection over the Indian Ocean. By sometime in late May that convection could cause latent heat feedbacks over the Pacific jet stream that will in turn force a series of strong troughs across the western U.S. and a ridge over the southern and eastern U.S. Finally, this will all combine with deep moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to bring supercells and tornadoes to the Great Plains.

Right…if only it were THAT simple! But the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together. It’s more than just hope. The data says keep your eyes open and be patient.

It’s just a matter of time….

 

Jim