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!"

April 30, 2007

Chase Forecast April 30th

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:23 am

Another marginal setup.  I’ve been dying to get out and chase at least something during my 4-day scheduled off weekend.  The pattern has been really poor for chasing.  Today, there is a possibility at photogenic High Plains storms anywhere from central Nebraska to northeast Colorado.  Yesterday, I made the decision to go for this marginal setup, for a number of reasons… mainly because since I will not be taking a chase vacation this year, the number of days I will be able to chase this season will be limited… so I will be chasing more marginal setups.  It appeared yesterday there would be a decent possibility at a supercell for today somewhere in the Nebraska Panhandle, like around Scottsbluff.  Today, this focus at the surface has shifted farther to the south around the Cheyenne Ridge area, mainly between I-80 and I-76.  The problem with a farther south surface setup is the shear profile looks less supportive of supercells.  Mid level winds will be at or less than 10 knots… not good for supercells.  Upper level winds will also be pretty weak…but at least they will be around 30-40 knots…such that with a nearly stationary moving storm, there should be some precip evacuation.  The other problem for today will be warm surface temperatures for the marginal moisture.  Highs today should hit the upper 80s over much of far northeast CO into central Nebraska.  This means more outflow-dominant storms.  The hope is that convection can be vigorous enough with enough storm relative inflow such that a picturesque high-based shelf cloud can form or something photogenic.  I am in Ogallala this morning, as I stayed the night here.  The Northeast CO play would be a very interesting one.  The shear profiles almost support left-moving favored supercells, should supercell processes even exist.  Surface inflow will be primarily out of the northeast in this area.  The secondary target extends from roughly where I am now in Ogallala northeast into Central Nebraska through the southern Sand Hills.  A quasi-stationary front with higher CAPE may promote a severe thunderstorm or two in this region as well.  The upper level winds will be a little stronger… approaching 50 knots near the tropopause, but mid level winds will still be anemic.  I am torn between the two targets, and I will likely hang around Ogallala until early afternoon when it will hopefully become more clear which marginal target looks best.  Here’s this morning’s NAM12 3-hr convective precip forecast from 7pm to 10pm CDT this evening:

April 25, 2007

Chase Acct: April 20 (Texas Panhandle)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 3:56 pm

Magnifcent LP Supercell after sunset with a cresent moon and Venus in the pristine evening sky.  Location is near Happy, TX(Times in CDT) (photo links in bold)  As I mentioned in my morning forecast post on April 20th, I had quite a tough decision to make regarding a chase target area.  I ultimately optioned for the southern target in the Texas Panhandle based solely on gut intuition.  I just liked the higher CAPE farther south and dryline convergence by late afternoon/early evening, and I knew that if something went up, it would be isolated… perfect for storm photography.

I  departed Dodge City around noon heading south for a target in the east-central Texas Panhandle — around Stinnett, TX.  I kept a good cell data signal all the way to the target area, and I arrived in Spearman around 2:30.  I hung around town here for about a half hour, as it appeared the dryline was really beginning to sharpen-up to my west around Dumas.  I kept my options open, as the best moisture was still just to the southeast of Amarillo with mid to upper 50s dewpoints.  I figured this moisture would continue to advect northwestward to Amarillo and points north of there to where the best convergence appeared to be setting up.  With this thinking in mind, I cheated more west closer to the convergence and I could see some initial small clumping cumulus developing to my west near and north of Dumas.  Other cumulus was developing to the south of me farther away, near the Palo Duro Canyon area.  I sat at this location between Cactus and Spearman for probably a half hour just waiting — figuring I was in a good spot.  As time went on, the cumulus to my west was just not doing anything, and better clumping cumulus was occurring to my south — so I continued south and east to Stinnett, where I sat and waited again for about 20-30 minutes about 5 miled west of town after I refueled and grabbed a bite to eat in town.  By 5pm, I was watching several areas of potential interest for initiation, and ultimately spotted hard towering cu developing well to my west-southwest near Vega, TX.  This was some 90 miles to my southwest.  There was nothing going on at my latitude… so southwest I went.  By the time I reached Hwy 87 at Four Way, the hard towers that prompted my heading this direction…completely evaporated into nothing.  This was frustrating!  I hit a complete low point on this chase right here.  It was after 6pm, and I was getting tired of driving seemingly aimlessly across the Texas Panhandle.  What made things even more frustrating was that storms were now developing way to my south…about 120 miles away to the west of Plainview.  I was so ticked off at this point, I just about said to hell with it and headed back home…   but after looping the radar of these newly developed storms and seeing that they were moving more northly…essentially towards my direction… I decided not to give up.  This was a very good decision.

