High Plains Drifter


disclaimer:  "The meteorological views/forecast thinking expressed are those solely of the author of this blog
and do not necessarily represent those of official National Weather Service forecast products,
therefore read and enjoy at your own risk and edification!"

June 23, 2010

Chase Trip Day Six (June 22) Summary

Evan and I intercepted a fairly robust supercell which had its origins north of Cheyenne.  This storm moved northeast along the Hwy 85 corridor and was undercut by a fair amount of cool outflow from significant precipitation core to the northeast.  A new updraft emerged northeast of the original updraft and we were immediately caught behind and had to reposition.  We did so by blasting south to I-80 to Burns, WY then east along I-80 with an incredible view of the supercell cumulonimbus and cumuliform anvil with overturning convection.  Even from a distance we could tell that the storm was still riding its own outflow.  We drove east all the way to Potter, NE between Kimball and Sidney where we headed north to get closer once we caught up to the southeast side of the storm.  We stopped briefly about 7 miles north along Road 77 and photographed the amazing supercell updraft… probably the best supercell structure of the trip so far.  The convective overturning at anvil level was simply amazing with a well developed inflow tail to the north.  We then drove east on a very dirty farm road and had near-zero visibility in RFD dust as the wind was parallel to the road we were driving.  Fortunately, we finally got east of this dust, but by the time we finally reached Hwy 385 near Gurley, the storm was shrinking and becoming less interesting to pursue.  We drove down to Sidney and then back west again on I-80 to hopefully photograph some new storms forming northeast of Cheyenne, but north of the outflow boundary.  We enjoyed some nice evening photography along a farm road north of Bushnell, NE before we ended the chase and headed to Cheyenne for the night.

Start:  Goodland, KS
End:  Cheyenne, WY

Day Six mileage:  571 mi.
Chase trip mileage:  3022 mi.

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June 22, 2010

Chase Trip Day Six (June 22) Forecast

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Late Chase Trip 2010,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 12:34 pm

Currently driving north on Hwy 385 toward our target of Sidney, Nebraska.  It looks like another pretty good supercell day as lower-mid 60s dewpoints move northwest toward the southern Nebraska Panhandle by late in the day as southeasterly winds develop.  Overall wind shear looks excellent as a mid level southwesterly jet streak moves into Colorado and western Nebraska. 

Outlook:
Day Seven (June 23) appears to be a down day and we will most likely drive northwest to setup for Day Eight (June 24) which will set up across Montana.  My initial target for this day would be east or northeast of the Big Horn Mountains.  Day Nine (June 25) would appear on paper to be a fairly good day across North Dakota as another jet streak/shortwave trough enters the northwestern plains.  Day Ten (June 26) would then shift back south as a front pushed back south into the central plains.  June 26th would most likely be our last chase day as the 27th we’d have to drive back to KC to drop Evan off and then the drive for me back to Dodge City.

Chase Trip Day Five (6/21) Summary

Photographed a number of supercell storms on Day Five.  We targeted the Fort Morgan area and a storm had already developed out near Boulder on our drive to Fort Morgan.  When we arrived at Fort Morgan, we decided to hang out there as there was a growing towering cumulus field to our south.  We ventured south on Hwy 71 to near Woodrow then east about halfway to Hwy 63 southwest of Akron.  The first storm that went up showed nice signs of organization but failed to make it to the next level and ultimately died.  We then watched a cool looking anorexic tower go up to our immediate southeast which had a neat anticyclonic swirl to it.  Finally, we decided to bail on this area and head west toward the original “Boulder” storm which at that point had moved east to between Prospect Valley and Hoyt.  We briefly photographed a shelf cloud from the storm that developed rapidly immediately northeast of the “Boulder” storm.  We dropped south to get to our final position to photograph the southwestern most storm now our west… west of Woodrow.  This storm cycled through a couple decent occlusions with the main updraft area finally catching up with the original outflow boundary from when the storm was previously very outflow dominant.

The problem was the storm to the northeast was sending a wad of cold outflow ultimately wrecking our storm.  Ugh.  We then decided to just blast east and south to get distant structure of the whole mess that seemed to be unfolding.  The big HP-supercell that finally emerged from this mess was moving rapidly east-southeast and it was a major chore to try to keep up.  We never got east of the inflow notch area like we wanted… so we followed it all the way east along Hwy 36 and got pinched off before we could get to Idalia.  The velocity signature was incredible with a wet RFD surge of inbound winds 80 to 100 knots from Goodland’s radar approaching Idalia.  We didn’t want to mess with that so we just bailed south on County Route V/40 (Bethune road).  A distant left-moving supercell was becoming increasingly visible and photogenic to our southeast and we stopped a few times to shoot some images of the incredible Cb structure with overshooting top.

