Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The final NAM panels are in as I'm writing and show meager CAPE values creeping up the plains of eastern New Mexico.
I have focused on Friday over Saturday because I think Saturday is a slam-dunk severe squall line, typical of early March. Saturday is all about forcing and strong jets aloft with some unidirectional shear thrown in for good measure. Friday on the other hand, with more relaxed shear over elevated terrain, had the potential for isolated, if high-based, storms. Even the low 50-ish Tds currently progged out there could create sculpted updrafts if they're not competing in a large-scale rain shield, a distinct possibility.
That's all my time this morning. I'm keeping an open mind.
Monday, February 27, 2006
ensembles from last night show a larger spread than before and suggest a cutoff situation. Only the GFS 0z "hot" runs continue to paint a hopeful portrait for chasers. All of this caused the SPC to drop their slight risk on the 4-8 day outlook, a product I'm sure they hate being forced to issue anyway. The weekend could go either way.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Last night's GFS was exciting but today we're back to reality. This is a Texas/Oklahoma system, and I believe now that the warm front might not make it as far north as I-40 on Friday, possibly the KS/OK border on Saturday. This far out in time, once again, the only information I take from the guidance is that moisture will advect into the southern plains, modest southwesterly midlevel flow will overspread the region beginning late Thursday and increase until the main energy arrives on Saturday, and a warm front will camp somewhere in the neighborhood. There's nothing more definitive to be gleaned from distant progs, even though it's fun to try.
I give the setup extra points for timing since Friday and Saturday are the best days for my schedule. It's possible this could be my only chase in March, as well, since other obligations will impinge over Spring Break and on the last weekend of the month. I'll look for any excuse to head out if I can find one.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
The likely outcome is a big rain event as elevated moisture returns above the warm front. A long-term precip event would create a cold pool and a tight thermal gradient far less supportive of severe storms than a modified boundary. All sort of havoc comes from cold air at low levels and tornadoes don't like any of it. This is what would normally happen in the first week of March and therefore that's what I expect.
However, if we don't have so much rainfall, and if our moisture return can slightly outpace the current progs, then Friday's projected shear isn't so powerful that lower-instability storms would necessarily suffer violent and premature deaths. Saturday the Big Jet arrives and storms will fly at 60 knots like we're accustomed to in March. Those are no fun.
If the only product of the annual safety debate is a reminder that we're thinking about it, that's better than nothing and possibly enough to exert as much pressure as CAN be exerted on those who create the most problems.
A moment ago I posted some links I've had on my front page for years. These two essays, by Chuck Doswell and Alan Moller, satisfy the topic for me. Despite the occasional perception that these documents have become too institutionalized to remain effective, I think the writing itself is vigorous and it's the perception of the essays that has grown stale rather than the words, sentences, and paragraphs themselves. They stand the test of time.
Storm Chasing with Safety, Courtesy, and Responsibility
by Dr. Charles A. Doswell III
Storm Chase Ethics by Alan Moller
Thursday, February 23, 2006
General Ripper, I do not avoid early March chases, Mandrake, but I do deny them my essence.
Monday, February 20, 2006
I skip the Denver convention every other year, and then when I go again, I wonder why I ever skip. There's something extremely cool about spending time with chaser friends without the stress of a current or upcoming chase, with a bar nearby, and a weekend to kill in a cool hotel. I enjoyed the talks, particularly those by Dr. Markowski, Dr. Gold, and Tim Marshall, but the best part of Denver is always the stuff outside the official itinerary.
My good friend Scott Blair attended the conference unwittingly when his flight FROM Denver to Little Rock, Arkansas was cancelled. Scott intended to visit his fiance' but the ice storm interefered and he wound up at the Radisson with the rest of us. Scott, Tony Laubach and I closed the bar with Dr. Doswell Friday night, which continues my streak of enjoying the icebreaker as much as anything (although we weren't actually IN the "icebreaker room" but at the bar in the lobby). I value the stories people like Dr. Doswell have to tell; he's achieved success in chasing, research meteorology, and as a professional educator, and he was generous enough to talk with us about nearly everything, even the Bears and Cowboys--haha.
One thing I did differently this year was avoid the marathon video session. I'm not a fan of the endless chaser video torture-fest. Several of us stayed for a preview of the new Tim Samaras disc and Jeff Wear's video (it was great that the organizers brought Jeff's parents to the event) then moved to Bill Coyle's room and, yes, we played chase videos, but the room wasn't dark and silence wasn't expected. We talked, drank beer, ate Doritos, admired Samaras's and Doug Keisling's latest discs, and had a good time.