So south I go once again.  All of this was reminding me very much of my May 9, 2006 chase when I was caught too far north — taking a nearly identical route to get to developing storms well off to my south.  I reached Amarillo and headed east a bit on Hwy 287 before heading back south again, in anticipation of the developing storms being east of I-27 by the time I got down there.  As it turned out, the first storms that developed weakened significantly with new storms developing back west of the interstate again.  D’oh!  Now I am thinking I’m going to be caught too far east because of this move!  Oh well.  At Claude, I continued south, taking me through the Palo Duro Canyon (where I lost my cell data signal).  At 7:45pm or so, it was getting pretty late, so I had to really motor to get south of this storm before good light would wane.  I never did get down there before sunset and here’s why:  Remember those first storms I talked about that diminished as they moved east of the interstate?  Well, they left some incredible skyscape views with picturesque virga showers amidst the terrain.  After driving through the canyon, I decided I need to get a photo of these remnant virga showers/orphan anvils during the photographer’s "golden hour" at sunset with the canyon landscape — thus after driving south, I turned around on Hwy 207 and went back north a few miles through the canyon.  I’m glad I did.

As the sun got lower on the horizon, the old orphan anvil with remnant virga lit up in beautiful hues of violet, pink, and orange.  The rugged terrain of the canyon landscape also became a brilliant hue of deep, burnt orange and red.  Here are a few vertical landscape photos (1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5) showing the wonderful colors of the canyon landscape as well as the decaying storm’s leftover virga shower.  Not a single other chaser was around, not even another car passed by this entire time I photographed here.  It is a moment in storm chasing/photography I will absolutely cherish.  I think it takes extreme luck and/or a lot of hard work to get these kind of beautiful skyscapes amidst such colorful and dynamic landscape.  In my case, I consider it work, because I tried for these images after I realized the potential I had about 30 minutes prior (prompting me to turn around and go back into the canyon when other chasers would try to get out of the canyon as quick as they could!  The fine-art photography love I have has certainly changed the way I chase storms.

The 10 or 15 minute window I had with these colors in the canyon had come…and gone.  But I forever have it captured in photography.  After that, I was completely thrilled with the outcome of my chase — no supercell, no tornado, yet very successful from a photography standpoint.  I could have left and gone back home happy with just that 10-15 minutes during the "golden hour".  Little did I know what I had in store for me after sunset:

With my interest in long-exposure photography, I decided that even though the sun had set, I still had enough light for the next hour or so for some interesting shots, should the storms to my immediate southwest hold together.  I turned around and headed back south on Hwy 207…then west towards the storm near Happy at around 8:30pm. Here is a look at the storm at around 8:50pm looking west.  I then found a spot along Ranch #1075 along the county line of Randall and Swisher about 5 miles east of Happy.  From this spot, I sat and photographed one of the most amazing LP supercell updrafts I’ve photographed to date.  Against the clear twilight sky, this storm, while small, stood tall...and the periodic intracloud lightning illuminated structure just enough to highlight the beauty of this storm.  The lightning illumination is what made these images so striking.  I had my Nikon D200 set up in full manual mode at about 4sec exposure and f/3.5 aperture… although this aperture was too wide open/fast for the brightest lightning within this updraft… but at the same time, I had to have a fast aperture to mitigate motion blur of the storm itself.  It was a fine balancing act between aperture and ISO sensitivity to keep shutter speed at 6 seconds or less.  The motion blur of the storm was too much if I kept the shutter open longer than about 6 seconds.  But it just kept getting better:

Before I knew it, Venus was making an appearance to the left of the southern edge of the updraft and followed soon by the crescent moon amidst the semi transparent southern edge anvil of this LP storm.  I simply couldn’t believe what I was witnessing/photographing!  LP supercell, Venus, and the crescent moon all in one shot!!  1 | 2 | 3 | 4  Some clouds from the south were invading and the moon and Venus would eventually become hidden once again.  As darkness was winning out, I had to increase my ISO to about 640 in order to keep a shutter speed at 6 seconds or less.  The storm base was perfect with a lowered area and an inflow tail on the south side.  The updraft base area was becoming more laminar in appearance due to a more stable surface layer, and after about this time, the light was getting too low for any reasonable photos under a 6 second exposure.  Shortly after this time, I called it a chase and began my trek back north towards Dodge City.  From a pure photography standpoint, this was definitely one of the top 3 or 4 chases since I began digital SLR photography in 2005.

