Tuesday, June 15, 2010

End of Season, TX.

A long, long time ago there was a young graduate student. He participated for several years in DOW field projects prior to Vortex2. One day a DOW broke down and Josh radioed, "We have reached end of season." Navigating the other DOW, unnamed graduate student (we all know who he is!!), looked at his map and asked "Where is End of Season?" At the time, the DOWs were in South Dakota. Vortex2 has reached End of Season, TX.

In short, the people who make up Vortex2 are fabulous. They are people you enjoy working with; they are old friends; they are new friends (I have never been quite sure on semi-colon usage!). As we return back to our "normal" lives, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the scientists, engineers, technicians, students, volunteers, hotel coordinator, photographers, and the public. It has been a great run and I wish everyone the best.

Here is to End of Season, TX!
Picture 1: The CSWR crew.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tornado. Tornado. Big Texan. Flash Ponding.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (and without internet), lived a nomadic tribe known as Vortex2...

11 June: Last Chance, CO. Why did the tornado cross the road? Oh wait, it didn't. DOW7 meandered down to Road 2312 (I challenge you to find this road!). The tornado pod teams followed. A tornado formed about 23 km to our west over an open field. The pod teams lined up...and waited. And waited. And waited. And then there was no tornado.

12 June: Spearman, TX. Rain, rain, and more rain.

13 June: After a lovely, rainy evening (and morning) in Liberal, Kansas (home of the National Beef Packing Company. Steak usually is a good dinner choice!) we decided to tackle storms along a remnant outflow boundary from the overnight convection (rain) in the OK/TX panhandles. Basically, we returned to the same location we commenced chasing on the 12th, which was a bit....pondy. So we decided that dirt (mud) roads, were to be avoided. Storm #1 was targeted near Farnsworth, TX. The first storm was, for lack of a better word...boring.
A white rabbit named Harvey (or Frank, depending on your age) appeared in he DOW...yes, it is about that time of the season!
The FC (Field Coordinators--David Dowell and Mike Coniglio; the MCs of the weather world) encouraged us to be optimistic and found us another storm to target. Up came the second storm and it was a good storm! A tornado formed northeast of Booker, TX and DOW7 headed north with the pod teams to intercept. The lack of roads proved to be problematic and we raced east (at safe highway speeds) to to get to another intercept location. After driving through a lot of rain (and a generator failure...), we regrouped to the east as another tornado was forming near Slapout, OK. We tried to get the pods out in front of the tornado, but the path of the tornado was farther south than anticipated...and it dissipated before reaching the road. A few gratuitous pod deployments were made...just because.

I assume that the pod teams will soon mutiny...

So here we are in Amarillo, TX at the same hotel that we ended the season last year...interesting.
Picture 1: The super secret PI morning weather briefing.
Picture 2: When in Amarillo...the Big Texan! Only twice this season...a slow year.
Picture 3: The omnipresent, all-knowing FC. And Arby's--Home of the Jamocha shake.
Picture 4: Pretty cloud. I think every single person in Vortex2 took this picture!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Venturing a bit north of I-80, one finds:

1. Bluffs
2. Tornadoes
3. Team Howie

On the 7th and the 9th
the greater Scottsbluff area provided us with bluffs. On the 7th, it provided us with tornadoes. And Team Howie was with us all along (they finally crawled out of their radar trucks!).

The 7th was a bit of a challenge because of the usual suspects: multiple storms, fast storm motion, and not many roads. But, despite our nemeses (I would have thought it was nemesi!), we persevered and after a west (Henry, NE), east (Bridgeport, NE), west (Minatare, NE) trajectory on US 26 we deployed. The storm was not looking very interesting on radar (dinner plans were being made...Arby's, Sonic or McDonald's--decisions, decisions...) when, well, it began to look interesting... A weak tornado quickly formed, we moved the pod teams south to get in front of the tornado, but they could not make it in time--the tornado crossed 26 and quickly dissipated. Unfortunately, these weak, short-lived tornadoes are not conducive to pod deployments (slow moving, long-lived wedge, please), but, along with NOXP, we got good radar coverage of the tornado. Additionally, DOW6 got radar data up on (US? NE?)71 in an earlier tornado.

Time to go south...

Team Howie (as I like to call the group of graduate students that work for Dr. Howie Bluestein):
Picture 1: Jana (left), Mike (right) and Chad (behind). (Chad is not really the radar--he is the radar engineer, but since he was not around, the radar seemed like a good stand-in). Jana and Mike are doctoral students at the University of Oklahoma and operate the mobile phased array radar (which also has a vertically pointing lidar).
Picture 2: (From left to right) Dan, Jeff, and Robin. Technically only Jeff and Robin are Team Howie--Dan is a postdoctoral scientist for CAPS (Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms), but he is married to Robin, so by association... Jeff operates UMASS-X (an X-band dual polarization radar) and Robin operates the UMASS-W (It uses a small wavelength (millimeters, as opposed to centimeters), which has the effect of increasing the spatial resolution (it can see smaller things). Therefore it is good for studying tornado-scale phenomena).

Picture 3: A bluff.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Look Kids, it's I-80...

I have to be honest (because all my other posts have been lies, lies, and more lies...), I am starting to lose track of days (and I am not even that old!).

The only thing I know for sure is that we have not left I-80...
But, after polling other Vortex2 crew members, I believe it is the 7th of June...

