Category Archives: Storm Chasing

3/24/15 Chase Update #1 (Heading to NE OK)

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This will be a quick update since I’m packing up the vehicle. Many indications are pointing towards a rather potent line of supercells developing in extreme northeastern Oklahoma into southwest Missouri late this afternoon. An impressive jet-streak along with strong instablity will help these storms rapidly fire up around 4 PM. They’ll quickly move east into the unfavorable hilly terrain in southwest Missouri. In addition strong forcing will tend to make storms form into a line. A low tornado threat will be possible with the initial storms along with very large hail. This is when we’ll be targeting them while they’re in their initial discrete phase. At this time I’m expecting to be near Miami, OK at 3 PM and we’ll reposition from there. I’ll set up the computers and live stream after 1 PM.

At this time it looks like the cap will hold in Texas but we can’t rule out one or two strong storms in Northeast Texas late this afternoon. The main severe weather threat will come on Wednesday in North Texas. See this morning’s update for information on that.

Potential Storm Chase Tomorrow (Monday)

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I’ve been chasing since the fall of 2008 and in six spring seasons 2015 marks the latest start to my chase season. While I’m still on the fence it looks like I may end up starting my season on Monday. A couple ingredients are coming together to support a marginal chase setup across the extreme Northeastern Texas Panhandle into Northwest Oklahoma tomorrow evening. One huge factor in this season’s extremely quiet start has been a lack of moisture. Throughout February and early March several strong cold fronts brought cool continental air into the Southern Plains. The cold fronts also pushed rich moisture way out into the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. It takes several days after a strong cold front for that moisture to make it back into the United States. Moisture recovery is difficult when you have cold fronts pushing it back out (south) every few days. We’ve finally seen a long enough stretch along with southerly winds that has allowed the richer moisture to advect northward from the Caribbean. The result will be three days of potential chases this week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I’ll focus on Monday with this article and talk more about Tuesday and Wednesday later on.

I’ll be using the morning run of the North American Model (NAM) to provide graphics explaining the setup tomorrow. Starting off with surface moisture at 7 PM on Monday a dryline will setup right on the Texas Panhandle/Western Oklahoma border extending south through West-Central Texas south through the Big Country. A strong capping inversion will keep thunderstorms from developing in the Big Country and Northwest Texas on Monday. Surface dewpoint values of 59-61 degrees will be present along the dryline in the Big Country with upper 50s in western/northwestern Oklahoma into southern Kansas. The wind barbs on the graphic indicate southeasterly winds sustained at 20 knots (25 MPH) with higher guests across western Oklahoma so that moisture will be streaming northward. For higher-end severe weather we typically need to see dewpoint values above 65 degrees so the relatively modest dewpoint values should keep any storm high-based meaning no to very limited potential for a tornado threat. I personally am not expecting tornadoes on Monday.

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Since I’m not concerned with a tornado threat on Monday I’ll forgo detailing the low level wind profile. I will say that a relatively strong low level jet above the ground will be supportive of rotating thunderstorms. If we had higher dew point values and low level moisture tomorrow could easily become a tornado-type day (compared to a hail threat). However that seems unlikely. What those strong winds will mean for any storm is it could become quite organized albit high-based. Bulk shear values in the lowest six kilometers of the atmosphere will be around 45 to 55 knots in the northeast Texas Panhandle into northwest Oklahoma. The baseline we want to see for supercellular storms or more organized convection is 40 knots so the shear will be there. We’ll have good mid and upper level winds as well.

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The primary way to measure instablity in the atmosphere related to thunderstorms is Convective Available Potential Energy or CAPE for short. With modest moisture in place we won’t see overly impressive CAPE values on Monday but there will be instablity in place. Right now it looks like we may see 1000 to 1500 J/Kg (joules per kilogram) of CAPE just east of the dryline tomorrow afternoon. Those values aren’t particularly high and are limited by the modest moisture. With relatively strong wind shear in place it should compensate some for the modest instability values. The main show breaker tomorrow could be a strong capping inversion. Shown in blue on the graphic the convective inhibition in the area of interest is going to be quite strong. We may not see any storms develop in northwest Oklahoma tomorrow afternoon because of the strong cap. We’ll likely see storms fire up well after dark in Kansas tomorrow night but that’s due to a different process and isn’t of chase interest. It’s going to be a close call whether or not we see the cap break tomorrow ahead of the dryline.