There were a few wrinkles too. The power went out Friday, a problem rapidly dispatched by a room full of scientists, amateur radio operators, and a few engineers. Also a few oddballs tried to make mischief, but what would the chasing world be without them, right? Our room's heater didn't work Friday night, which we discovered around 2:45 AM *after* the long gabfest with Dr. Doswell. We moved to a room where the heater worked like a nuclear power plant.
While I was sitting in the Denver airport this evening waiting for the next delay announcement, I regretted the convention was over. I really did. Thanks for Roger Hill and Tim Samaras for helping make the winter pass a little faster.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Plus I think the model is probably underforecasting precip and I don't want to bolster that suspicion. Ignorance is bliss. Sign me up for that FOXNEWS brain implant.
Anyway, I'm off to Denver later this afternoon. Looking forward to the convention!
Thursday, February 16, 2006
This isn't the news I wanted. I don't like flying in bad weather--not even a little. I don't like driving on ice in North Texas, particularly at night (my flight lands at 9:00 PM Sunday). And the possibility of being stuck in Denver until Monday due to a flight cancellation isn't practical. I have to be back in Denton by Monday morning to teach.
Right now I'm still planning to attend the convention. I'm hoping the models will stop their continued cold-trending, however. If tonight and tomorrow morning's solutions look worse that the runs this morning that prompted the Winter Storm Watch, I'll have to reconsider.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The idea of using 146.550 as a default "chaser simplex" is useful when the density of antennas is reasonably low. In a massive chaser convergence, however, when chasers line the side of the road and vehicles are stacked three deep in the smallest turnouts and driveways, the ".55" becomes a weird cacophony of half-heard questions and interrupted answers. It's an interesting switch-board effect if you're not trying to communicate with anybody. But most operators are more than passive listeners and sooner or later somebody gets annoyed.
Last year, the friends I chase with and I agreed to a few alternative frequencies when .55 is busy. I learned yesterday that one of the frequencies we chose was not in compliance with the 'band plan' for simplex channels. I knew there were designated intervals for simplex, but out on the road last year none of us remembered what they were. Below I have reprinted a list of accepted simplex channels, divided by the .15 khz increment. There are plenty to choose from.
It's also a good idea for chasers in close quarters to use low power if the receiving stations are nearby. The best solution, of course, is to dial up an open channel when the number of stations and transmissions is impractical. Here's the list of available simplex per the band plan:
"Using these standardized 15-Khz splinter channels minimizes interference to other amateur radio operators. In the interest of promoting good Amateur Practice, Here is a list of those Frequencies.
146.52 National Simplex Calling Frequency
*** The frequency 146.400 MHz is used in some areas as a repeater input."
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Manhattan was buried in snow, it seemed strange to consider warm season phenomena. But I was thinking while installing an mp3 player mount this afternoon that we're closer to chasing than it feels like we are, while last month it seemed as if spring had arrived though we were well outside the normal chase calendar. That's an interesting switch in perception driven by a change in sensible temperature.
Anything that lulls chasers into complacency only six weeks before we can expect supercells and tornadoes is a red flag. It's easy for the southern plains to catch chasers off guard, and this sort of cold weather and potentially bitter pattern next week are the very things that can disguise what follows quickly afterwards. All the GFS and ECMWF runs showing front after front driving moisture practically to the equator create a sense that we're far away from severe storms. Yet Texas and Oklahoma can recover overnight in March and April and there's nothing worse than throwing your gear together on a morning when you need to make Lawton by 2:00 PM.
With that in mind, I re-arranged the cargo hold in my 4Runner and installed a ProClips mp3 player mount, photographed here with my shitty cell phone camera.
From the front
From the side
This is an excellent mounting system from ProClips that does not use adhesive and requires no modification to existing surfaces. It clips into locations already with customized part shapes and brackets. Very stable and secure. I highly recommend this product.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
I also noticed from a glance of the SPC Events Index that the majority of my tornado days since 2000 have featured southwest flow aloft. All but two events I checked (and I didn't check them all) happened with upper-tropo flow from between 225° and 247.5°. This is a frequent pattern for tornadoes in the southern plains where I've logged the majority of my miles in that period. However it may also indicate that I either do not attempt other kinds of events of don't forecast (or chase) them very well if I do. Of course location is the dominant term here, I believe. My friend Mike Hollingshead, who often chases late spring or early summer in the northern plains, mentioned that about half his tornadoes may have occured in west or northwest flow regimes, based on his cursory exam of the same event list.
