Saturday, May 30, 2009

05/29/09 Illinois LP Picturesque Thunderstorms

Spectacular (LP) thunderstorm with brief mid-level rotation outside Springfield, IL

Friday, consisted of a brief chase after a tour of tornado damage in Kirksville, MO earlier in the afternoon (see previous post). My plan worked out quite well: visit Kirksville, MO and chase the CU field back to Illinois where storms should initiate along a weak cold front moving into central Illinois. Sure enough that's what happened. I followed the CU field from northeast Missouri into Illinois and convection fired after 5:00pm. This happened due to diurnal heating and convergence along the cold front was just strong enough as the cap broke. I didn't expect much "severe" since moisture-return was a major problem along with weak forcing. However, being that this was a northwest-flow setup I decided to chase these storms since they usually provide for great photos. These storms were rather weak on radar and low-precipitation (LP), but a few toward sunset exhibited brief mid-level rotation especially near Champaign, IL. The cell I was chasing north of Springfield, IL also showed some brief rotation as it organized. These storms were quite photogenic (typical) in northwest-flow setups. Some (including myself) believe these storms provide better photo-ops than southwest-flow storms. The reason: it can be argued that you're usually lacking moisture like we did yesterday in these setups. This acts to prevent storms from becoming high-precipitation (HP) in nature. Another potential reason to go along with this theory is that these setups usually have plenty of heating during the day unlike (most) southwest-flow setups. In southwest-flow you're usually always fighting convective debris from the plains which limits heating throughout the day in the Midwest especially (not so much in the Great Plains). That's why I believe northwest-flow storms here in the Midwest provide for some of the best photos in any given year. Primarily, this is why I chase these very marginal days beneath northwest-flow aloft. Well and sooner or later you'll get rewarded and have a beautiful (LP) supercell to bring home to annoy your chasing friends ;)

Now leaving: Missouri, The Show Me State
CU field becoming agitated at this point as I enter Illinois on I-72
Warm-moist air rises folks...
Today, was full of great convective tower shots if you had the proper lens
Text-book flanking line example (the stair-step) into the main updraft
Convective towers accelerating vertically into the atmosphere
Grungy storms on radar, but in the field they were quite photogenic
More towers developing along the boundary at sunset
One of my favorite shots of the day
(reach-out-and-touch-it convection)
Brief rainbow at sunset as the storm moves to the southeast
An example of buoyancy at its best

There is a possibility I'll end up chasing tomorrow and Monday so stay tuned. Yesterday, was a rather productive day I must say in all things considered. Kind of left me wanting more...

05/29/09 Kirksville, MO Tornado Damage

A tornado struck the north-side of Kirksville, MO earlier this month

Friday, was a "down day" per say as I toured damage still evident in Kirksville, MO from a tornado earlier this month. Kirksville really got spared as a rain-wrapped tornado just brushed the north-side of town back on May 13th. The tornado's path took it through a GM auto-dealership (Jim Robertson) and a small subdivision along U.S. 63. Agree, with the NWS damage survey of a E-F1 (86- 110 mph) tornado intensity based on damage still apparent yesterday in Kirksville proper and also agree it was near E-F2 (111-135 mph) as it moved east. Roofs of houses definitely took a beating, trees limbs missing from many trees, and still notable damage at the dealership. I was chasing this same supercell earlier this month only to be disappointed thanks to an extensive tree-line and the tornado being rain-wrapped that blocked my view. It did produce a very nice wall cloud however before it began dropping brief tornadoes along it's path across northern Missouri that I observed. I've added a few photos from yesterday's damage tour below:

This house indeed lost its roof
(Just goes to show you the intensity of a tornado)

This house took a direct hit no doubt
Amazed to find debris still tangled in some trees weeks later

After stopping to take a few photos I began the long drive back home to catch some photogenic thunderstorms developing along a weak cold front in central Illinois. I'll be posting some of those photos shortly...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

05/25/09 Memorial Day Weekend Multi-cells

Multi-cell traversing along west-central Illinois farm fields

This past weekend featured a rather lame weekend for severe weather across the U.S. A warm-core low pressure system pretty much was the only weather story across the U.S. to the dislike of just about every storm chaser. A few passing thunderstorms indeed, but nothing spectacular. Surely, not the norm during this past weekend in the U.S. and particularly the Great Plains. It has been a ridiculous May for severe weather, but there is hope as the ECMWF and the GFS are hinting at a pattern change which would lead to a more favorable pattern for severe weather across the northern plains and the Midwest in the next few weeks. Hopefully, June will make-up for a depressing May in terms of tornadoes, but don't hold me to that...

