Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 4 recap and update till now (day 6)

Storms kept going but we were north of the real warm front, so there was a lot of cloud and drizzle. It was horrible visibility, and we were barely staying ahead of the advancing cold pool storms, which were themselves invisible.

Then, as we got toward southeast Nebraska, in the vicinity of Lincoln, the last storm on the line (tail-end Charlie) started to get an inflow notch. We decided to go investigate, as we were close, and still we could see nothing except for darkness. Doppler showed pretty big rotation had begun on the storm, and the inflow notch was becoming more and more pronounced. The hail algorithm was showing big hail potential, so we got out of there just in time for a tornado warning to be issued.

This was the first time many had ever heard a tornado siren. It was kind of eerie.

We followed this storm for another hour, during which time it showed varying degrees of good RADAR presentation, but it never got its act together to rotate down low.

Just at sunset, the low cloud started to get out of the way and we were treated to a lot of good structure, with a nice shelf cloud and perhaps a wall. Cattle in the field just in front of us were eve stopping in front of us to have their pictures taken.

We got into the hotel in Beatrice, and wouldn't you know it, the tornado siren starts going. The front desk clerk was about to evacuate the hotel but I looked at the RADAR and told her that the storm was past our location. Good. We were checking in and I didn't want to wait too long for nothing. ;)

Not a bad day though.

Yesterday was a down day. We drove to Sidney, NE, via Skeeter Barnes in Kearney, NE.

Today looks like a potential day in northeast Colorado. It's fairly marginal, though, because the dewpoints are in the low double digits and there's a substantial cap. We'll hope for the mountain-plains circulation to do its thing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day4 4:30 PM update

So as we approached storms from the west, in Cherry county, they decided to look more awesome. We went through some small to medium (under 1") hail and came out on the other side seeing the storm look pretty good. As we pulled into Valentine for a stop, it got tornado warned. When we were done, we got in the vans and went south, narrowly avoiding the hail and other nasty stuff.

We lost data for a while (of course--it is Cherry county, after all) and when we got information back, we saw that the storm had morphed into a huge line. Outflow-dominant.

We went toward another storm that had formed ahead of the line, but by the time we got in viewing position it had also gotten swallowed up by the line.

We are now repositioning to southeast Nebraska, where big CAPEs are going and the shear is plenty impressive.

Day 4 forecast

Today is a frustrating forecast and potentially huge day.

The parameters are becoming more clear with time, though. We saw multiple storm clusters this morning potentially messing up things, but we can now see, per the LNX 88D, the composite outflow/warm front is already lifting back northward. It appears this will be the main focus for today. The question in my mind, now, is whether the storms currently going will reintensify along this boundary or if things will die out, cook all afternoon and blast off later. If it's the former scenario, we're going to be playing catch-up for a couple of hours, as we're currently in Chadron, Nebraska. If it's the latter, we are repositioning for the nicest area. Valentine is our first stop.

The theta-e axis is currently aiming to Alliance and around there, and will likely move east throughout the day, so I suspect the zone of terror will be near the boundary in a corridor from Thetford-Yankton-Albion corridor.

I will try to update throughout the day, thinking out loud (so to speak) but I can't make any promises.

Day 3 recap

Yesterday had such promise.

That's why it didn't work out. ;)

We hung out around Rapid City for most of the day, as the moisture was collecting there and convergence was very evident, as seen as a fine line of reflectivity on the RADAR. Towers were going up pretty vigorously in the area and we figured it was just a matter of time.

Towers went up just by us and we started out. The lead one died and we figured, okay, the one behind it will dominate. Which it did.

For about 20 minutes. In that 20 minutes, though, the character of the sky changed dramatically. It went from full of towering cumuli to clear with a few stable-looking altostratus bits. It was quite amazing to watch.

When we saw that, we knew the big storm potential was over: cap bust. Still, storms were moving into South Dakota from Nebraska, and we decided to target one of them. It produced an all right shelf, not as spectacular as the ones we have already seen on the trip.

We settled in for the night in Chadron, Nebraska.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 2 recap

This was a day filled with all sorts of interesting little adventures. We left Billings, MT, aiming for western Nebraska and southwest SD (the dreaded Black Hills).

When we got to Buffalo, WY, we stopped for a brief time and saw a beautiful striated shelf cloud. A few pictures were taken, then a few more, and we carried on to areas east. Here are some pictures of it.

We accidentally punched through a core of a storm that was closer than we had thought, picking up 30 mm hail, and carried on toward the north. That storm was interesting because the shear for the day was straight-line, favouring splitting cells but favouring neither split to be dominant. The one that gave us our hail was actually the left split, and we could even see the rotating updraft of that left-moving storm.

Oh, I should mention that we had not had data since Buffalo, because someone (shame) had forgotten to pay the Verizon bill and the service was cut off.

In Lusk, WY, I got that straightened out and we carried on east, aiming for a cluster of storms near Chadron, NE, which was pretty much the only game in town. After driving for an hour, it became readily apparent that the storms weren't catchable, so we decided on a new target: storms dropping southeastward through the Black Hills.

The storm was a beast, according to RADAR, with a pretty nasty bowing segment and embedded hail hitting Rapid City. (It turns out the city got 2" hail over a large area.) Then a weird thing happened, something I'd never seen before: the bow echo transitioned to a potentially tornadic supercell. It never produced, but if it had, we would have been there. And, so far as I know, we were the only chasers there, too.

While sitting and watching it, some people who had gone through the hail core stopped and showed us their battle scars: their windshield was cracked from the 2" hail and there were many dents in their van. They had cell phone video to show us, too.