We found a wind farm near this highway and we stopped there to photograph the distant left-mover.  As we were doing this, another storm formed to our north-northwest which quickly grew into a nice LP supercell behind the HP beastie.  We sat there and photographed this storm for awhile then headed east to Hwy 385 north of Burlington where we decided to head north and get a little closer to it for sunset shots.  We pulled off on a high spot a couple miles east of Hwy 385 north of Burlington and photographed the LP to our northeast now which formed a beautiful corkscrewing updraft with well established inflow tails from the south.  There was an outflow boundary collision almost exactly where we were at…perhaps a few miles to our southeast…where the final supercell of the day grew rapidly.  After sunset, this storm put on an awesome Cb lightning “zit” display above and to our southeast.  Cool outflow from this storm then blocked our view and we had to get south again on Hwy 385.  We found a nice spot to photograph from again just off Hwy 385 about 7 miles farther south… and to our east was this majestic supercell, glowing with intracloud lightning and amazing convective looking backshearing anvil structure that was beautifully formed.  There was just enough astronomical twilight left to get good images of this beauty looking off to the east.  After having fun with this for awhile, we continued east toward Goodland to see if we could do some more photography, but as we approached Goodland, the storm died.  At the Goodland McDonald’s we saw storm chaser Mark Farnik who was with two of his chase partners and we enjoyed shooting the breeze there while we ate and in the parking lot for some time.  This was a very fun storm photography day despite no tornadoes observed.

Start:  Colby, KS
End:  Goodland, KS
Day Five mileage: 442 mi
Trip mileage: 2451 mi

Preliminary images from Day Five chase:

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June 21, 2010

Chase Trip Day Five (6/21) Forecast

Filed under: Late Chase Trip 2010,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:58 am

Evan and I are in Colby, KS this morning. Since we are south, we will play southern target (northeast Colorado)… and it looks pretty good. Southern jet will be nosing into the Colorado Rockies today… and you can see it on water vapor loop about to nose into southwest Colorado. Looks like a fairly classic supercell setup for eastern/northeastern Colorado with good upper 50s/lower 60s dewpoints, increasing southeast winds, excellent mid-upper winds, long hodographs (somewhat straight, though). I think we will drive to Limon and wait there for stuff to percolate off the front range before moving out onto the plains. I’m not seeing much as far as an initiation focus other than the terrain, but once stuff moves out, it should be a wonderful playground for supercells, perhaps even a tornado or two.

Chase Trip Day Four (6/20) Summary

Filed under: Late Chase Trip 2010,Latest Chases,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:47 am

Well… Evan and I chose….. Poooorly (with respect to tornadic supercells).

I thought for sure the fog/stratus would really pinch off the Laramie Range opportunity…. but it did it’s thing exactly in the small sliver of instability that developed at the edge of the stratus/fog, within 10 or 20 miles of the interstate. Congrats to all those who were up there. My WFO DDC colleague Jonathan Finch (who is on the final stretch of his own chase trip with his wife) intercepted the Bill, WY supercell which was apparently a beautiful LP with a tornado visible 25 miles away. And then there was that Billings, MT event.. Ugh-Ugh-Ugh~!

Our target of Phillipsburg failed and failed miserable for discrete supercells. We recognized this was going to fail pretty early after initiation, so we bailed early. We headed west and caught sub-severe single cell stuff west of the main severely outflow dominant activity. We were rewarded with a couple interesting left-moving, small anticyclonically rotating cells close to sunset. The most picturesque one was northeast of Oakley at sunset with a nice overshooting top at times. The light was excellent at sunset.  We then photographed lightning and moonlight illuminated storm structure from Levant, KS looking north.

Start:  York, NE
End:  Colby, KS
Day Four mileage: 556 mi
Trip mileage: 2009 mi

Images from Sunday, June 20th chase in Northwest Kansas:

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June 20, 2010

Chase Trip Day Three (June 19) Summary

Written by my chase partner Evan Bookbinder:

Day 3 of the chase trip (June 19th) played out pretty much as we expected this morning, targeting north central Kansas once again (High Plains Magic will have to wait one more day). After checking out a few storms along highway 24 (including ping pong ball hail near our favorite town of Osborne), we got on an HP supercell just north of Beloit. This storm served up some amazing structure, including one of the most aqua green skies I’ve ever seen, and filled with cloud to ground lightning. It made several attempts at wrapping up, but after clearly becoming outflow dominant we dropped south for some distant shelf/structure shots before letting the bow echo overtake us. Additional upstream elevated storms provided a great lightning show well into the evening, but the flooding is getting quite bad across this region back toward Concordia. We are headed toward York and I-80, ready to bust west for tomorrow’s show.