About the only decent convection the entire weekend (Now that's depressing)...
Sunset shot with our outdoor lighthouse in the foreground

There is some potential this upcoming weekend for some chasing opportunities so hopefully I'll be posting again soon if I indeed chase any storms worth mentioning this weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

05/21/09 "Death-ridge" Boredom

A beautiful alto-cumulus deck this week...
Over the past few days I've gathered a few photos to keep up with this utter boredom. Utter boredom in the sense of the current synoptic weather pattern that is. The positive: it has allowed me to get a lot of things accomplished already. It really is somewhat amazing how productive you can be when you're not driving around 12hrs straight in some cases chasing storms and tornadoes. Negative: No supercells and/or tornadoes to chase in the central U.S. I originally planned on a "chasecation" meaning a storm chasing vacation in the Great Plains, but with this dismal outlook for severe weather I have had to put that on hold or will have to cancel it completely at some point. I'm hoping that June makes up for this disappointing late-May weather pattern. That's wish-casting at this point though based on the GFS model. So what has happened you say? Well, a "death-ridge" has caused the jet stream to head to the U.S./Canada border which provides thunderstorms with shear that promotes storms the capability to become severe and produce tornadoes. At the same time, a semi-tropical system has "cut-off" the Gulf of Mexico from allowing its rich-moisture this time of the year to surge north fueling the development of thunderstorms. For those without a meteorology background...this is a pattern you'd see in July or August for example. The affect: it frustrates storm chasers alike and V2 (Vortex2 Project). Every so often this happens in Tornado Alley. Unfortunately, this is one of those years and once you're socked into this pattern it's extremely difficult for the pattern to break down and become more favorable. Even if the pattern does not break down I'll still plan at least a few days in the plains to visit Mt.Rushmore, the Badlands, and Wakita, KS (town filmed in the movie Twister) to name a few at some point this summer. Anyhow I've added a few images of the past few days. I visited a wind farm today in Stark County, IL as these are popping-up everywhere (another nearby in Bureau County). I'm a big-supporter of green energy so I decided to check one out today. I've added a few photos below:

Our outdoor cat enjoying the "death-ridge" pattern to my dismay
Sun dipping below the horizon making a odd "glowing" affect on this treeline as everything else on the horizon is in shadow
Didn't have to go far to grab a decent photo on this day (backyard)

Keep checking back for more photos from storm chasing once the pattern cooperates or for any other projects I'm working on since I'll post those here as well. I'll be storm chasing eventually again June-July (anywhere) and locally this summer July-August (IL, IA, IN, MO).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

05/15/09 Central Illinois HP Supercell

HP supercell "wrapping-up" nearly producing a tornado east of Meredosia, IL

Yesterday, my target was Hannibal, MO playing a strong warm front throughout the afternoon in Illinois. I left home-base around 11:00AM and began heading southwest. At one point I considered heading into Missouri, but quickly changed my mind when I analyzed an outflow boundary in Illinois. On the way to my target I came across a beautiful shelf cloud in Macomb, IL shortly after noon. I stopped for a good 20-30 minutes to soak up the sight as most of the morning I was driving through elevated crapvection farther to the north typical of northern Illinois. This was a beautiful shelf cloud and I was worried that by stopping would possibly jeopardise making it to my target to reevaluate before the warm front began to fire by afternoon However, I indeed made it just in time for round two of the day. I reached my target around 3:00pm seeing all the signs of a warm front tornado outbreak possible for the evening in part thanks to an outflow boundary that was draped across the region from morning convection. The first storm (discrete) crosses the Mississippi River to my west and latches onto the boundary and quickly goes tor-warn (first tor-warn of the day) with good rotation on velocity scans. I did add one image as I first came upon it, but I wish I was able to get closer since there might have been a circulation rain-wrapped. I just couldn't tell since I wasn't close enough to it at that point. It had strong inflow, but boy did that not last long. It seemed to me that it was just too cold for tornadogenesis as it couldn't get warm surface-based parcels from it's south. Argh!... Nevertheless, this thing had good mid-level rotation all the way to Decatur, IL. The best it looked while I was chasing the HP supercell was west of the Illinois River and a little east of the river in two instances (west and east of Menedosia, IL I believe). After driving through several towns with tornado-sirens going off it was interesting to say the least how people "take-cover" these days. (It's by going outside to watch for the tornado). Granted us storm chasers are chasing tornadoes which is far more dangerous, but at least we have a meteorology background with Doppler radar to steer us clear of the tornado. The public does not and should take warnings seriously! Furthermore, I even saw one person mowing his grass for some odd reason as the tornado-sirens were sounding. say the least. Anyhow, I watched many funnels and rotation for awhile with this supercell. I got cored at one point near Griggsville, IL and well the closest you ever want to be to a supercells rotation. I became the chased at this point. A circulation with rapid rotation maybe 100 yards away with a beautiful clear-slot right in front of me. At the same time the RFD wrapped in suspended ping-pong hailstones as I was taking some photos and I took one hit to my knuckle. Note: projectiles hurt...especially hail! Probably, the closest I've ever been to a circulation on a storm ever or that I ever want to be. Nevertheless, it was a good chase yesterday and Illinois does have a good road network, but the main problem yesterday was trying to avoid flooded roads so you could keep up. This was almost impossible and once when it seemed I couldn't catch back up I gave up on the supercell near Lincoln, IL. On another note, my rain gauge recorded 3.25" of rainfall yesterday. Now you know why the fields, creeks, and rivers are flooding around the area. It rained all day...heavily!