This is what the storm looked like (and our later location, so don't get confused) just before and after the transition.

That was quite the awesome day and one I'm sure none of us will forget.

Today we're going to target the area near here--there's no obvious wave and Black Hills magic will be the play, I think.

Day 1 recap

This was a driving day, for sure! We started from Winnipeg bright and early, leaving from the parking lot at 7 AM. We were targeting Havre, MT; a big wave was coming in and we knew it would provide the lift we needed for good storms to go. Despite dewpoints being a little low, storms were apt to be good.

We got foiled on our trek westward by bad traffic in Minot due to flooding and a couple of mishaps I won't discuss here (although they're awfully funny, I will tell you in person if you ask) so we were in Malta, west of Havre, when the storms forming ahead of us morphed into a big line. We dropped south to see a great shelf cloud and experience some awesome outflow, then more pictures of the backside of the storm, with some people getting good night lightning shots.

For the first day, it was pretty awesome. The students had a blast, we had a blast, we got to know one another, and we are in position.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On our way

We're just outside Minot, ND, getting ready for a gas and food stop. We're up and running with data (obviously) and we are on spotternetwork.org.

The parameters are still coming together for a central Montana play, so keep an eye out for us and wish us luck! :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We're a go!

So we leave tomorrow morning for the chase. I don't want to jinx it, but it's actually looking WAY better than previous runs of the GFS had been portraying.

We will be likely chasing tomorrow evening in either north-central Montana or adjacent areas of Saskatchewan and/or Alberta. Then the trip will almost certainly be dropping south; the moisture is just not making it north, but the flow is going to be in good position. As it sits right now, we could be anywhere between Kansas and North Dakota for the bulk of our trip. Not bad chase territory, if you ask me. For the most part. And now that I've said it, the storms will of course be in the Black Hills. :P

Bring your passports and be ready for some driving.

If your friends and family want to follow along with our location, please have them do so at the following address:


Because of rules with SpotterNetwork we will be broadcasting under my name--Dave Carlsen--but rest assured it's all of us, not just me.

For other updates I should be posting on this site frequently--much more frequently than I could with CoD, and much more likely with pictures, because my duties with that chase group were different.

The chase is on! :D

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

U of M trip forecast: better late than never

So here’s what it’s looking like now. I will post my ideal locations as though we had a teleportation machine. Since Thursday is the theoretical earliest we can start chasing, I will start from then and go as far into the future as Canada Day. I will give each day and run a completely arbitrary rating on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being horrible and 10 being the best setup ever. Keep in mind this is model land and I’m basing my judgments on believing as though the depicted scenario were exactly what was going to happen.

NAM (12Z):
Thursday – northern Montana and/or adjacent areas of AB/SK (4 – instability is kind of weak and winds are a little far back)
Friday – northeast Colorado/Nebraska panhandle (6 – instability and deep shear are good but the directional turning is only okay)

GFS (12Z):
Thursday – central Alberta (5 – instability is weak but the winds are more favourable)
Friday – northwest Nebraska/southwest South Dakota (6 – instability and deep shear are pretty good but the directional turning is lacking)
Saturday – northeast Colorado/Nebraska panhandle (6 – instability and deep shear are pretty good but the directional turning is lacking; do we sense a theme here?)
Sunday – a few areas, including western Kansas (5 for okay deep and directional shear with good instability), the Nebraska panhandle (7 with good potential juxtaposition of parameters but it may be only okay) or northern South Dakota (6 with slightly weaker winds)
Monday – southeast Alberta (6, as wind fields are better but moisture is lacking) or northern South Dakota (6 for good instability but weaker deep wind shear, although nice turning)
Tuesday – western North Dakota (8, as wind fields, both deep and directional, and instability look better)
Wednesday – western Manitoba or southwest South Dakota (9 – instability and shear look really good)
Thursday – northwest South Dakota (4 mainly for capping)
Friday – western North Dakota (8 if the cap breaks)

ECMWF (00Z) (I can’t do forecast soundings, though, so I have to guess the ratings a bit more):
Thursday – eastern Alberta (6 depending on moisture)
Friday – eastern Montana, I think (5, based on it’s unclear but looks like there’s some potential)
Saturday – southern Saskatchewan (6)
Sunday – eastern Dakotas (7)
Monday – western Kansas but probably too capped (4)

GEM-Global (12Z and 00Z):
Thursday – northern Montana or southeast Alberta (5)
Friday – southeast Saskatchewan (6) or western Kansas if it’s not capped (6)
Saturday – central South Dakota (7)
Sunday – north-central Nebraska, specifically Cherry freaking county (7)
**now changing to 00Z run**
Monday – maybe the Colorado front range, but that looks marginal (2)
Tuesday – eastern Alberta (6)
Wednesday – eastern Dakotas or the Red River Valley (7)
Thursday – southeast Alberta (8)

NAEFS (00Z):
Thursday – southeast Alberta (5)
Friday – Nebraska panhandle (6)
Saturday – western Nebraska (6)
Sunday – western North Dakota (7)
Monday – western North Dakota (6)

Wow, that was exhausting. The models are seeming to key in on a potential play on Thursday in Alberta, but then they almost all unanimously drop the potential into the states, and well into them at that. Nebraska panhandle for a couple of days, or maybe into the Dakotas. It seems that the usual suspects, moisture and midlevel winds, are the main players here. Moisture is there south but the winds aren’t. And it seems the good midlevel flow dies as soon as it hits North America. Weird.