4 June: Hmmm...I think we chased the hotel this day. Our target area was near Kearney and our hotel was in Kearney, NE....fortuitous. After checking in and lounging around (we never really "lounge" because we are always on perpetual stand by for favorable changes in the weather, which means that we can sit in a given location for 5 minutes....or 5 hours), storms started firing up to our north. So at ~630, we left Kearney for the Broken Bow McDonalds. By the time we got to Broken Bow, it became clear that these storms were not going to be supercellar and we headed back to Kearney for a late (but very enjoyable) dinner. In all fairness, I should also mention that an NSSL vehicle out navigated DOW7 to Broken Bow (a crushing blow to the DOW7 navigator/prince).

5 June: This day was a bit different...(still on I-80, though). There had been some indications in the models for severe weather threat in Iowa/Illinois for the last day or so. As we woke up that morning in Kearney, it became clear that we needed to get east...fast (at safe highway speeds, of course!). So we abandoned the morning meeting and headed to Des Moines (Iowa). Convection (storms) started firing in the vicinity of the cold front. After some pursuit, it became quite clear that these storms were destined for linearity... In other words, a big line of continuous storms formed, which is not conducive to tornado formation (very little rotation). The real action was in central Illinois, where isolated supercells persisted and several long(er) tracked tornadoes formed.

6 June: After a lovely evening of fine dining and hoteling (not a word, I know!) in Omaha, we headed west (on I-80, of course!) for a potential target in Ogallala, NE. The storms actually looked pretty good for awhile (and just plain pretty), but no tornadoes were to be had.

And here we are...the 7th of June....still on I-80...
Picture 1: A pretty storm near Grant, NE on 6 June. I actually got out of the radar truck during operations. The first time this season.

Friday, June 4, 2010

These roads don't move...

Or do they?

From 1 June to 3 June, the states visited by the Vortex2 armada were as follows:
Iowa (once), South Dakota (twice), Nebraska (lost count!), Colorado (once), Kansas (twice)...

1 June was a first for Vortex2--We had a mission in Nebraska, but I never turned on the radar.

2 June was almost a second--We drove from Kansas to Colorado to Nebraska to Kansas. 24 minutes of radar data were collected. This day was a long-shot from the start, so we were not overly disappointed.

3 June was almost a third--Not really, but it seemed to fit in sequence....This day actually looked promising...(by putting actually as a qualifier, you know how this story ends). Southeast South Dakota had the best potential. After a picnic, swim, sail, and nap at the (NO!) Snake River Recreation area, storms began to form just south of the NE/SD border near Naper, NE. For those of you not familiar with this region, there is this little thing called the Missouri River, which needed to be crossed (multiple times!) to intercept the storm du jour. Unfortunately, the storm du jour was not what the waiter told us it would be (he is so fired); instead it was the non-tornadic, outflow-dominated (Shear...where are you...?), rain and lightning producing type of storm. Once again, a good integrated data set was collected by Vortex2 (yeah us! nay weather!).

(BTW, thank you everyone for your comments! I am glad that you are enjoying the blog!)

Picture 1: (Part of) the armada moving through Kansas (or Nebraska...?)
Picture 2: Erin Jones (Purdue graduate student and Pod Person) wearing pink! Wow! Oh yeah, she is also doing her daily check of the pods before operations.
Picture 3: Justin Walker and his banjo. Full-time CSWR engineer/technician (it suffices to say, he does it all!), DOW6 operator, banjo player, and half-time runner.
Picture 4: The foreign contingent--Rutger Boonstra (he is Netherlandish), The Germanator (Germany, of course!), and the esteemed Dr. Lindsay Bennett (England) enjoying the grass.
Picture 5: The CSWR crew realizing that there really are snakes in the river....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kalo Mina!

5/29/10: A picturesque chase near Hyannis...Nebraska. What the storms lacked (rotation and tornadoes), the terrain didn't--uhhh...rotation and tornadoes?? Let's try that again:
Storms = not supercells
Sandhills of Nebraska = super pretty.

5/30/10: Down in North Platte, NE.

5/31/10: The weather looked pretty marginal everywhere...really. Basically, we look for an overlap of energy (CAPE), favorable wind profiles, and a source of lift. Lately, the atmosphere has been refusing to allow these 3 conditions to overlap (I have already submitted a formal complaint to her boss). This translates to "tornadoes are unlikely, but there may be a region where tornadoes are less unlikely." Our "less unlikely" target region was near North Platte.
After monitoring the weather, it became apparent that Nebraska was unlikely the less unlikely region for tornadoes (I am trying to confuse you so you never make it to the punchline...). Therefore we decided to head east to Kearney (positioning ourselves closer to the Day 2 target region) and call it a day. We rolled into our hotel just in time for The Tornado...in SE Colorado. The less unlikely location.

But, it is a new month...

Let's make it HRRRt!!

(The HRRR--the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model--is one of the models we use for forecasting. It is pronounced "Her"...You can laugh, you know you want to...!)

Picture 1: Super Pretty.

Picture 2: It HRRRts!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

All quiet on the western front...

Except at 2, 4, and 6 PM (not AM, of course).

After a lovely day of touring, we woke up to a disappointing weather forecast: convection was unlikely in our target region (SD/ND/MT) because the atmosphere was too capped. "Capping" is almost a literal description...a cap means that there is a layer of (relatively) warm air above the surface that inhibits convection (like a lid on a pot). The warmer the air, the stronger the cap. Some capping is good because it keeps storms from going early (when conditions are not necessarily conducive to supercells) and it also precludes a gazillion (wow-no red spelling underline!) storms from forming at once. Usually (well, on a good supercell day!) as the day progresses, the cap erodes allowing for storms to form where there is strong forcing. The alternate scenario is that you get a bad sunburn (hence, you should were a cap. Ha? Ha?). Well, the latter scenario transpired. Fortunately, we never left the hotel so we took the opportunity to look over our data from the previous missions (and nap). It looked good--except the lack of the meganado (spell check caught this one).

Back to Nebraska!