Another feature I noticed on the tornado days I checked was that 850mb flow backed between 50 and 70 degrees from the 12z maps to 0z. Of course the LLJ strengthens and responds to pressure falls like other wind fields, but the consistency of this pattern stood out. Winds at this level almost always increased during that time, but the increase in flow wasn't always as reliable or pronounced as the backing. 850mb lows by 0z were commonly located in eastern New Mexico, eastern Colorado, extreme western Kansas, or western Nebraska. No surprise there. None of this is really shocking, for that matter. It was just interesting to note the many similarities between setups, that yielded (usually) multiple, high-contrast tornadoes for me. A sort of informal, personal climatology.
Monday, February 06, 2006
damage survey from the tornado he witnessed on January 28th, located near the town of Fact, Kansas, ironically. Scott's images include the remarkable picture of a vortex mark on the ground indicating the start of the damage path, which he traced then through vegetation and trees that suffered what he estimated as approximately F1 damage.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Here's another boring techno-entry as much for my own archiving as anything. Last night I configured Franson GPSGate on my new laptop. GPSGate is a small and inexpensive application that allows you to take a single GPS receiver signal and "split" it into multiple channels via the creation of virtual com ports. A user can funnel GPS data to several applications simultaneously with only one receiver. For example, you could send GPS info to Street Atlas, Threatnet (XM/Wx-Worx), and GRLevel3 all at the same time. Creating virtual com ports sounds complex, but GPSGate has about the simplest interface you'll ever see. I enthusiastically recommend the software. For use with a DeLorme EarthMate GPS receiver, however, there are a few tricks.
Friday, February 03, 2006
I intend to test my notebook computer this weekend and begin to debug the various GPS splitters and radar software and the like. I don't look forward to this on a new machine.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
This is a post-in-progress as I intend it as much for readers as for a place to consolidate a list of slightly complicated instructions. If you don't own StreetAtlas 2005 or care about having ready access to NWS numbers, this will bore you to death. Since I've reinstalled all my software on the new laptop, I've had to revisit all the modifications I made over the years.
To begin it seems to be very important that we all download the latest Magnetic Declination File for SA2005, released by NOAA last year. I don't know what that is or what it does but it takes about ten seconds. File and simple instructions here:
Second, in order to import "draw layers," you must download and execute a small utility from Delorme to activate Advanced File Management in SA2005. You can't use the files I describe here without this functionality. Files and instructions to enable Advanced File Management are here:
Now step three. I'll post instructions that Bill Tabor created for this procedure. This is a fine time to mention that several people contributed to these files and this process, including myself, Bill, Steve Miller, Chris Novy, and Terry Drummler. It was a real example of collaborative effort, although I should point out that all I did was collect the info from various corners of the internet and organize it.
Before I begin, there are basically two files this concerns, one for overlaying NWS phone numbers and the other for overlaying county names on existing StreetAtlas map files. I want to mention that these do not alter the basic program and they are 'clickable,' meaning you can turn them on and off easily. I do not make any warrantees for these files. If they corrupt your hard drive and leave water in your carburetor, it's not my fault. So far nobody has complained. I will list instructions for the NWS phone number file only. You can repeat the procedure with the other files in my Images directory, which are DeLormeCounties.txt or DeLormeCountiesCAP.txt. Here we go.
*Copy the file ConvertedNWSPhoneOverlay.txt into the DeLorme Docs/Draw folder on your hard drive.
*FROM BILL TABOR: "Then: Click on the DRAW tab, then choose the "T" symbol. (If you don't see the 'T', it is the second button down on the right column under Tools on the left side of the Draw Tab. If there is a flag, click and hold the mouse button on that flag and a "fly-out" menu will appear.) Earlier versions just choose any symbol as it will not be shown later. Then choose a font style. I would suggest ARIEL 16PT BOLD BLUE for a font, but any will work. Now decide whether or not you would like this layer to be in all CAPS or Lower case. Either will be fine and it can be re-done later.
Clearly these phone numbers are meant for reporting severe weather only. They are not for nowcasts, forecasts, or rag-chewing with harried NWS staff during severe weather events. Of course you own the NWS and pay their salaries, but does it make sense to waste their time during a tornado outbreak by asking questions or reporting marginal conditions?
If you're serious about reporting severe weather, you ought to have a ham license and a 2 meter radio. The test is easy and the radio is cheap. This allows you to make reports via local Skywarn nets which are in progress during severe events and remains the most efficient way to pass information from the field to local offices. Phone calls are disproportionately inefficient since they require the attention of a full-time resource for a single report. A Skywarn net collects and consolidates reports and streamlines the process. But as I mentioned above, those nets are sometimes hard to find or nonexistent in rural areas. If all you have is a cell phone signal, call the NWS.
Bill Tabor's page lists some ideas for judging when to call NWS. I believe this was originally written by Chris Novy:
"YOUR REALTIME REPORTS OF SEVERE WEATHER ARE VITAL TO THE WARNING PROCESS!!!