Monday, July 31, 2006

rarity: northern manitoba tornado

WFCN12 CWWG 312139
AT 4:39 PM CDT MONDAY 31 JULY 2006.





and the metars:
CYTH 312100Z 03010KT 15SM FEW010 BKN020CB 20/17 A2917 RETSRARMK SF2CB5 SLP883=
CYTH 312148Z 21010G16KT 15SM +TSRA OVC020CB RMK CB8 180V240=
CYTH 312200Z 21007KT 15SM -TSRA BKN020CB BKN085 15/12 A2925RETSRA RMK CB6AC1 SLP907=

wow. not something you see every day, given the lack of radar observations and relative sparse population...

Friday, July 21, 2006

last one from the road, which i just remembered to post: "fargo"

3:33 pm

we just made a fairly quick stop in fargo, filling up the gas tanks and taking care of business.

the men's room had a bit of a lineup to it--3 people long--and it didn't seem to be moving.

this lasted for 10 minutes until someone decided to check the door.

there was nobody in there. d'oh!

we're going to hit grand forks for dinner (a real sit-down dinner for once!) and then boot back to winnipeg.

i think the disappointment of yesterday's bust is starting to abate, but it'll still take a while. part of it was, i think, my enthusiasm and optimism for a huge day got the best of me and it might have been catching.

ah well, we talked about it and agreed that yesterday's chase would be a learning experience if one of two things happened: a tornado or nothing at all. the students learned, all right. as did i. and the other instructors.

lots of things went a lot more smoothly this year than last. this is primarily thanks to the suggestions put forth by the students in the inaugural year of this course. and of course there will be other changes to make, but wxdog and i were chatting about it, and we agree that there will be much fewer changes needed for next year: most of them technological.

a great trip is coming to an end soon. i got to know some new people, and strengthened friendships with others. good deal. :)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

back at home, safe and sound

the trip was good, but fairly brutal.

long days, lots of driving, and not quite enough sleep.

but boy, was it worth it.

it'll take a few days to digest it all, but i'll post some thoughts about it over the next little while; feel free to post your comments, too.

i'll start the ball rolling by remembering a bright and fun part of the bust chase day: see my vest.



so we'll be packing up the vans and leaving soon for winnipeg. bust aside, it has been a good trip. tiring, frustrating, exhilarating, awe-inspiring.

as my friend matt would say,

u of m 2006 chase fever.

catch it!


i know, it's not a real word. but it's a real concept.

we did it yesterday. and maybe so did the spc.

i don't want to get all philosophical right now, as there'll be plenty of time for that later, but it's tough. tough to have had so much potential and have nothing go. especially after the distance travelled and time invested to get here. nothing.

i can at least take solace in the fact that a) we were in the right spot, were it to og off (probably, anyhow--since it never went), and that b) we weren't the only storm chasers to get sunburns yesterday. apparently not by a long shot.

schadenfreude, thy name is chase envy.

primo bust in iowa

so we busted.

and when i say that i mean we got sunburns. with a tornado watch in effect.

that's what i mean.

everything was there but so was the cap. we hoped and hoped and hoped (and i suspect the spc was doing a little bit of wishcasting, given the lack of storms this year over the united states) but in the end it turned out to be nothing.

we're in sioux falls tonight, and we were poolside celebrating a nonetheless good chase (the free press people even got us some pizza--thanks!)

a leisurely drive back to winnipeg is in order.

and lots of sleep beforehand.

not only do we need it...

we deserve it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

waiting in sioux falls

we're now gassing up and readying to go. the boundary isn't far from here. the excitement is almost as palpable as the moisture. it's gross here.

we need to drift south and east, and that's exactly what we're going to do.

spc hasn't issued anything yet. at least, as far as i can tell...

2 birds and counting

11:04 am

wxdog is driving this time. bigger than a sparrow, apparently (i was looking away) and smaller than a duck. what was it? i dunno. but it was certainly worth 20 points.

i know, that's terrible of me. but really it doesn't quite stack up to the great butterfly massacre of 2001.

cold pool/outflow boundary

10:49 am

we just crossed into south dakota.

a line of low cumulus clouds is just ahead of us, extending from our west through our south and to the southwest. this seems to mark the northern extent of the cold pool from the overnight convection. now all we need is to find the south side of that--and we think we know where it is.

triple point--the words of the day...

earliest. day. ever.

