Target for Today

My virtual target for today is Cameron, Texas. Storms should go west of there. Just virtually sitting in Cameron due to good road networks with the intention of watching storms fire to the west and figuring out the best storm before making my closing approach on it from the east.

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Tornado Forecast for Texas Tomorrow

I’m not chasing tomorrow, however I have a friend that is new to chasing that is so I went ahead and took a look at the forecast. I only glanced at it. I’ll take a closer look in the morning though to firm up a target for him. Right now there seems to be two targets I’d watch. One between Temple and Austin and the other would be back farther west near or southeast of Brownwood. The east target in the Temple to Austin corridor seems more likely to have better moisture, but I think shear will be better back closer to Brownwood where surface winds are forecast to be due easterly. With mid level flow out of the WNW I’m not sure the easterly surface winds are necessary. I’m still waiting on the NAM to update so I can look at forecast hodographs and soundings to get a better feel for it. I would be watching theta e on SPC meso analysis page along with surface charts pretty closely. There should be a hint of a moisture wrap around coming into the weak surface low and that corridor is where the strongest storms should develop. I’ll get my virtual target posted in the morning. If you’re chasing good luck. I thought about it, but I’m not a fan of non-traditional setups that are long range. They seem to have high bust potential. Plus with limited staff at work and after taking off a couple days last week I kind of need to be at work. I’d rather bide my time and hope for some higher quality tornado setups in June up north. Still sitting on 10 vacation days to burn so I have plenty of ammo to work with. Still I want to use it wisely. I need to hold some back for hurricane season too just in case we get a stronger one making US landfall. Anyway I’ll try to get my target posted before noon tomorrow. Good luck if you’re chasing.

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Chasing Tomorrow

Just did a quick run through model data. Still planning on chasing tomorrow. Going forecast is still on track it seems. My map from last night needs adjusted slightly to account for a northward trend with the surface pattern. I’d shift the box up north a bit, maybe 50 miles or so. There’s still some discrepancies between the HRRR and the NAMnest at the surface with the HRRR being a little farther north. I’m leaning that way and as of tonight my initial starting point target looks to be Garden City, possibly Liberal. I’ll move a bit west from either of those targets when storms are getting ready to initiate, but those are the two towns I’m looking at initially going to before moving in close when storms are developing. Wherever you get the moisture wrap around I’m going to get just off the north edge where surface winds will back hard to easterly. I’m a little worried about whether or not we’ll have some dry pockets or less than pristine air to work with. I’ve only started glancing at that because it’s kind of a if it happens it happens and more at mitigating factor than a target adjusted or deal breaker type issue, so we’ll just see how it plays out. What I’m a little worried about is ongoing storms in Texas and how they may affect the airmass that advects into the target area tomorrow. Again I didn’t really look at it much since there’s no potential target adjustment really that will result from forecasting this aspect of the setup, but the current storms seem to be a little farther east and impacting the air more than the NAM accounted for. I tried to glance over low level winds between now and tomorrow afternoon to see where the source of the air over the target area would be and we’ll probably pull in air in that is over the TX/OK panhandles currently and air from ahead of the ongoing convection, but these storms could potentially compromise the moisture return and air mass over the target area. Assuming we get dewpoints in the low 60’s, deep layer shear CAPE combos should be fairly supportive of supercells where surface winds back north of the moisture wrap around. Looking at 40-45kts or so with CAPE well over 2000. How much supercells will fill in and get clustered is a bit of a question mark, but I think we’ll have some degree of separation with several supercells over the threat area. I think the key will be picking the ones in the backing surface winds that are leading other storms or have a good opening off their southeast sides. Any more discrete tail end type storms will initially have a low tornado threat, but may have some really solid structure with excellent directional shear. However the low level shear that will initially be weak is forecast to ramp up significantly in the 7-10pm timeframe. As that ramps up the tornado threat will go up proportionally with any discrete storms. If we have discrete storms at 7pm, I think we’ll have a pretty decent tornado threat. I see this as a Leoti type day. That was initially clustered up with numerous cells and struggling until later in the evening and it got a beautiful sculpted updraft with a couple weak tornadoes. This setup is very similar with the dramatic directional shear and I think deep layer shear and CAPE is about the same as well. The potential is there. Just need convective evolution to go our way with storms firing later or remaining discrete through the 7-8pm window for the tornado potential to come together. I’m planning on heading out around 10:30 probably headed to Garden City. I’ll fire up the stream and link it on facebook and twitter. I think this is a 5% tornado prob setup for SW Kansas with the initial day 1 outlooks and maybe bump it up to 10% in later outlooks if it looks like storms will remain discrete in the 7-8 window.