Photo Gallery:


Mike Umscheid


April 20, 2007

Chase Forecast April 20

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 7:26 am

Northeast Colorado or the OK-TX Panhandles? 

I’ve got a difficult chase forecast ahead of me this morning. Fortunately, either target is about 3-4 hours drive, so I’ve got about 5 hours to make up my mind. Roger Edwards 6z SPC disc was a good one, as always, highlighting my thinking at least from a storm chasing perspective. Yesterday, I was not really thinking much about a TX-OK PH dryline scenario… but now, I’m trying to find a reason NOT to chase south today. Morning obs suggest mid 50s dewpoints in place. It looks like a fairly classic "Day before the big day" dryline setup with convergence increasing towards 00z. There should be no problem reaching peak heating potential today, and the NAM shows highs in the lower 80s along and west of the dryline over W TX PH. Farther north over NE CO/NW KS… there will be more of a low level baroclinic zone with that retreating boundary so there will probably be a frontogenetic enhancement to upward vertical motion and subsequent initiation.

One thing I usually look at in the NAM model are 700mb RH/Omega clues from the NAM, especially with potential dryline initation… I think you get a good idea how much dryline upward motion from boundary layer convergence, etc you are getting for potential initiation. Another clue is 700-775mb temps. Usually the NAM will show a tongue of lower (roughly 1 to 1.5C) temps in this layer due to enhanced dryline lifting. Even though the 12km NAM convective parameterization schemes don’t show QPF along the dryline, the signals are shown that it’s trying hard to force convection from roughly Elkhart KS down to perhaps as far south as Plainview, TX. I went and checked the 00z explicit 4km NAM (http://wwwt.emc.ncep.noaa.gov/mmb/mmbpll/cent4km/v2/) and it indeed shows one isolated storm forming along the dryline over the western OK Panhandle.

24hr forecast of 1-hr convective precipitation from the 4km NAM model valid 7pm CDT 4/20.  This is suggesting isolated severe thunderstorm development along the dryline.

April 19, 2007

Storm chasing 4/19-20

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:56 pm

The 19th and 20th are my two days off that I could chase.  This evening (19th), I chased a very marginal setup close to home north of Dodge City.  A weakening Pacific cold front moved southeast towards western Kansas by afternoon, however ahead of this front, the lower atmosphere was just marginally unstable with CAPE values less than 1000 J/kg.  The deep layer shear was pretty good, but the lack of deep atmospheric upward motion prevented good storms to develop.  At sunset near Wakeeney, a weak storm did form, however by the time it developed it was already getting too dark.  

Friday the 20th chase forecast.  The setup for tomorrow looks better with more instability  present.  Another strong Pacific storm system will be moving into the desert southwest region allowing southwest flow to develop over the high plains of Colorado and West Texas.  The NAM model suggests increasing dryline convergence by afternoon from northeastern Colorado south-southeastward into the western TX Panhandle.  The NAM develops convection along this dryline near the KS-CO border by early evening (see the graphic below).  Anyway, I plan to target the region shaded in yellow in the graphic.  If a storm does indeed develop in this area around 7pm CDT, then supercells would be likely given the shear/instability combination.

April 14, 2007

Western Kansas Spring Snowstorm April 13 [15]

Filed under: General Weather & Forecasting — Mike U @ 3:44 pm

Snow Amounts from the Friday the 13th Snow Storm.  I gathered these from the Regional Temperature/Precipitation table and sorted them by snowfall amounts (the 4th numeric column):