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If the cap does break then the ingredients will be in place to support the possibility of one or two high-based supercell thunderstorms capable of producing large hail. Since storms would be high based the tornado threat would be minimal. With the strong shear in place along with just enough moisture any storm that goes could become a photogenic supercell. Another reason for me to chase is to test out equipment in my new car. I’ve been busy getting it ready all week and would prefer to test it out on a relatively ‘easy’ day before we get into more potent setups later this week. In fact I’ve got quite a bit to finish up on the car so I better wrap this up! If I do chase tomorrow my plan is to live stream video back to the website for the first time since 2012. I’ll leave you with the latest outlook from the Storm Prediction Center for Monday’s severe weather threat. It is a marginal setup but we’ll see how things look later tonight. If the cap looks like it will hold then I’ll sit tomorrow out with chasing expected on Tuesday and Wednesday. On the other hand if it looks like the cap will break I may venture out to northwest Oklahoma to see if Mother Nature will give me a present. We’ll see what happens!

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Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Eastland County until 8:45 PM

Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Eastland County in North Texas until 8:45 PM. A severe storm located 9 miles south of Cisco or near Romney is capable of producing quarter size hail and damaging winds above 60 MPH. This storm is moving east at 25 MPH and will impact Carbon and Highway 6. The strongest part of this storm will remain south of I-20 unless it takes a left turn.

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SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORT WORTH TX
747 PM CDT FRI OCT 10 2014

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN FORT WORTH HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR…
EASTLAND COUNTY IN NORTH CENTRAL TEXAS…

* UNTIL 845 PM CDT

* AT 747 PM CDT…NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING QUARTER SIZE HAIL…AND
DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED 9 MILES
SOUTH OF CISCO…MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.

* THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WILL BE NEAR…
EASTLAND AROUND 810 PM…
GORMAN AROUND 830 PM…
RANGER AROUND 835 PM…

October 5/6, 2014 Storm Photography

Strong thunderstorms unexpectedly formed along a southward moving outflow boundary in Central Oklahoma late last night and continued into this morning. I ended up photographing four separate rounds of storms over the course of several hours. The first photo shows a strong multi-cellular thunderstorm taken on a high hill west of Norman, Oklahoma.

Strong thunderstorm west of Norman, OK late on October 5, 2014. This photo is owned by Paige Burress with all rights reserved.

Strong thunderstorm west of Norman, OK late on October 5, 2014. This photo is owned by Paige Burress with all rights reserved.

This second photograph was taken on a parking garage on the University of Oklahoma’s campus in Norman, OK sometime after 2 AM. It goes without saying these thunderstorms were very electrical in nature. Considering storms were not in the forecast at all this is easily one of the best photography events of the year for me.

Lightning from the University of Oklahoma's campus early on October 6, 2014. This photo is owned by Paige Burress with all rights reserved.

Lightning from the University of Oklahoma’s campus early on October 6, 2014. This photo is owned by Paige Burress with all rights reserved.

Chasing Diary: Heading to Kansas for Tuesday

Well at least that is the plan. Let me start out by saying this is a new feature we’re going to be doing that details the upcoming chase day’s expected events and basic plan. Since it looks like we could have a few days of chasing coming up over the next week I’m hoping this helps please some of our storm lovers and followers. These won’t usually be very long but I will include some more nerdy material. In this case I’ll keep it short and sweet since I need to get ready to hit the road.

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Here is the latest severe weather outlook from the Storm Prediction Center for Tuesday. They’ve issued a moderate risk of severe weather including the potential for more significant severe weather across parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. Most of the purple zone on the graphic above is where severe weather is likely on Tuesday in the form of large hail, damaging winds, and the possibility of tornadoes. The most widespread severe weather threat will likely be in the form of widespread damaging straight-line winds perhaps developing into a derecho (long-lived wind event that moves several hundred miles east). While data later today/tonight and Tuesday morning will give us our final target we’re currently planning to head to Salina, Kansas for tonight. Paige and I will be chasing with Stephen Jones of WeatherStorm.net.

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I’ll leave you with a little storm-porn from one of our more nerdy sources. The supercell composite takes into account several atmospheric variables and puts them all in one algorithm. This doesn’t mean severe weather is expected nor does it mean storms will even occur inside the zone. In fact many of the times this graphic shows very high numbers is when the cap is thermonuclear and all that happens is a blue sky bust (no storms). Tuesday looks to be an exception where there will be just enough forcing to cause storms to develop in a very unstable, strongly sheared environment. We could very well end up in parts of Nebraska on Tuesday but the plan is to head to Salina, Kansas tonight. My plan is to stream tomorrow using YouTube Live (technically a Google hangout). I’ll share more information on that later tonight along with my latest thoughts regarding tomorrow’s chase once we arrive in Salina.

Enjoy your Monday!

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