Friday also looks like a probably chase day. Maybe a boom or bust type setup with an outflow boundary playing an important roll in initiation and enhancing low level shear. Could end up crapping the bed completely or it may work out well. Figure that out after tomorrow’s chase is done. Then Saturday is showing good potential. Great parameters ahead of a dryline in Kansas minus the weak upper level winds. The question mark and potentially huge problem for Saturday’s setup is a cap along the dryline and high probability it won’t break. There’s other plays if that’s the case, but we’ll get into that later. Good luck if you’re chasing and I’ll update during the day tomorrow.

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Forecast Update

Above is a quick map I threw together for Thursday’s setup. Best you’re getting on my MacBook. I need to get my lazy ass in gear and start banging maps out in photoshop. For now this will have to do though. Thoughts are still the same as yesterday for the most part. I’m not a big fan of tomorrow’s setup in eastern Wyoming. I don’t think it’s a good tornado setup worthy of the drive. I’m better off holding the vacation day for something better. If I was going to chase I would target east central Wyoming. That is about the worst road network for chasing you’ll ever come across though. The sandhills of Nebraska can be tough, I’ve chased through Indian reservations in the Dakotas that were very spars with roads, but that eastern Wyoming stretch may take the cake for worst road network. You never know in May so I’ll keep a close eye on it tomorrow afternoon, but I’m staying home for that one. I am most likely chasing Thursday though. Forecast still seems about the same. I took a little closer look at it tonight. The map above shows surface dew points at 00Z Thursday afternoon. That little moisture wrap around/dryline bulge area seems to be settling in around the northern Texas panhandle and the focus will be on storms developing along that section of the dryline and north of the bulge where the moisture wraps back into Colorado. How many storms will develop and where exactly they’ll develop is a bit uncertain right now, but the cap gets stronger as you head south along the dryline and the NAM is already stingy with convection, so I’d play north on this one. By 00Z CAPE and deep layer shear is definitely strong enough to support supercells, largely thanks to great directional shear along and north of the moisture wrap around portion of the dryline. It almost seems like most setups with dramatic turning in the 850-500 layer aren’t big time tornado producers. Seems like you usually get a couple, but it’s nothing major. Incredible structure with that type of turning though if other details fall into place. Low level shear doesn’t look to be real supportive of tornadoes until you start getting the low level jet cranking up around 7pm. I’ll wait until the HRRR picks up on this tomorrow before I start getting into convective evolution, but my expectation is for a supercell or two to be tracking through that area I boxed in red on the map later in the evening and it will pose a lower end, but decent tornado threat in the 6-10pm timeframe or so. It may be able to get down a solid tornado near or just after dark if convective evolution is favorable and we have a discrete supercell tracking through there with clean inflow from the south.

Beyond Thursday, we may have a three day stretch of chases. Nothing major, but with strong instability as you get into the weekend it doesn’t take a whole lot of shear. Each day is a little sketchy so I won’t get into forecast details yet, but the potential is there for there to be potential each day through Saturday lol. Check back for updates if you’re interested. I should be posting again tomorrow night.