8:55 am least on this chase.

we just left grand forks, going south on i-29. our first target (hush hush--the students are supposed to figure it out for themselves) is watertown, sd. while there we'll do a quick lunch and data stop, and our feeling right now is to play the outflow boundary which should be hanging out just north of sioux falls, sd. it's a warm front/outflow boundary surface low triple point thing.

the vans, we found out (or at least this one--i haven't yet changed vans) reset the trip odometer to zero at 1600 km. it just reset for the second time, so we're at just over 3200 km travelled.

right now it's kind of cloudy in eastern north dakota--a storm blasted away through the southern part of the state last night. it will leave an outflow boundary sitting there that'll merge with or become a warm front, and wherever that sits will be the focus. everything's there.

moisture--dews in the low 70s fahrenheit, and pretty deep, per water vapour imagery.
instability--slight cooling coming in aloft, and an elevated mixed layer (eml) advecting steep lapse rates overtop.
shear--a midlevel 50 knot jet and easterly surface winds should provide plenty of speed and directional shear.
lift/trigger--warm front, outflow boundary, and surface low. 'nuff said.

we just got waved at by a car bombing down the highway--people from my home province of british columbia. i've found that, more often than not, people are waving and morally supporting us. that's a good feeling.

so we've talked about what's going for us today. now let's examine what's not going for us.

well, the eml is also a capping feature. if it holds too strong, we could get sunburns.
the check engine soon light came on this morning. that could be troublesome.

ummmm, that's about all i can think of.

that usually means i've missed something. ;)

oops! actual picture link here

the picture link on wethaer central is the wrong one. my apologies. it'll take us getting back to winnipeg before i can fix it, but it has now been fixed in the blogger sidebar, and the new address is

i was the first up this morning in grand forks this morning. 3 and a bit hours. yeesh.

but there's a big mcs to our south and it's hanging a huge outflow boundary out there. let's go!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

in brandon

i had to get my timmy's before the drive. we're going down to grand forks tonight, in anticipation of a big threat tomorrow in south central minnesota.

if you don't believe me, check out the spc page.

live it.

believe it.

chase it.

if onlys

1:33 pm day 3.

i know it's a fool's game, but sometimes you can't help but play the "if only" game.

wxdog and i just finished having a brief discussion about the supercell we saw yesterday and we agree that, had the dewpoints bee 5 to 7 degrees warmer, we would have seen more than we did. tornadoes would have been very likely.

likewise for the other day--the moisture was just not quite enough, it seemed. a little more and we would have been in business.

once again moisture seems to be the key today, with surface dewpoints in the mid to upper teens in the target area--around the duck mountains. if they were in the low 20s, maybe we'd be looking at worse (better) storms than we are today.

the order of the day looks to be inverted-v profiles. that means high winds, primarily. but as always, if the dewpoints go a bit higher or we get supercells (which is possible given the shear) hail could be within the realm of possibilities as well.

for days 4 and 5 it looks fairly likely we'll be in the states. hope everyone brought their passports! :)

house on the road

10:32 am day 3.

there's a house driving at us

we're going west on highway 15, near bounty. a truck with a "wide load" sign is coming at us. but it's in the shadows.

i kid you not, a house was being moved on the back of a bigger truck. it took up the entire roadway. we had to pull over pretty much entirely into the weeds off the road, but not just to miss the house itself.

there were christmas lights attached to the house.

in july.

man, i love saskatchewan. :)


10:47 pm day 2.

so mere minutes after i closed up the computer from the last post, i was driving and said, "hey wxdog, what's that big thing on the road over there? it looks like a moose or something!"

yeah, it was.

we tried to get into position so we could get some pictures of it, but no dice.

so we went on.

and then met the red deer river valley. complete with lightning over it, and on old narrow wooden bridge. picture time!

after that stop, believe it or not, we saw another moose. this time a female, i think--no antlers, whereas the first one had huge antlers.

so now we're sitting at a gas station in hanna, having the last bathroom break before our proposed destination of kindersley. 2 hours to go, but we'll be in much better position for tomorrow's action.

