WKU Meteorology

Discussion of Mid-South weather and climate and information about the WKU Meteorology program

WKU Meteorology - Discussion of Mid-South weather and climate and information about the WKU Meteorology program

Chase Day 13 & Return Trip

On Sunday we started our day in Ogallala, Nebraska and prepared for what we hoped would turn out to be one of our better chase days. The setup featured a split flow aloft with a surface low moving across western Kansas. This would provide the lift for storms to fire across the western part of state before congealing into a line and moving east. Wind shear was weak in the lower levels but the CAPE was progged to have values of 1500-2500 J/kgK and storms were expected to produce mainly large hail, damaging winds, and isolated tornadoes. Here is a look at Sunday’s surface analysis:


We departed pretty early from Ogallala and headed about 3 hours south to a small town called Norton, Kansas which sits right along the Kansas/Nebraska border. We ate some Subway for lunch and even ran into our friends from the College of DuPage once again. This also gave us a chance to check on the short range models to get an update of what was going on with the storms. Ongoing in convection in southern Nebraska was still present and supercells that were forecast to pop up over the western part of the state and congeal into a line were looking to happen too late in the day to chase. So we decided to try and chase the strongest storm on the southern edge of the ongoing convection in northern Kansas.

We targeted the strongest storm pretty well and left Subway, but even the strongest storm was not impressive once we reached it. We caught the storm in Philippsburg, Kansas where it became severe thunderstorm warned. Then we followed the storm to Athol, Kansas and got a view of the severe storm.


This storm was elevated and receiving none of its inflow from the surface. Even though it looked pretty impressive in person and on radar, this storm was not very strong and was only going to produce small hail before losing strength. We left the storm and headed west to Hays, Kansas to see if any storms fired a bit earlier than expected but unfortunately none did.

This would mark the end of our chasing and we headed east to Salina to drop off Dr. Dixon and then we headed east ourselves to the hotel in Boonville, Missouri. Yesterday we woke up early and drove from Boonville to Bowling Green and returned to campus. After 14 days traveling, 6 states covered, and a total of 8,311 miles (avg. 547 miles per day) we have returned from an amazing storm chase. Here is another group picture of all of us on Day 6 in Texas.  (including Dr. Durkee in the background):



Chase Day 12

We arose bright and early today in Spearfish, SD and took off southwest.  Looking over the models while chowing down on some delicious breakfast, we determined the primary mission today was a “travel day” to Ogallala, NE in order to get in a good position for tomorrow’s promising weather.  Nonetheless, our target area entailing the boundary of Wyoming/Nebraska just so happened to be along the way giving us something to look forward to.

The weather set-up for today was pretty far from ideal though.  Adequate dewpoints with a shortwave trough positioned over the region meant storms had the fuel and the lifting mechanism to fire up.  Unfortunately, upper level support (i.e. speed, shear, helicity) was lacking.  Because of this, storms were rather weak and the structure was clustered instead of solo supercells.

sfc map

Surface Map

After reaching our target area we set up base camp in Lusk, Wyoming.  We ate lunch at the Outpost Café (I give it a 4/5 rating, if you are ever in the area looking for some good grub) and played some football at the local park.  Chase teams from Rutgers University and the College of DuPage were also at the park playing the waiting game.  Around 4pm MDT moderately impressive storms fired up around the region.  We viewed one storm from Lusk and then chased another around the town of Torrington, Nebraska.

Storm as viewed from Lusk, WY

Storm as viewed from Lusk, WY

Mammatus clouds from Lusk storm

Mammatus clouds from Lusk storm

Torrington Storm

Torrington Storm

The chasing soon ended as the storms weakened and clustered together soon after 6pm.  We finished the drive to Ogallala, NE where we are currently catching some ZZZ’s.

Adventures in Badlands National Park!

We woke up yesterday in the city of Spearfish, SD after having another successful chase day full of lightning. During our morning forecast discussion we all came to the decision our day would be better spent touring the local attractions. Severe weather parameters were not lining up for a successful chase day. Below is the surface map generated for today:

Surface map generated for 30th May 2014

Surface map generated for 30th May 2014

As a group we decided it would be best to go to Badlands National Park, which was east of the boundary, and if any storms did initiate over the Bandlands we could chase. We made it to the park around 3:00 PM and began hiking, climbing, and exploring the surrounding area.

Our group exploring the desolate grounds of the park.

Our group exploring the desolate grounds of the park.

Being bad in Badlands National Park.