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Chase Opportunities Coming Up

Tough calls to be made my friends. I’ve been watching Wednesday’s setup for quite some time now and I’m still not any closer to being comfortable with making the call on whether or not to chase. I feel like I should as slow as its been in the plains so far, but I’m not sold on the idea that there won’t be better setups in late May and June in the high plains or up north that I’d rather chase more. IDK. I’m going to see what SPC and 12Z model runs have to say about it and make the call then. I’m iffy on Wednesday, but I’m in on Thursday. Wednesday is a SE Wyoming target day. That’s pretty much set in stone. Thursday is slightly more up in the air. Could be a SE Colorado into SW Kansas target or possibly farther south in Texas along the dryline. I’m dragging ass and got a bad haircut on top of it, so not going to elaborate much tonight. I’m watching Free Solo for chase motivation right now. I need to focus on that and wind down before I go to bed. Huge fan of the film and if you’ve never seen it you should check it out. One of my favorite parts is where he says that nothing great ever happens when you’re cozy and comfortable. There’s a lot of truth in that. The feeling you accomplished something usually comes after you spend some time on the other end of the emotional spectrum with hard work and discomfort. I try to keep that in the front of my mind this time of year. Enough rambling. Quick run down…

Wednesday the target area is SE Wyoming. Plan as of now would be to head to Cheyenne and fine tune the forecast from there. Probably start a bit north of there a ways on I25. Storms should develop west of I25 during the afternoon and track northeast. The latest run of the NAM keeps the stronger mid level flow west of there and up into Montana. Montana is a nonstarter target for me since I want to chase the central/southern plains Thursday and I also like sleep so I didn’t look at it for this forecast. It may be an option though. With the stronger mid level flow to the west, deep layer shear really isn’t that good. Although good directional shear will help a little, CAPE shear combos in eastern Wyoming really aren’t that good. Some chasers are pretty amped on this setup, but I’m just not seeing it. I’d chase it if it was close by, but I am having a really hard time justifying the drive if mid level winds don’t look better with the morning runs. Other concerns I have are a fairly narrow instability axis running through eastern Wyoming/western Nebraska, but with meridional mid/upper flow and a strong northerly component to storm motions that may not be a huge issue. There’s also a tendency for backing of the winds in the upper levels with most forecast hodographs I’ve seen in the last several days, although it was high enough up in the atmosphere that maybe it won’t be much of an issue. I honestly didn’t look all that close at forecast soundings since I’ve only been moderately interested in the setup. You may get a couple discrete supercells during the afternoon with decent structure, but I’m not sold on this being a good tornado setup. I’ll take a closer look in the morning though when it’s time to make decisions.

Thursday I think looks more interesting despite SPC’s relative silence on it. I’m guessing they introduce a threat area for it with tomorrow’s outlook though. Maybe it’s my plains bias, but I like the more traditional juiced up parameters of the central plains than the wispier high plains setups. There’s been some variance model to model and run to run with the exact location of the weak disturbance that ejects into the plains and the surface pattern, but basically we are looking at a dryline from SE Colorado down into Texas. Deep layer shear and CAPE should be plenty good enough for supercells. Low level shear isn’t particularly strong, but it’s good enough to get the job done. The latest run of the NAM shows hodographs improving quite a bit with CINH staying low enough for a decent tornado threat right after dark. Again I haven’t taken a real close look yet, but I will tomorrow. I think it looks like a tornado day. It may be SE Colorado or it could be down closer to the southern Texas panhandle. Not a real good setup, but I think it’s a 5%-10% tornado probability type setup and you chase that in May. I’m a sucker for directional shear and it looks like we’ll have decent directional shear with this setup.

Sorry for the lack of a detailed forecast. I’ve been pretty lazy with the blog this year, but I chalk that up to a slow plains season. I’ll be taking a close look at the forecast in the morning so I may try to update then if I get a chance at work. Otherwise I’ll get something up tomorrow night so check back if you’re interested.

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Extended Forecast

Not much time right now. I’m getting ready to shower and hit the road to Topeka, but I wanted to get something up quickly before I leave so this is a very abbreviated version of a forecast. A closed low over the east coast will kind of screw us on moisture return into the plains, however there could be some lower end localized opportunities for chasing in the western/high plains through this week. Wednesday may be a decent day with some good structure up in the SE Wyoming into western Nebraska area as meridional mid level flow overspreads the western plains. There appears to be decent directional shear despite the meridional flow, which is why I think that may be a worthwhile day with possibly a low end tornado threat and decent structure. Friday is the day I’m really focused on. The GFS has routinely been showing a weak shortwave moving into the central plains with decent moisture to work with. The shear CAPE combos it’s been showing are plenty good for supercells and with good low level shear that could be our next decent tornado day.