best u of m storm chase day ever? i think so.

i'm still in awe. :)

amazing second chance

8:55 pm day 2

so first off, let me tell you about what we saw earlier today. we got to medicine hat and knew we had to be quick. a short lunch stop and data download showed us that our original target of near calgary was bang on.

the toronto chasers were already there.

quoth napoleon dynamite, "lucky!"

what can i say? it was a supercell. a right-moving, hook echo, fast rotation honest to goodness supercell.

and we were there.

wall cloud, intense rotation, hangy-downy thingies, the whole shebang. i hope that within a day or so i can upload some pictures that come close to doing it justice. in a word, awesome.

after a while (too short a while, if you ask me), the outflow from the storm cut off the updraft. the storm went kapoof and it looked like we were done for the day.

lucky us, as we were driving along the road, off in the distance were some really odd-looking vans. it was college of dupage!!!

we pulled over and introduced ourselves. well, not myself and wxdog, as we knew the instructor and one of the drivers already. but we hung out for a few minutes and talked about the supercell, tossing aroud ideas of what caused the storm to die.

the cod people pulled away to go see if they could catch some hail (we don't actually own the vans, thank you very much) and we went onward.

a little bit down the road we needed an urgent pit stop, as a bladder was running close to defcon-1. but i won't mention who it was. ;P

we stopped in three hills for a data stop and gas-up. and who pulls in, but none other than the college of dupage people. small world.

people were gathering food and i was gathering information. good move on both our parts.

a storm appeared to be right-moving near red deer, and so we decided to move north just to have a look-see.

good move again.

there was a circular updraft off to our northwest. and when i say circular, i mean it looked like a circle.

about 4000 pictures later, another one formed. circular, and it had some scud being sucked up into it.

and another one formed, and another and another. seriously, there were about 5 of them all at once.

we followed them along, and are currently stopped by the side of the road. a local farmer was here, and he liked to talk.

lots more pictures later, and we're about to set off for kindersley. thunder and lightning are all around us, and darkness is falling. it's my turn to drive. (it has been since medicine hat.)

so i'll sign off for now. like i said, hopefully the pictures will be uploaded soon.

great day!!! :D


11:18 am.

we didn't actually make it to medicine hat--apparently some of the double doubles were extra large this morning.

anyhow, wxdog was just pontificating (he says philosophizing) about how our perspective--approaching the foothills-triggered storms from the southeast--isn't as bad as some might think.

(and they're debating the difference between sweet potatoes and yams behind me.)

while we're approaching the convection firing off the foothills, today we'll be able to see the big picture. we'll be able to see how the towers look and how they compare amongst themselves. because often (as was kind of the case yesterday) when you're too close to the towers going up, you often can't see the details of the towers themselves--just the bases. but from afar, you can tell whether a tower is going up hard, how much it's leaning, and whether or not it's fuzzing out.

the ideal, according to wxdog, would be to have 2 vans working together--one under the towers, and one a distance away--to work together to determine what, exactly, a storm is doing. this makes sense. if the cloud base looks good but it's fuzzing out but you can't see it, having the extra perspective would sure save you time and aggravation.


i'm writing this from the lobby of the hotel we're at in kindersley, sk--the cod guys are down the street and the torontonians are in this very hotel!

i have a few blog entries--2 or 3--from yesterday that i couldn't upload because of internet problems in the room, and the wi-fi leaves something to be desired. so those will be coming up later, i hope. and some pictures. because we took a lot.

today, like it has been for a couple of days, looks like a west-central manitoba thing. after that, perhaps minneapolis? i'm a little fuzzy on that one.

wish us luck!