Being bad in Badlands National Park.

After hiking around, and watching a distant storm roll in, we decided to hit the road, and head for the historic town of Deadwood, South Dakota for dinner. The town Deadwood, is an old gold mining settlement which dates back to the days of Wild Bill, and other gunslingers alike. First becoming an illegal settlement in the 1870′s, many of the old buildings still stand.

Our group hunting down a great restaurant!

Our group hunting down a great restaurant!

The town of Deadwood has some exciting history!

The town of Deadwood has some exciting history!

For dinner we ate at Diamond Lils, which was in the second floor of one of the many old buildings in the community. After eating there, we drove back to Spearfish, SD for the night.

Day 10

We started our day in Mile City, Montana and after our morning forecast discussion, our target area of southwest North Dakota was chosen. This area was chosen based on the forcing from the cold front, upper level support, and CAPE. The ingredients were not impressive for severe weather; however a small window of opportunity existed. We headed to Bowman, North Dakota for lunch and ate at a local diner called Eat’s and Treats which was delicious!

We decided to head to a local park to wait for storms to initiate, but when we headed outside, cumulus clouds had begun to form along the cold front. Due to this, we decided to head east of the developing storms and let them come to us. When we got east of the storms, a few had become severe thunderstorm warned.

Severe thunderstorm located outside of Bowman, North Dakota.

Severe thunderstorm located outside of Bowman, North Dakota.

We chased a cell just to our north which showed slight rotation. The storm dissipated. We then chased a second cell, which eventually lost its warning. After the chasing the second storm, we decided to head back to our hotel which was in Spearfish, South Dakota. If any storms looked impressive along the way we would chase. We stopped about 70 miles from Spearfish and observed some impressive lightning off in the distance.


Lightning from a storm about 70 miles from Spearfish, South Dakota.

After we observed the lightning, we headed to our hotel in Spearfish.

Chase Day 8

Due to diminishing conditions for severe weather in the southern plains area and a good outlook for storms in the northern plains for Wednesday, we decided to designate Tuesday as a travel day. We started out early at 8am in Lubbock, Texas, leaving for Buffalo, Wyoming–a 15 hour drive. Most of us used this time to catch up on some sleep, while others enjoyed the sights:




Cinder Cone Volcano in Capulin, NM

Cinder Cone Volcano in Capulin, NM


We made our first stop for lunch at a Wendy’s in Trinidad, Colorado. From there, we hauled north through Colorado Springs and then Denver, where we met some heavy rush hour traffic. While passing through the outskirts of Denver, we noticed this beautiful rainbow in front of a storm to our east:



By the time we made it to Cheyenne, Wyoming, it was dinner time. We decided to continue the trend of Mexican food and stopped at Taco John’s



As we were making our way northward toward our destination of Buffalo, WY, we noticed a beautiful storm about 30 miles to the southwest. As soon as we found a nice, quiet overpass we stopped to take some photos and watch the sunset.





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All-in-all, Day 8 was another perfect example of a non-chase day putting a beautiful storm in our path, for which we were all very grateful for.




Chase Day 9

We woke up in Buffalo, Wyoming with a 7hr drive ahead of us. Our forecast discussion was held in the van, which led us to decide on Lewistown, Montana as our target location. Our discussion was centered on the fact that there was a lot of upper-level support throughout the northwest, including western and central Montana. In addition to good upper-level support, there was a prominent shortwave moving through the area, which was to serve as the lifting mechanism for the firing of the storms. There was also 40 knot bulk shear values throughout the region, which is what we had been lacking thus far on the trip.


We made our first stop for gas and food in Hardin, MT. While we were picking through the snacks at one of the local gas stations, we ran into our friend Kevin Deitsch from the NWS Louisville office. After looking over some data during our pit stop, we were faced with a tough decision. The models were consistently firing up storms at our target location, but as they tracked to the east there did not seem to be a good enough road network for us to safely follow them. Talking to a local trucker confirmed our doubts about the roadways, so after a little deliberation we made the choice to head east and let the storms come to us. We changed our target location to Glasgow, MT and set sail to Miles City where we grabbed some Subway. After a couple of hours and very bumpy ride on rough Montana roads we took a much-needed break outside of Fort Peck Lake, about a half hour from Glasgow.


Fort Peck Lake, Montana

Fort Peck Lake, Montana


We continued onward to Glasgow, where we found a nice park to throw some football at while we waited for storm initiation.