Start:  Denver (Westminster), CO
End:  York, NE
Day 3 mileage: 648 mi
trip mileage: 1453 mi

Images from Day 3′s chase:

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June 19, 2010

Chase Trip Day 3 (6/19) Forecast

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Late Chase Trip 2010 — Mike U @ 10:13 am

Bookbinder and I are in Denver this morning. We decided to drive to Denver because it appeared Saturday’s best play would be east of the Laramie Range or northeast Colorado. Now it appears the best play will be farther east as a surface wind vorticity center holds on across northwest Kansas most of the day with a low level convergence max somewhere in the HLC-MCK-HDE region. Upper 60s to lower 70s dew points will exist across this region by late afternoon/early evening and it appears that there may be an outflow boundary at play as well from ongoing morning convection near the NE/KS border. The mid-upper level winds actually look better now farther southeast than what the GFS had been showing over the past couple of days (which was the reason we decided to head to Denver in order to position ourselves better). With a narrow ribbon of 30 knots at 850mb and 45 knots projected at 700mb arcing through Kansas, the target area seems more clear cut, so long as we remain on the edge of a rather impressive EML cap.

Reasons for abandoning the NE CO/SE WY play: While the upper flow remains outstanding across the divide into our original target area, the low level shear is paltry at best with 0-3km flow remaining < 15 knots. Additionally, the low level flow trajectories suggest the moisture arrives from a modified continental airmass via a Nebraska route, with the Kansas route of true quality moisture impeded by a local area of kinked low level northerly flow that hangs across NW Kansas. This barrier was suggested in 00Z model data, and has subsequently become evident on visible satellite imagery this morning.

This could be a big, big day along the KS-NE border early this evening. I hate to jinx it, but …. well I won’t go there. Forecast hodographs look excellent with the CAPE and lower 70s dews. As it appears now, we will be targeting this region and not the high plains adjacent the terrain (downstream of the Laramie Range… secondary target).

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Quick Summary from Day 2 (June 18th):
We decided to hit up a Colorado Rockies game for our down day.  We first headed to the Wynkoop Brewpub in LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver) and then walked on over to Coors Field.  We sat up high in the left field upper deck.  Rockies won 2-0.  We watched some rather picturesque small showers/storms to the east and southeast at sunset which provided nice pinks and gold colors against the Denver skyline.  Rather pretty!

Begin:  Hays, KS
End:  Denver (Westminster), CO
Day Two mileage: 370 mi
Trip mileage: 805 mi

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Mike U and Evan B

June 18, 2010

Chase Trip Day Two (6/18) Forecast

Filed under: Late Chase Trip 2010 — Mike U @ 11:26 am

Down day.  Driving to position for Saturday which looks good east of the Laramie Range and the Front Range.  We will likely head to Boulder to enjoy the late day/evening.  Saturday begins a potentially long stretch of good high plains/northern plains chasing with persistent upper level jet stream flow across the rockies and high plains with good moisture in place.  More later

Chase Trip Day One (2010 June 17) Summary

Filed under: Late Chase Trip 2010,Latest Chases,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:02 am

Supercell,  mammatus, lightning, colored sky, and heat burst — North-central Kansas near Osborne

Evan Bookbinder and I had a fun evening of storm photography across northern Kansas along the Highway 281 corridor around the Osborne, KS area.  At 10:00pm, we experienced an awesome heat burst which rose the temperature to 95 degrees with a 45 degree dewpoint.  Winds were out of the south gusting to around 50 mph at times.  Below are a few photos from this storm chase shoot.

Begin:  Lee’s Summit, MO
End:  Hays, KS
Day One miles: 435
Trip miles:  435

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June 17, 2010

Chase Trip Day One 6/17 Forecast

Filed under: Late Chase Trip 2010 — Mike U @ 8:43 am

Morning of the first chase day at Evan’s house.  We are planning on chasing in Central Kansas at the nose of the southern upper level jet streak… so we are blowing off the moderate risk in Iowa and Minnesota despite the 10% tornado contour and hatched area.  Evan and I think that Central Kansas is a good target where southerly low level winds will converge nicely along the stalling out front.  This target will also have stronger upper level flow…where the Iowa target has a significant upper level wind weakness.  We think Iowa will see a lot of storms, mostly of the HP variety.  Tornadoes will most likely be of poor contrast and perhaps mostly wrapped in rain and probably not all that long-lived.  They don’t usually make for good photography.  The Central KS target will see the greater probability of “cleaner” storms, more isolated, and less of a propensity of being HP.  There is a lower tornado risk here, but that’s the sacrifice for playing this “wildcard” target.  We plan to be in Salina by mid-afternoon.

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