I’ll try to get up more tomorrow night so check back then.

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Getting ready to head up to Emporia. I think we’re extremely early getting out there so there’s probably going to be some napping in the car going on, but if I stay home any longer I’m going to fall asleep here. Not at all optimistic about the tornado chances. It’s nonzero. That’s about all I got. I want the first tornado in Kansas though so I’ll try. I won’t fire up my stream for a while, but if you want to follow along on my stream you’ll be able to find it at the link below when I do turn it on.

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Forecast for 5/14

Still no tornadoes in Kansas yet this year. Does that change tomorrow? Ehh, I’d say 50/50 chance of that. I think any tornadoes tomorrow will be weak, but there’s a chance we’ll get one. Pretty weak setup as far as tornadoes are concerned. A surface front will lie roughly along a Wichita to Topeka to north of Kansas City line. Storms should develop along that front during the afternoon, primarily along the Topeka to KC corridor. Upper level winds will again be weak with deep layer shear along the front barely sniffing supercell criteria. There will be strong instability though which will help to offset the weak shear a bit. A good tornadic storm off a cold front is like a unicorn in storm chasing as far as I’m concerned. Just don’t see them. I could ramble for a long time as to the reasons why, but odds are if you read my blog you have at least some basic understanding of meteorology and forecasting tornadoes so you probably already know most of what I’d say and I don’t want to bore anyone with a ramble. Soooo, the key for tomorrow in my opinion is avoid the cold front style portion of the frontal boundary. I will be focused like a laser on low level winds tomorrow. The models have been hinting at a little mesolow along the boundary that may help to locally back low level winds a bit more immediately east of the mesolow. That’s where I want to be where shear profiles and boundary more (slightly) resemble a warm front. That is where tornado potential should be best as far as Kansas is concerned. Where will that be? Don’t know. The 00Z NAM puts the mesolow in south central Kansas near Wichita with the best parameters between Wichita and Emporia. The HRRR puts the mesolow near Topeka with the best parameters between there and KC. Doesn’t matter to me. My target tomorrow will be based on surface observations. If there is any hint of a mesolow and backing winds I’m getting just east of it.

As far as tornado chances go I think they’re low, but definitely nonzero. My guess is our best chance is early. The models have storms staying somewhat discrete for a while, but I’ve been burned on this exact same type of setup twice this year. First in SE Kansas when I got on a tornado warned storm near Sedan (it was a POS despite being tornado warned) and again in NE Oklahoma. Both setups had a little mesolow prospect and hints of storms remaining discrete for a while. Neither worked out for tornadoes. Given those recent experiences my hopes are low for tomorrow. Still, it’s May and I’ll take what I can get. We chase! Plus I really want to livestream the first tornado of 2020, year of the pandemic, in Kansas. I need that for the resume so I’ll give it a go.

Plan as of now is to leave Wichita at 1. I’ll post a target before we leave town. As mentioned above it will all come down to mesoscale forecasting and figuring out where conditions along the front will be slightly better east of any mesolow.

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Sorry I didn’t post last night. My feelings hadn’t changed from the previous two forecasts so I wasn’t too worried about it. I was kind of busy after work yesterday and by the time I got done forecasting it was late so I just wasn’t going to take the time to put a post together. Today my feelings remain the same. The NAM did end up trending farther north and the triple point is going to be well into Kansas. Problem is convective inhibition up here will likely keep any storms from developing. I’ve never been interested in the Texas panhandle option. They may eek out a weak tornado, but shear is not good enough down there for a legit tornado threat and storms will fill in quickly. Shear has been the issue all along here and I think a big part of tornado forecasting is recognizing what the weakness is with any given setup and then identify the area where that weakness will be mitigated most. With this setup the weak shear is mitigated most up near the triple point. Doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have a storm though. I got my equipment setup just now at lunch and am heading back to work. I’ll keep a close eye on CAM’s and satellite. If it looks like we may get a storm in SW Kansas I will hit the road. I may drive west an hour or so around 4pm just to be safe and make sure I keep the target area in range. We laid off/furloughed a lot of people at work so I’m really doing the job of three people right now, which is almost a full days work for me lol, so I need to be there as much as possible. I have a ton of vacation to burn, but I have no problem saving it for better chase days and hurricane season so I’m not going to use it today if I think its a cap bust in Kansas and the Texas panhandle is not worth the drive IMO.