Candy Cane Park in Glasgow, Montana

Candy Cane Park in Glasgow, Montana


We then decided to head west to Malta, where some storms were beginning to form. We found a good spot outside of Malta and watched a supercell make its way to the northeast, into Canada.


Mammatus clouds near Malta, Montana

Mammatus clouds near Malta, Montana



Storm outside of Malta, Montana

Storm cluster outside of Malta, Montana


Our time observing this storm was cut short by the fact that it got dark while we were watching it, as well as the fact that we could not travel very far to our north due to the Canadian border being nearby. At this point we were forced to throw the towel in for the day and enjoy a nice lightning show on our way back to Miles City, where our hotel was booked. The fun did not end here, however. While admiring the beautiful lightning to the north of us, we noticed what appeared to be a tornado–although this has yet to be confirmed. The possible tornado was nearly impossible to see, only showing glimpses of itself in front of the occasional perfectly-placed lightning strike. If this tornado is confirmed, it would be not only the first tornado witnessed on the trip, but also the first nocturnal tornado in the history of the WKU Storm chase Class.





Chase day 7

Today the team woke up in Odessa, Texas once again. Around 10:30 am we headed to our target area of Big Springs, Texas. Here is the surface map for Monday:



The set up seemed very similar to the past few chase days.  The cut off low finally moved just north of our target area, which provided us with plenty of upper level support to sustain single cell thunderstorms. There was a nice amount of shear, and CAPE values to provide instability and lift in order to trigger thunderstorm development. A shortwave also was right over the target area, which also provided as a lifting mechanism. A dry line was moving in from our west which eventually stalled, and an outflow boundary approached from the north. The lower level jet stream was out of the SE which brought in plenty of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into central and southern Texas. Due to overcast skies we decided to target Big Springs, Texas, due to the location and the gradual clearing of clouds westward. Big Springs acted as a pivot point to several cities that had potential for storm development, and had a decent road network in every direction.

We grabbed lunch at a large truck stop in Big Springs which offered both Popeyes and Subway. We ate in the restaurant and gassed up the van, and then proceeded to a park to kill time to wait for storm initiation. Around 2pm a cell popped up to our northwest, and it was only about a 30 minute drive from Big Springs. We all piled up in the van , and headed eastward towards the cell which became tornado warned while we were traveling towards it.  We intercepted the Supercell just as it passed north of Patricia,TX. the cell was very large and rotating.


This cell produced several funnel clouds, but we did not see one reach the ground. Just as this cell was gusting out, a new cell was strengthening on radar just southwest of our location. We were on the hunt once again! The second cell was just west of Sterling City,TX. Approaching the cell was difficult due to a poor road network and a drastic change in terrain, which hindered our view of the storm.  Once the storm was in view it was beautiful.


We then proceeded  east and watched the cell outside of a rest area east of Sterling City. It was a textbook supercell with very beautiful color.


After watching that cell move southeast, we then headed towards our stop for the night in Lubbock, TX. As the sun was setting we were treated to a beautiful view of mammatus clouds along the interstate.


Today was a very successful chase day in Texas. We saw some beautiful rotating supercells and a great sunset to top off our day. We headed to Lubbock, preparing for a 17 hour trek to Buffalo, Wyoming the next day in order to chase storms in Montana on Wednesday.

Chase Day 6

The team started the sixth chase day in Odessa, Texas and headed toward our target city of Fort Stockton, Texas around 10:30 AM. Here is the surface map for Sunday morning:

Surface Map

The set-up seemed very similar to the previous day, with upper-level support finally helping kick things up in our area, along with significant theta-e advection, wind shear, and CAPE for instability. Upper-level divergence was also present, producing lift around our area. Dew points remained unusually high in Texas, which would presumably help provide moisture to storms popping up along the dryline. Unfortunately, storms occurred the previous night and into the morning, diminishing available convection for the day. This was taken into account, however, as we decided to shift south and eastward for the target. Fort Stockton was chosen once again since it was to the south, but also because it would serve as a good pivot point depending on where cells decided to pop up.


We grabbed lunch at a Mexican restaurant called John Chihuahua’s in Fort Stockton, but had to head out quickly because a supercell had formed northeast of Marathon, Texas. Unfortunately on our trek southeastward to intercept this cell, we hit some hills and precipitation fog, which disabled us from seeing any structure whatsoever. This cell was tornado-warned, but continued to quickly diminish as we got closer to it.