Monday, July 17, 2006

sitting in three hills

we caught a supercell. more later. sitting in three hills watching storms form on its outflow.

many amazing pictures. great day, long drive.

on the road again (with apologies to willie nelson)

10:20 am.

van 1 ("chase 1") is really chatty. this is my second day in the van; tomorrow i imagine i'll be in chase 2.
the students doing their analyses this morning were talking over this and that and the other--what effect this field has, and what happens when this goes on.
it's very encouraging.
as i type this we're about 40 km east of swift current; the plan is to stop in medicine hat for a quick lunch, data stop, and hopefully to upload yesterday's selected pictures to the photobucket album (see the link on the right).are some i've never heard of. maybe **i**

it's certainly an alberta day if anywhere. the concerns are as follows:
  1. is there enough moisture?
  2. is there going to be too much forcing and storms go everywhere instead of an isolated one?
  3. will they be in chaseable country (i.e. away from the forests of the foothills)?
  4. will we get there in time? (north of calgary? red deer? not completely sure yet...)

there's a van from florida with which we've been jockeying for position, if you want to put it that way. i mean, not exactly, because it's 4 lane divided (very divided) highway. but wxdog is using the cruise control and the woman driving the flordia van is obviously not.

the crops out this way are really in good shape. we've seen plenty of flax since leaving regina earlier this morning. the blue flowers add an almost surreal touch to the already (but differently) blue sky, and the lush greenery (much lusher than southern manitoba is right now) make for a colourful pallette as we drive along.

i just talked to the ontario crew via text message, and they're right now in calgary. we've asked them to keep us updated, as our arrival time in the target area looks to be prime initiation time.

the cod guys are definitely on their way to calgary--they stayed overnight in moose jaw (did i mention that before?) and their target seems to be the same.

now that the analysis is done, the 4 in the back are playing crazy 8s, although some of the rules they're using are definitely ones i've never heard of. maybe **i** was playing with weird rules...

ahead of us now, as we pass waldeck, is an interesting cloud formation. it has both the look of a mountain wave cloud and some characteristics of altocumulus castellanus (also called either "acc" or "accas" {pronounced "ack-cuss"}).

let's see what today brings. hopefully not another sunburn. because i again neglected/forgot to get some afterburn lotion. (blush.)

most of van 1 monday morning

so last night we decided to stop in moosomin for dinner. the red barn, right along the highway. (if they had a website, i'd link to it. hint hint.)

when we came out, we faced east. what did we see but a storm having blown up over southeastern manitoba.


we knew it was too far to go for us to catch it, so we stuck to our original plan to bed down in regina.

most of van 1 watched the movie "twister" on the dvd player ruth brought and it was fun to listen along as i was driving. during that movie showing i called the paspc in winnipeg, just to find out how bad the storm really was.

turns out it wasn't too bad--pea-sized hail was pretty much all they got from it. still, when i got internet access last night and looked at the radar images from it, it didn't look too too bad.

we got rooms here in regina and some of us crossed the street to wind down at brewster's. the beer was good, as was the conversation.

on the way there i discovered how silly i had been over the past few days. on saturday i mowed the lawn--3 hours--and then yesterday i also forgot to put on sunblock. call me lobster boy.

well, as pat and i wrote a few years ago,

the li's are runnin' 'bout minus ten
well, i hope i don't get a bad sunburn again

add to that the rubbing on my feet from the sandals, and i can proclaim: my feet are sore! :)

so today, as planned, it looks like an alberta day. unlike yesterday, we're not too worried about the cap. it's more of a) will there be enough moisture, and b) will the storms hold off until we get there?

on a side note, jen and ruth (the reporter and photographer from the free press) are really good people. trust me, you can quickly get a sense of that by spending hours and hours together in a cramped van.

busted by brandon

7:25 pm sunday.

we're on our way to have some dinner in moosomin, sk. we left brandon watching some beautiful towers go up to our west. they'd go up, hit the cap, and die out.

spc's mesoanalysis had 2000 j/kg of mlcape over the region. with the obvious convergence along the line of cumuli and plenty of shear, we figured we were in business.

but there was a cap and too much shear.

yes, too much shear.

the cap held strong far enough north to hold off convection. where the cap wasn't as strong, the storms going up got sliced and diced by the wind before they even had a chance to get organized. the one that did go up showed some brief signs of organization, but in the end the shear won. it became painfully obvious to us that nothing would happen when the towers would go up to 20 thousand feet, no higher.

that's when we decided to break off the chance and head for some dinner and find a place to stay for the night. as of this writing (during which we may have gained an hour because of the time zone change--are we in saskatchewan yet?) our target for bedding down is regina. tomorrow we hope to meet up with our friends from toronto and the college of dupage for what could potentially be the biggest chaser convergence in canadian history.