Tomorrow brings more low end tornado chances. I’ve only glanced at the setup so I won’t comment now, but I’ll get into the forecast later tonight.

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Update to Forecast for 5/13

I’m sticking to my guns for the Wednesday forecast. Once again I just kind of glanced over data as I watched TV rather than really locking in and forecasting. My forecasting effort is almost always proportional to what I feel the tornado threat is. I still think this is a lower to mid level tornado threat. Nothing major, but I think we could see a couple decent tornadoes on Wednesday. The NAM finally started to make me a little nervous with this morning’s 12Z run when it did the opposite of what I thought it would and trended back south with the triple point and better quality moisture. The NAM seems to have come back to its senses with the 00Z run and has trended back north again with the triple point in SW Kansas. I’m sticking with the my initial starting target somewhere in the area between Woodward, OK and Minneola, KS. The NAM has storms trying to fire right there near the triple point/dryline bulge in the Oklahoma panhandle, but it dies out quickly. The NAM has consistently shown a narrow warm sector with a waving warm front running east of there. Meanwhile the GFS has stuck to its guns and has a more traditional wide warm sector and more aggressive moisture return into the plains with a plume of good moisture running all the way up through Kansas by Wednesday afternoon. Again I barely glanced at data tonight so take this with a grain of salt, but the driver of the difference between the two on moisture return (which is very important with this setup) seems to stem from convection that will form tonight in the western plains and track through Oklahoma tomorrow. How expansive that is and how disruptive it is to low level flow and the onset of moisture into the central plains will probably start to indicate which models is closer to the truth. Going off past experience and the trends between the two models, my guess is still the NAM is closer to right, but it’s still been overdoing the disruption of moisture return and keeping the triple point/bulge too far south on most runs.

I’ll have to take a closer look tomorrow at the warm front in south central Kansas. I try not to get wrapped up in composite indices, but I definitely look at them regularly. Supercell composite is always a quick easy way to check 850-500 crossover and get a feel for shear profiles across an area. Being a directional shear junkie, that’s always something I’m keeping a close eye on. It’s hard to miss the NAM continuously spiking composite indices along the warm front. Not a big shock. That’s pretty normal to have a spike there with backing surface winds and moisture pooling with any setup. The warm front in south central Kansas doesn’t look like the type of place where a surface based storm would initiate, but there is a chance for morning convection in that area to potentially lay down an outflow boundary and locally reinforce/sharpen the front later in the afternoon, so it’s something to keep an eye on when I do my detailed forecasting tomorrow. Tomorrow’s 00Z run when the HRRR will pick up on this will be real interesting too. As I mentioned yesterday, it seems like the NAM has underdone precipitation with every setup this year. None of the models have done very well I don’t think, but the HRRR has been the closest to right most of the time so I’m real curious to see if it has any storms coming off the dryline bulge/triple point in NW Oklahoma and SW Kansas. Hopefully it doesn’t have some of the BS disruptions at the surface that the NAM does which could limit the instability axis for storms in that area too. It would make me feel a lot better about this setup. Either way I’ll be fine. I’m planning on taking off around noon or 1 on Wednesday and I’ll head towards that Minneola to Woodward area. If I need to drop south along the dryline, I have no problem doing that. I really don’t want to play south of I40 though. That’s kind of my cut off for this one. I’ll be at my target area early enough to make adjustments if need be so these detailed forecast questions are really a nonissue this far out.

So I guess in summary, still a lot of concerns and potential problems with this setup if moisture return into the central plains is disrupted too much. That picture should become much more clear during the day tomorrow. Then I still think the best tornado potential is going to be near the triple point where low level shear is stronger, but in order for that potential to be realized we need some decent width to the instability axis ahead of the dryline bulge, which is a bit of a question mark with the NAM’s output. There are problems, but it’s also May. This is the time of year when things that usually go wrong to mess setups up start to go right. Enough rambling, I’m keeping an eye on it and I’ll get back on it tomorrow.

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