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!"

August 10, 2009

UTM Photo of the Month — August 2009

Filed under: UTM Updates — Mike U @ 8:27 pm

Daytime lightning flash between the two peaks that make up the Rabbit Ear Mountains northwest of Clayton, New Mexico

Perhaps my favorite storm image of 2009, I managed to capture this daytime cloud-to-ground lightning flash from a high-based non-severe thunderstorm as it was approaching Clayton, NM from the north. I sat at a location just northwest of town for about 20 minutes and only managed to capture two flashes with my lightning trigger (as it was a challenge to keep the shutter speed slower than 1/20 of a second without closing the aperture a ton), including this one perfectly composed between the two peaks. Details of this image: Nikon D200 body, 40mm focal length (60mm virtual focal length), 1/20s @ f/13, ISO 100. Taken July 19, 2009 at 5:31pm MDT near Clayton, New Mexico

August 4, 2009

Chase Acct: July 31, 2009 (West-Central KS)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Latest Chases,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 4:44 am

I was able to chase close to home on Friday, 7/31 since I was on midnight shifts.  It was another intriguing northwest flow setup across western Kansas as a cold front was pushing into the region with pretty decent low level moisture (dewpoints in the lower 60s) ahead of it.  I wasn’t planning on chasing because I originally thought the best storms would be 2 hours or more from Dodge City, which is just about my limit for a midnight shift.  When I saw a storm forming in Gove County after I woke up from a nap at about 6:30pm, I decided that this was a chaseable storm since it would essentially be moving in the direction of Dodge City.  So I left at around 7:00pm or so for Cimarron and then north toward Dighton.  I got a good view of the updraft region of the storm north of Dighton and I followed some farm roads east of Hwy 23 northeast of Dighton.  I then inched north toward Hwy 4 near Shields closer to the updraft region.  I sat at a spot just a mile north of Hwy 4 just northeast of Shields and photographed a fairly nice structured supercell updraft with a rather circular “mothership” appearance.  Rotation at cloud base was quite obvious, but rather broad I thought.  Since this was a northwest flow environment and rather high bases typical of western Kansas storms, I wasn’t really giving much thought to a substantial tornado threat, and I concentrated my effort on structure.  Little did I know that another storm chaser closer in was observing some weak, brief funnels and even a tornado or two (Roger Hill/Silver Lining Tours) way back in the rain-wrapped occluded area of the supercell to my north.  I continued photographing the structure of the storm along Hwy 4 toward Utica… and around 9:10pm or so, I observed a fairly concentrated dust plume in the RFD region of the supercell.  I believe this was a focused RFD surge causing dust to be kicked up beneath it, because at cloud base the rotation was extremely broad and not overly intense.  Nevertheless, RFD surges like this are an instigator to tornadogenesis many times, and I watched this closely with quite a bit of interest.  I was losing the structure from this vantage point and I drifted closer to Utica at around 9:30pm to photograph a wonderful “mothership” striated updraft structure to my west-northwest.  Around this time, Roger Hill reported a truncated narrow cone shaped tornado in the occluded area of the storm.  I believe I photographed this feature at 9:28pm.  I then drifted south on a farm road south of Utica…which met up with Hwy 96… and photographed the storm one last time at around 9:37pm.  Coincidentally, this was the time Roger also reported another brief tornado to his north.  I am thinking Roger was not far from me on this same road just north of me given his SpotterNetwork report.  I think I have evidence of his slanted, truncated “pencil” shaped tornado at 9:37pm looking north-northeast. After this, I drove back to Dodge City, arriving back home shortly after 11:00pm, in time for work at midnight.

I have contrast-enhanced some of my images to reveal some of these likely small, rather short-lived tornadoes, which are described below.

Below is a hyper contrast-enhanced image at 8:30pm looking north with the Shields, KS grain elevator on the horizon.  This contrast-enhanced image reveals a fairly well-defined funnel cloud amidst the precipitation core extending halfway to the ground from cloud base from this point of view:

Below is a contrast-enhanced image at 9:28pm looking to the west-northwest from a location along Hwy 4 about a mile or so west of Utica, KS.  This shows a fairly convincing truncated cone-shaped funnel extending about 2/3 of the way to the ground:

Below are two contrast-enhanced images about 9 minutes after the previous image above.  This was shot looking north-northeast in the direction of Utica, KS from a location along an unpaved county road about 6 miles or so south of Hwy 4.  These were shot at around 9:37pm:

11 seconds after the previous image:

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