Since it was still fairly early in the day, we decided to hang out in Sanderson, Texas to wait for storms to erupt; at that time we were about 18 miles from Mexico. The SPC did issue a tornado watch until 10 PM, expecting, as we were, that storms would pop up later in the day.  The best storms appeared to be in Mexico, and did not cross over the border toward Del Rio until we had already started the trip back up to the north.


On the way back to Odessa, Texas for the night, we stopped in Fort Stockton for a much-needed Dairy Queen break before spending some time in a local park while the sun was still shining.




Storms that had been severe thunderstorm warned erupted in southeast New Mexico around 8 PM. We decided these were too far away to chase since it would be getting dark soon, but were still able to see some of the structure from where we were.


The team ended the night in Odessa with dinner at Chili’s and a weather briefing for the next day.

So while the day ended up being a bust, it was a good one nevertheless. The team was able to spend time together and a busted day really did make us appreciate the great days we had experienced previously this week. Another big forecast decision will be made today, as to whether or not we will stay in Texas for the day or start heading up north to our next target!

Chase Day 5

We started the morning in Ft. Stockton, Texas and headed out around 10am with the target area to be Odessa, Texas. Below is an image of this morning’s surface analysis.

surface map

Today, we finally had upper level support for storms in west Texas. The 250mb jet was located over western New Mexico and the 500mb jet was located in southwest New Mexico which gave us divergence aloft, with sufficient theta-e advecting into southeast New Mexico and west Texas. This, accompanied with a decent dry line was enough to support supercell structured storms. However, the outflow boundary from the previous day’s showers and storms took a little longer to stall over west Texas than expected so we decided to remain in Stockton, TX. While playing the “waiting game” we took time to relax and threw some football. While working on our farmer tans, we noticed a few prairie dogs taking in some of the action of our pickup game.


By midday, storms began firing just south of Odessa near Crane, TX so we headed northeast to intercept. We ended up catching a line of three cells near Big Lake, TX and by this point the storms had matured into pretty decent structured supercells. The main threat with this storm was large hail and damaging winds. Below is a photo of the storm when we first intercepted it just north of Big Lake, TX.



After the storm passed north of Big Lake, we noticed the storm to the southwest had amplified so we headed just south of Big Lake to intercept. We ended up sticking with this storm for the remainder of the day, following it northeast. The storm received support from the low level jet by early evening and was able to produce a funnel cloud just north of Barnhart, TX. Below is a photo of the funnel cloud. It is a little hazy considering we were traveling down a road just east of the storm.


Around 8pm the storm to the north, that we first intercepted, began merging with the supercell that we were currently on. The fusing of storms caused them to form a more linear pattern and the tornado threat decreased. Below is a photo of the storm once it had fused with the storm to the north.


As night approached we decided to call it a day and headed north to San Angelo, TX. Here, we had dinner at Bodacious BBQ till the storm had passed. After dinner we headed to Odessa, TX where we are staying for the night in anticipation of tomorrows events.

Chase Day 4

Today we woke up in Amarillo, Texas this morning and departed south at 9AM to our target area of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Here is a picture of this morning’s surface analysis.


We drove through some areas of rain in the Texas Panhandle which is very rare. Most areas in the Panhandle average about a third of the annual precipitation that Bowling Green receives and over the past few years this has been a drought stricken area, so the rains were very beneficial there. After stopping for gas, we decided it might be time for the storm chase baby to get a new mustache.


By midday, we were under clear skies heading south through New Mexico. After having lunch in Lovington, New Mexico a few cells popped up near Eunice, New Mexico. These thunderstorms were not long lived and were pulsing up and diminishing quickly. After about an hour and a half of watching the cells, one got its act together and produced a severe thunderstorm warning for some hail.

Here is a picture of the thunderstorm, and you can clearly see the precipitation falling, where the area shaded with a lighter color is actually hail falling from the storm.hailcore

One interesting phenomena with this storm was observing the cirrus clouds higher up in the atmosphere rippling out ahead of the cell.IMG_0589


Storms were not moving too fast, so we were able to deploy a drone to get some aerial shots of the storm as well.

droneshot1 droneshot2

After watching this storm for about 45 minutes, we headed south towards Fort Stockton, Texas which would be our resting place for the night. On the way, storms were pulsing up and diminishing all around us which allowed us to get a great view of some of the storm structures. Here is a picture of a storm in the developing stages about 10 miles from us.


We are staying in Fort Stockton tonight and look to continue our west Texas chase tomorrow.