Sunday, June 14, 2009

Storm chase trip 2009: anticipation

This year, in addition to all the funky gadgets we already have, we will have a new toy (okay, tool) to play with on the trip: Mobile Threat Net. It's essentially near real-time RADAR (both Canadian and American) delivered by XM satellite radio. Justin Hobson (the technology guy on this year's trip and possibly more of a weather geek than I am) and I took it out for a test run a couple of weeks ago and, while not perfect in what it delivers, what it does provide was given admirably.

We also have (from past years) an airmar, GMRS radios, door magnets for the vehicles, and some other neat stuff.

Personally this trip will mean a lot to me because I haven't seen a tornado since Elie and Oakville of 2007 (yes, at the same time) but also because I had 10 days to chase at the end of this past May and it turned out to be one of the convectively quietest Mays in North America since severe weather records have been taken.

My statement above shouldn't mislead you, though: I have realized over the past couple of years that my main goal in storm chasing is to see and document the structure of thunderstorms. I love seeing the striations in a storm indicating the organization in it; I love seeing tilted, hard towers rocketing up into the sky. That's not to say, however, that my ultimate goal isn't to see a tornado--it is, but it's more like icing on the cake. Sweet, sweet icing.

Now onto what I'll likely be blogging about for most of the next 2 weeks, hopefully every day: what the models are saying and how this year might play out. The "targets" should change with each successive run. I will start off with the disclaimer that what I will provide is more or less the subjective assessment by one meteorologist (me) of what the various models, as they become available for such assessment, are saying. I will not attempt to analyze how the models have been initialized or how they've been performing lately. I will also not try to include logistics/feasibility of getting to a target on any day. In the long range, using the models at all is a fool's game; consider me, therefore, a fool.

Numerous things can royally mess up how models fare in their solutions, including convection occurring at initialization time (very common) and tropical systems (none so far and, touch wood, we won't have any this year). And that's only naming two things.

As we all know, we've had to wait for warm weather to arrive, and that has affected how the severe weather season has been going; in a nutshell, the severe weather season has been delayed by about 3 weeks, so when we set out there's a good possibility we could be going out in the peak season for areas like Nebraska and South Dakota. Of course, every year is different so my previous sentence may mean exactly zero.

All that said, here's the outlook for the 15/00Z runs:

Day 1 (June 28)
GFS: Calgary to Edson, AB

Day 2 (June 29)
GFS: Regina, SK

Day 3 (June 30)
GFS: Regina, SK (again)

And that's as far as any of the models that are accessible to me go out; more will be added as they become available.

I hope you join me on this journey into the folly of models and wishcasting, as well as follow us on the trip (if you won't actually be in the vehicles with us).


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