:       STATION             MAX  / MIN  / 24-HR  /  SNOW  / SNOW  
:        NAME               TEMP / TEMP / PRECIP /  FALL  / DEPTH  
ULYK1:  ULYSSES 3NE       :   33 /  24  / 0.66  / 15.0  / 15  
SYCK1:  SYRACUSE          :   32 /  16  / 1.21  / 12.0  / 12
ZJIK1   14 N OF KENDALL                         /E12.0  / 12
ZHYK1   8 W OF ULYSSES                          / 11.0  / 
ZINK1   7 SE OF CIMARRON                        / 10.5  /
DCDK1:  DODGE CITY 2.5NW  :      /      / 1.17  / 10.3  / 9
 NWS DODGE CITY                                 / 10.0  /
ZRDK1   10 SW OF NESS CITY                      / 10.0  /
JOHK1:  JOHNSON           :   32 /  24  / 0.91  /  9.5  / 10  
MTZK1:  MONTEZUMA         :   37 /  26  / 1.20  /  9.2  / 8
OFFK1:  OFFERLE 5S        :      /      / 1.56  /  9.0  / 5
ZMMK1   14 N OF DEERFIELD                       / E9.0  / 9
ZVDK1   10 SE OF SCOTT CITY                     /  8.5  /
ZYGK1   4 NW OF MANTER                          /  8.5  /
SCOK1:  SCOTT CITY        :   33 /  24  / 1.19  /  8.0  / 5
ZLIK1   11 WNW OF JETMORE                       /  8.0  /
BUCK1:  BUCKLIN           :      /      / 1.72  /  8.0  / 6      
CIMK1:  CIMARRON          :   36 /  31  / 1.50  /  7.0  / 7
ZLNK1   8 SW OF JETMORE                         /  7.0  /
PATK1:  PRATT 3W          :   38 /  32  / 1.74  /  7.0  / 4    
COLK1:  COLDWATER         :    M /   M  / 2.12  /  6.5  / 3
RANK1:  RANSOM 2NE        :      /      / 0.67  /  6.0  / 2
ZNCK1   3 SSW OF HAVILAND                       /  5.5  /
CLYK1:  COLLYER 10S       :      /      / 0.42  /  5.0  / 5
ZWEK1   CENTER OF KISMET                        /  5.0  /
ZKOK1   11 NW OF SUBLETTE                       /  5.0  /
HEAK1:  HEALY             :   35 /  26  / 0.73  /  5.0  / 5  
LBLK1:  LIBERAL           :   38 /  29  / 1.25  /  5.0  / 5
NESK1:  NESS CITY         :   36 /  32  / 1.12  /  5.0  / 2
ZYQK1   9 NW OF BIG BOW                         /  4.5  /
ZXJK1   8 N OF HUDSON                           /  3.3  /
SNYK1:  SUN CITY 6S       :      /      / 1.01  /  2.0  / 2  
BRDK1:  BURDETT           :      /      / 1.27  /  1.0  / 1

Here is a high-resolution visible satellite image from around midday today showing the snow cover over Southwest Kansas:


Western Kansas Spring Snowstorm April 13 [14]

Filed under: General Weather & Forecasting — Mike U @ 4:23 am

10.0" Storm Total Snowfall in Dodge City!  Well the snow has come to an end, but not before dumping an incredible amount of snow by mid-April standards.  After a several hour break late this afternoon and early this evening… the snow picked up again with an additional 3.5" measured here at work (NWS-DDC).  This was in addition to the 6.5" measured snowfall earlier in the day… for a total of 10".  The snow depth is not 10 inches, though, as there is melting occurring with temps just above freezing.  The snow depth is about 7"  as of this time.   

April 13, 2007

Western Kansas Spring Snowstorm April 13 [13]

Filed under: General Weather & Forecasting — Mike U @ 5:32 pm

6" in Dodge City!  I just drove around the north part of town, and the side roads are a mess as one would expect.  It is snowing about 1 to 1.5" per hour right now.  5:30pm I measured 6 to 6.5" in the backyard which has short grass… it definitely looks like a solid 6" out there now for sure.   

Western Kansas Spring Snowstorm April 13 [12]

Filed under: General Weather & Forecasting — Mike U @ 4:00 pm

3.5 inches of wet snow so far.  I just went out and measured roughly 3.5" of snow as of 3:45pm CDT.  Here is a photo from in front of my place at the time I measured:



Western Kansas Spring Snowstorm April 13 [12]

Filed under: General Weather & Forecasting — Mike U @ 11:57 am

It is absolutely snowing to beat the band out there.  Incredible!  Look at all the CGs from Garden to Dodge!





Western Kansas Spring Snowstorm April 13 [11]

Filed under: General Weather & Forecasting — Mike U @ 11:51 am

Cloud-to-Ground Lightning + Snow in Dodge City!!!   Bright flash of Cloud-to-Ground lightning just a few moments ago!!  Wow!!  This is the first bonafide thundersnow I’ve experienced since I was a kid in 1993 in Kansas City.   About time!  Check out all the lightning around Garden City:


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