will there be storms? i sure hope so.

will they be severe? i think so.

will we be there to see them? we'll do our best.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

leaving portage

1:10 pm.

after having some lunch we decided to go to brandon and have the team briefings there. 117 km, says the sign.

hopefully we'll have an easier time getting a wi-fi signal there. i mean, it's not like we're going to use it for illicit purposes--just a clearer indication of where to go.
as i type this i see jet stream cloud off to the north, indicating to me that that is where we'll likely go. we want to play the northern edge of the cap. chasing southeastward-moving storms is easier if you're southeast of them.

we just got a second look from some people in a passing vehicle. it was possibly because of the anemometer on the roof; but it could also have been because of the magnetic signs on our doors.

a relatively slow day, today. good for just starting out.

on the road

southern manitoba. 10:56 am.
we're just pulling out of the parking lot at the paspc-winnipeg.

a quick and dirty analysis of the upper charts and the satellite pictures showed a really stout cap over southmost i think we can expect out of these storms.ern manitoba. the northern fringe of it will be the place where the best storms go. we're on the road for portage, and once we have a little lunch and dig deeper into the information, we'll decide from there where to go.

satellite imagery and upper analyses show a strong jet max over the central prairies--110 knots--and there's already convection going on associated with it. i figure as it moves southward into the warmer air, the cap will come into play and there will be a southern extent to the storms. if we can catch the southernmost storm we will be in business. hail and wind will be the most i think we can expect out of these storms.

tomorrow looks like an alberta day. water vapour shows a strong impulse off the west coast, and the models look to set up a classic alberta pattern.

after that we should be following the system east to saskatchewan, yorkton-hudson bay area.

may all your storms rotate. :)

and here we go

onward and upward.

i'm about to leave for the u to meet up with everyone.

nervous excitement.

i can hardly wait.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

the eve of

well, i think i've proven my point with the model forecasts.

they don't fare well, especially when there's something ambling around in the pacific ocean. and as for details, they flip-flop more than shoes at grand beach in july. or something like that.

tomorrow it looks like one of 2 things could happen.

  • we get some sweet storms in southern manitoba, or
  • we cook westward to catch some pretty sweet potential for alberta storms on monday.

the morning analysis will be crucial, so be on time!


tomorrow could be a lot closer to home.

a second look at things made me think harder about the cap, and i realized that south dakota will probably be close to 40 degrees--with a convective temperature in the thermonuclear range.

on the upside, it looks like a few good chase days across canada--coming into focus are sunday--possibly near winnipeg; monday--medicine hat, ab; tuesday--yorkton, sk. after that it becomes more muddled, as the models try to deal with the hurricane and tropical depression over the pacific.

july 14 forecast

july 16: aberdeen, sd (gem regional, wrf)
july 17: medicine hat, ab (gem global {hereafter "gem"}) or swift current, sk (wrf)
july 18: watford city, nd (gem) or melita, mb (gfs)
july 19: pierre, sd (gem) or beatrice, ne (gfs)
july 20: helena, mt (gem) or rapid city, sd (gfs)

more uncertainty, although the first 2 days of the trip seem to be coming into more agreement.

now the question is: can we logistically do all this?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

july 13 forecast

well, just after i posted the last forecast, musing about "something {being in} the pacific", wxdog emailed me and told me about a couple of hurricanes in the pacific.

d'oh! i should have looked. good job, dave. ;)

so, with hurricanes in the domain, models never know what to do, especially in the 3-and-on day range.

that being kept in mind, here's how the models see things tonight:

july 16: aberdeen, sd (wrf, formerly the nam, formerly the eta; gem, too), huron, sd (gfs)
july 17: lethbridge, ab (gfs) or medicine hat, ab (gem)
july 18: jamestown, nd (gfs) or regina, sk (gem)
july 19: nowhere (gfs) or nowhere (gem)
july 20: gillette, wy (gfs) or miles city, mt (gem)

forecast, july 12 (again late)

july 16: pierre, sd (gem) or jamestown, nd (gfs)
july 17: miles city, mt (gem and gfs)
july 18: dickinson, nd to calgary, ab (gem and gfs)
july 19: nowhere (gem) or portage la prairie, mb (gfs)
july 20: nowhere (gem and gfs)

this is weird. a couple of days ago the models were loving us. now something has been picked up over the pacific that makes it not as good.