Beautiful shelf cloud outside Macomb, IL yesterday morning
After watching this for a good bit, the afternoon convection was a bonus on this day
New slogan: "Turn-around, don't get rolled-on"
Picturesque beauty along Illinois's flat terrain
Circulation and lowering from atop I-72
My close call: Yikes, rapid rotation to my north and notice clear-slot (left)
RFD wraps in suspended hail stones (right) into the circulation with rapid rotation near Griggsville, IL Click to enlarge...
My next play after punching through and now east of the Illinois River and Meredosia, IL
The wet RFD wraps-up producing this funnel cloud to my west-northwest ( close) Click to enlarge...
My rain gauge best illustrating the flooding problems due to one day of rainfall

A great day considering my target area was correct yet again and everything was in place for tornadoes in Illinois. Just another let down of a day in a sense that we didn't get a tornado, but damn close again. I do wonder if anytime soon the Great Plains will ever get into a favorable pattern for tornadoes with 0-6km shear greater than 30kts out there this spring-summer. I kind of feel sorry for everyone out there. Well not least they've been able to enjoy nice convection though. Just think, take the shear in the last two systems we've had here in Missouri and Illinois out there and we'll all be in business. Anyhow, there will be a lack of opportunities to chase here in the next week so I'll use this time wisely to rest up for some plains chasing which will be later than I even imagined this year. Sooner or later the pattern has to change to southwest-flow, but how long is the question before it's too-late in the season...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

05/08/09 Electrified Atmosphere

Amazing lightning in the western-horizon last night

Last night, was a nice surprise. As my final year has concluded at Northern Illinois University I drove home yesterday afternoon to start packing for an upcoming chasecation (once the pattern will cooperate). Bright sunny skies around midday I was greeted with and around the time I arrived in LaSalle-Peru by early afternoon a CU field developed. I arrived in Kewanee, IL around 3:00pm seeing deepening CU and an apparent storm trying to bust through the cap along a boundary to my southwest. I sat for a little while only to watch it collapse. I did get some decent convective tower shots during this time taking the time to switch my lens. Storms were continuing to develop in Iowa ahead of a 700mb shortwave so I still had hope to get something out of a day that I didn't expect much anyway. After some nowcasting from my home-base through the evening I noticed one storm in Iowa developing supercell characteristics, but it was so late in the evening I decided to stay put. Sure enough, this storm crosses the river (Mississippi) and produces a tornado north of Little York, IL at dusk. Disappointing, since it would have been a relatively short-drive for myself, but I'm not one that chases after dark unless it's strictly for lightning photography. The storm did move in around 9:00pm from my west. Luckily, I didn't end up empty handed per say as it was surely electrified for a good bit upon arrival. Lots of cloud-to-cloud and intracloud lightning followed up by intense CG's for a good half-hour. I actually was surprised by just how much lightning this storm produced as before it arrived it didn't look like a prolific lighting producer based on lightning detection by any means. It was definitely a bonus though for making the drive home earlier in the day and with this "crappy" (western-ridge) pattern right now...I'll take it. Next shot of anything "chaseable" seems to be this coming Wednesday. Even if it's marginal I'll probably be out chasing since it looks to be a local event. Boy, do we need a western-ridge trough right now though to get us all chasing in the plains...

My graduation cake (getting more and more accustomed to these meteorology-type cakes as of late)
Lightning trying to decide if it wants to hit this tree or not

Cloud-to-cloud + CG = "hell of a show"
This was impressive as you'd get a quick intracloud stroke
immediately followed by a CG at the same time

Overall, a good night for some photography. Hopefully, we'll get a really active pattern in the next few weeks in the plains ( southwest-flow)...please...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

05/05/09 Spring: 2009

Daffodils in bloom outside Altgeld Hall

Well, over the past few weeks I've collected some more spring photos. So how bout one more post before endless storm chasing begins over the next few months. Here's some that I've grabbed recently on campus at Northern Illinois University and in my hometown of Kewanee, IL. Here's Part II of my Spring 09 post:

Holmes Student Center (left)
Cherry trees and Apple trees usually bloom white in the spring
The second stage to a Cherry tree which blooms pink seen here outside Still Hall
One of our many fountains in the backyard
Holmes Student Center yet again during finals week
These are my favorite shots no matter if it's spring or fall
Altgeld Hall getting some "spring maintenance"
Another flower (macro-lens)
Davis Hall as the fountains our turned back on after being dormant since last fall
Holmes Student Center looking "battle-red"
Outside Founders Memorial Library
Early morning dew collecting on some tall-grass prairie (macro-lens)
Cumulus (CU) over campus during a spring day
I wouldn't want to step on this...(ouch) (macro-lens)
Fountain outside Neptune Hall is turned back on signifying the start of spring
Flower (macro-lens)
More flowers...(macro-lens)
More and more of the same that can be found just about anywhere if you look close enough
Very easy to get these results with a macro-lens
These are growing wild in our yard at home (macro-lens)
White flower (macro-lens)

So another semester ends which means graduation for myself and a couple of months of endless storm chasing. Hopefully, the pattern will cooperate as so far this year has been an "average" tornado year. Stay tuned for the stories from my own personal storm chases in the coming weeks and you can even track me LIVE and view the stream at my website