Monday, May 25, 2009

The End of Trip 2.a and 2.b

We are almost home. Its amazing to think about the way the weather has been. Almost beyond comprehension. To put it in perspective, we have not had a weather watch anywhere in the country since Saturday. 9 DAYS AGO!! I would not have thought it was possible to go that long in May without some weather watch. In fact, there has not been a slight risk or more since Wednesday. And yet, despite all this, we had some good experiences on this trip. We saw a number of storms, drove through some hail, saw a lot of lightning and saw amazing parts of this country. We went on tours of NCAR and Scott AFB, we saw the only remaining wagon ruts from the Oregon trail, went to Estes Park, ate amazing food, and crossed the Platte River 2318 times.

We learned some things too about group dynamics and maintaining a positive attitude when all else goes wrong. I must hand it to this group of stalwart chasers that despite many trying circumstances, they never let it get to them. They were always positive about the experiences. and learned to accept those things which cannot be changed. I feel that all of character was improved.

Would we have changed the weather if we could have? Of course. But there were many great experiences that may be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And we have stories to tell. And we will always remember that "Stupid May without Severe."

Of course I am hoping that THAT is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making good out of bad

I haven't written for a while because it gets depressing with the weather being so bad. Vortex 2 is a very important research project that is basically getting nothing for the 12 million dollar price tag. I feel worse for them. And I feel worse for my students, since it is they who pay for the experience.

And so I commit to do what I know to be best for the students and their educational experience. As we work hard, I can only hope that they truly appreciate what I am trying to do. The ones who have been around for a while are big in teaching this lesson. I hope that the newer students learn to appreciate the intricacies of weather.

And on this trip, I think they have. I like the way this trip is going. We have had some fun storm experiences. Not great, but not bad either. And today was awesome. We spent a couple of hours at NCAR learning the bigger nature of Meteorology. THanks Eric Nelson for helping us set that up. It was a great day.

Boulder also gave us a time of bonding and fun with micro-brewed beer, good food, swimming and a lot of laughs!

So even though Nature is giving us a lemon, we are using it to sweeten our beer!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wow...Worst Weather Pattern...EVER

2009 will probably go down as the worst severe weather pattern anyone will (hopefully) ever see. It is the most stagnant flow I have ever seen. Combine that with an almost tropical cyclone in the Gulf of Mexico, and the leads to the pattern least conducive for severe weather I, and most any others, have ever seen.

So we leave today with very little expectation. We will head to the Nebraska Panhandle tomorrow and hope that the forecast storms may have a slight chance and showing supercellular structure. After that, it looks even worse. We will be heading to the mountains to try to get some understanding of mountain meteorology and maybe take some pictures of of lightning with a mountain backdrop.

I hope to never see another year like this as long as I am storm chasing. The rest of the world is probably happy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bow echo

Had we not had this extensively sucky pattern, I would have considered yesterday an interesting chase. We chased north central to east central MO. Somewhere northwest of Columbia (De Witt) was our target as the storms came through into NW MO. It was a healthy looking bow/HP on radar and when we saw there was an inflow notch on the east side, we were hoping that the storm was hugging the warm front. Missouri and there "wonderful" obs showed cold air to the north and warm air to the south of I-70. We were not sure exactly where the front was. We found it. About ten miles north of I-70 because when we approached the storm temperatures were in the mid 60's. Very strong ENE winds were flowing into the storm.

It soon lost its "inflow notch" and started to become a bow. Which was cool. We stayed at the apex of the bow for a long time. IT was dark and scary, some OK lightning and a great mix of boiling shelf clouds and aqua colors. The area was "chaseable" for a while although a little windy. Eventually, we headed south to get to the Interstate to get across the river. Of course, somewhere closer to STL the storm was tornado warned. We tried to head north no matter what but the roads NW of STL are awful. We just couldn't make it. We were in a lot of wind for a long time and were actually traveling along the intersection of two outflow boundaries, hoping to have a rogue storm develop in the cold air. Alas, it was not to happen.