to be fair, though, i looked at the ensembles and they're still all over the place, especially over the pacific. in other words, still tremendous uncertainty.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

forecast, july 11 (a little late)

july 16: pierre, sd (gem) or rapid city, sd (gfs)
july 17: helena, mt (gem) or jamestown, nd (gfs)
july 18: dickinson, nd (gem) or lethbridge, ab (gfs)
july 19: aberdeen, sd (gem) or medicine hat, ab (gfs)
july 20: nowhere (gem) or yorkton, sk (gfs)

the big story today is the absolutely huge differences between the gfs and the gem in the long range. at least one of them is going to be terribly wrong. the gfs digs a trough over the west coast while the gem builds a huge ridge over the same area. if the gem were right, chasing would be cut short because of nowhere to go. if the gfs were right, we'd be in for 5 days of fun. let's hope it's close to the gfs than to the gem. ;)

Monday, July 10, 2006

forecast, july 10

funny. as soon as i mention that the pattern looks favourable, the models go and dish me a plateful of garbage. at least for the first day. but worry not--the models are fickle, and tend not to do well (relatively speaking) until you get to 2 or 3 days away from forecast day.

that being said,

july 16: aberdeen, sd (gem) or aberdeen, sd (gfs)
july 17: missoula, mt (maybe) (gem) or missoula, mt to calgary, ab (gfs)
july 18: miles city, mt (gem) or helena, mt (gfs)
july 19: miles city, mt (gem) or red deer, ab (gfs)
july 20: pierre, sd (gem) or calgary, ab (gfs)

sheesh. if they get any wishy-washier i'll have to get out my charlie brown shirt.

2 things

the mini chase the other day was a bust. i went to pilot mound, saw the storms were piling up by brandon, went north to carberry, and then home. i caught some rain and winds to 70 km/h. woo.

the other thing is this: someone is forecasting an all-time record for winnipeg. i leave this without further comment:

forecast, july 9

let's see what this iteration of the models brings:

july 16: medicine hat, ab (gem) or grand forks, nd(gfs)
july 17: swift current, sk (gem) or williston, nd (gfs)
july 18: estevan, sk (gem) or dickinson, nd (gfs)
july 19: winnipeg, mb (gem) or bismarck, nd (gfs)
july 20: fargo, nd (gfs) (marginal)

so there we have it. 3 days of forecasts, and i think it's pretty clear that the models are all over the place.

one thing i can say: it looks like the models are trending toward a fairly good pattern for us (knock on wood).

i hope so. :)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

forecast, july 8

july 16: regina, sk (gem) or swift current, sk (gfs)
july 17: miles city, mt (gem) or williston, nd (gfs)
july 18: dickinson, nd to yorkton, sk (gem) or fargo, nd (gfs)
july 19: rapid city, sd (gfs)
july 20: rapid city, sd (gfs) (again)

so you can already see the changes from day to day.

what will tomorrow's forecast bring?

storm chase 2006, forecast iteration 1

last year, i did a similar thing. i made long-range forecasts for the trip. this year, i will do the same, as much as i can, anyhow.

these forecasts are all model-based. the models i use primarily are the gfs and the gem global, although i also peek at the ecmwf long-ranger. note that the gem global i have access to only goes out to 240 hours; that's why the forecasts become single-model after a while.

the purpose of this is to show the variability of the day-to-day model runs, and to show that, he closer you get to the day of the forecast, the more accurate the model forecast is.

july 16: glasgow, mt (gem) or dickinson, nd (gfs)
july 17: dickinson, nd to coronation, ab (gem) or aberdeen, sd (gfs)
july 18: medicine hat, ab to swift current, sk (gfs)
july 19: swift current, sk (gfs)
july 20: dickinson, nd to medicine hat, ab (gfs)

whatever it turns out to be, whatever the details, i'll cautiously say that this looks promising. a southwesterly flow, plenty of moisture, and good (but not too good) surface features.