Ending up in IL we were in the warm air (still 81 at 7:30) but these storms were bound to be elevated above the front. We eventually called it off as our last hopes became dashed as cold air preceded rain by about 10 minutes.

And now we go home and figure out what few days we want to go sight-seeing.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The start of Trip 2.a

We do a quick one day chase then go home and start up later this week. But for now, we are in S Charles MO.

Models have changed their tunes quite a bit. And the GFS and WRF are greatly different, IMO. Right now we are in STL. I agree that the TX PH may be interesting if the WRF is correct, but it seems that the model is grabbing much too stout mid-level flow for what appears to be an overdone shortwave. Nonetheless, for those southern plains people, might be worth watching.

Although storms will most likely fire in southern KS, I just feel that the in-between nature of that area will have less than ideal winds. Nonetheless, storms could be large and have some low-level turning.

Further northeast toward Kansas City, it appears that there might be some chance early, but the surface winds appear to veer. This goes well with the poorer southern KS play as it puts ICT in a col point. Again, not ideal. Of course this is to believe the model. I would tend to pay attention to the GFS more because it has been more consistent. That brings us to MO/IL. Early action will be the case, as both models develop a lot of precip overnight and into tomorrow. That will create an effective baroclinic zone pretty strongly east of the so-forecast mesolow. Nonetheless, progged wind fields look pretty good across eastern MO and WRN IL.

The 22Z PIA forecast sounding is pretty impressive in both model worlds. Storms that can fire along and just south of the front should have excellent shear, especially of there is some semblance of a low. And assuming that overnight convection doesn't hose things up too badly. I may be out to lunch, but I am thinking somewhere from Macon/IRK to Quincy/Hannibal to Beardstown IL could be a prime location tomorrow.

FWIW, I throw that out!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Last Three Days

Sorry not to have blogged for the last few days. I can give excuses and reasons but I am not going to.

So there.

Really, they were not anything spectacular. Friday had looked good originally. But the lack of a wave and good shear gave us pretty disappointing storms. We ended up down in NW TX and were about 45 miles north of a storm that actually tornadoed. The problem was the shear was bad. The tornado was pretty wimpy and only around for a few minutes. Despite explosive CAPES in the area, we actually needed something to make the storms better. The day before, low-level winds were southeast at around 15 knots underneath 25-30 kts at mid-levels. Friday, it was 5-10 kts at the surface, not very well backed, and not that strong at mid-levels (around 25kts.) It amazes me that such subtle differences result in big differences in storm structure and evolution.

Now we did catch up to that storm and it pulsed up and down. Sometimes looking good and others not so good. The anvil became crisp when the storm was good and very wispy and diffuse when weak. One time it occluded and then rain wrapped into it. Someone reported a possible tornado. We were south of it but it would have been shrouded in rain. In any event, it was pretty lame. We followed it for a while and saw one time when it had good low-level rotation. It never occluded and never looked like it would tornado. Of course, some chasers who saw a wisp of dust underneath it claim it was a tornado. It is why I cannot stand some chasers. All they want is the glory of a tornado. They do not care about science or forecasting or learning. They are not worth much and I wish it were out-lawed. How about chasing is only legal when three or more are in a car. It would lessen the traffic out there.

Oh well...back to the chase. We did get into some hail (quarters maybe) before we got south of the storm. It started blowing cold and we knew it was history. We cruised north to another pretty meaty storm, but by time we got there, it shriveled into nothingness.

Saturday was a better set-up except for the cloud cover that would not go away. Soon after lunch storms broke out all over. We followed many of them to the northeast where a bow echo was underway. It looked like there were some QLCS tornadoes and a few times it looked good on radar. The warnings said the storm was moving northeast at 35 but we were traveling northeast at 65 and could not catch them. In fact, we stayed in the core of heavy rain for more than a half an hour. Lots of good CGs but other than that, not much to report. We stayed the night in Little Rock in the middle of lake Arkansas. The whole state is flooded. We are on the way home now.

I hate typing in the van so I will say goodbye till trip 2, May 15!