As much as I learned on this trip, it was worth every penny. As Dr. Call told us before we left this morning, he has seen all of us grow as forecasters, teammates, classmates, friends, and adults. Everything that happened on this trip helped me know how to use everything I have learned previously and put it all together, to predict what is going to happen, and be aware of where and when severe weather will occur. I also enjoyed seeing the Central Plains in a whole new light. To visualize the Central Plains puts into perspective just how diverse the United States really are. Also I learned how pictures are simply not enough to grasp the majesty of the weather. You can see a picture of a large supercell, but you don’t think about how large they really are until you are looking at one in real life.
With over 7000 miles traveled in 15 days, I consider myself to be a pretty good storm chaser. With all of this under my belt I feel much more confident in my decision choosing Meteorology as a career. With this newfound confidence, I know I want to help the public’s awareness in severe weather, because the more you guys know, the more lives can be saved from tragic events such as tornadoes, floods, hail, and damaging winds. To do this, I want to either work at the National Weather Service, or at a local television station, possibly in front of the camera, I won’t know that until after broadcast meteorology. I am looking forward to seeing how my career choice changes as my classes become more tuned to certain aspects of the field. I would personally like to thank all of you for following me on this journey. I hope you learned something by doing so. If you see me around and have a question, don’t be shy, ask me, and if I don’t know, I will find out for you. I want all of you to be educated so you know what is going on out there in this beautifully chaotic system.
Beginning in Grand Island, Nebraska, we decided to chase the south western corner of Iowa. We made our way to Nebraska City, Nebraska for lunch. From there, we decided to chase the south eastern corner of Nebraska. When we made it to Auburn, Nebraska, and storms were firing up literally left and right of us. There was a line to both our east and west. We chased the west line for better storms, but those soon were overpowered by the east line, so we averted to chase the east line, which was crossing the river into Missouri. This causes the issue that there aren’t many bridges across the river, so chasing is difficult. After crossing the river, there were several tornado warnings for different cells. In addition to this, Missouri has a lot of tree lines, and rolling hills, making visibility difficult. All of this caused a very difficult chasing situation. This is why we don’t chase in Missouri. We tried to chase the best looking cell, but were blocked by flooding from a combination of today’s precipitation and yesterday’s. We were forced to turn around and reconsider. We then turned around and headed south to grab another cell but everything began merging together, and an isolated cell formed to our west. We turned around and started heading towards that cell, but when we got there, it had dissipated severely. At this point there was nothing worth chasing so we decided to head south to try to get around it. Of course when we got closer, the line extended farther south, so we were forced to push through the line, which seemed scary at first, but we managed to squeeze through two cells where the rainfall was not as severe. After this we headed towards Kirkville, Missouri to spend the night, and tomorrow drive the rest of the way back to Indiana. Yes, Indiana. The trip is nearly over, there will be one last blog tomorrow to finish things up.
Today we began in Fort Morgan, Colorado with our meeting deciding to chase near North Platte, Nebraska. As we approached North Platte, a line of storms began to form directly south of us tracking straight towards us. This line of storms moving north created a strong gust front in front of it. To our north another line of storms moving east also had a weaker gust front in place. On radar it was interesting to watch the two collide, and cause a trigger for some strong cells. A couple hours later, a few more popped up south of the previous cells that looked impressive on radar. When we got there, they were dissipating, and there was a random spoon on the ground so I took a picture. We moved on a little farther east and we observed a roll cloud which is a lowering in the cloud that appears to be rolling and is detached from the base of the main cloud. After this, the storms did not seem worth chasing so we drove to Grand Island, Nebraska to stay for the night. Although the storms were not as organized as we would have liked them, there still was quite a bit to see and learn.
The strong gust front is the semi circle from the south on the base reflectivity on the left, and the bright green pushing against the red on the right window. The weak gust front is the northwest line of the triangle in the center of the left window and shown by the red portion pushing against the green portion in the right window.
Today was a positioning/tourism day, so we first went to Fort Collins, Colorado, to eat lunch, and shop around a little. Then we went up to the Red Rock Amphitheater in Denver, Colorado. I loved it there because it is a natural structure that acts as a natural amphitheater. There was a small museum to go with it which showed all the artists that have performed there. The amphitheater is also at about 6400 ft above sea level, so the oxygen level there is 85% of what it is at sea level. After that we headed into Denver to view the state capitol building. I was the navigator, and I had a incredibly large sheet map to guide us through the city, and some how still avoid the traffic. It was stressful, but I managed. The architecture was pretty incredible. They are making renovations to make some of the meeting rooms look like they did when the building was just built. After that we walked down through downtown Denver, where there was plenty to look at. We took the bus back to our vehicle, and Dr. Call mentioned to me how comfortable I looked on the bus there. I told him that was nothing compared to some of the Ball State buses. After that we ate a Cuban cuisine place, which was actually really good. Finally we drove east to Fort Morgan, Colorado to begin positioning for tomorrow, probably in eastern Nebraska.
Starting in Guymon, Oklahoma we had our morning meeting and decided to head to Tucumcari, New Mexico, because it had the highest potential for storms. Although the wind shear was still not there, and the convective potential was not the greatest, it still was better than any reachable chase area. We travelled through the corner of the panhandle of Texas to get to Tucumcari. We were going to tour some museums today, but they are only open Tuesday through Saturday. When we began to chase storms, there was a large single cell, with supercellular properties, such as a hail core, and a rain free base in northeast New Mexico. We intercepted it the best we could with the road network. We watched the first cell pass over the mountains, then headed more north to a multicell which by the time we made it to it had clumped together into a couple of cells producing something similar to a shelf cloud, just a little less organized. We followed this a little while longer, then when we decided to leave, there was a small green cell on radar just northeast of the cell we were chasing. When we made it to the cell we were getting pelted with pea-sized hail. The radar updated a few moments after, and showed a hail core. After Dr. Call saw this, he said, “Chase fail” So today we learned the radar is delayed, so spotting in real time is just as important as watching radar. To end the day we drove north through Raton’s pass with an elevation of 7900 feet above sea level, to Trinidad, Colorado.
Today was a different kind of chase day because were chasing quasi-linear convective systems, commonly known as squall lines. So tornadoes were not what we were after today. These kind of storms hit Indiana a lot more, so these storms are more relevant to you guys at home that were affected by similar storm structure today. The main focus today, was the structure of such systems and observing them in real time. Cool things we observed today were shelf clouds, and gust fronts, which are caused by the storms downdraft, and often help maintain the strength of the line by creating an updraft for a new cell. We also observed areas where we could see the hail core of storm cell, as seen in the second image in the turquoise section to the left of the image. I learned a lot about structure I had never seen so close. We were so close, I got a picture from behind the shelf cloud as seen in the fourth image. We started in Colby, Kansas and ended up in Guymon, Oklahoma.
Things slowed down today, but were still awesome. Dr. Call mentioned to us how lucky we were, because on some trips, what we saw today was the best if not better than what we saw. We started out waiting in Colby for storms to start firing up. Eventually what appeared to be a multicellular line turned into an isolated supercell with rotation and decent structure. This cell received a tornado warning, but didn’t spawn a tornado that we saw. There was a tornado reported, but we think it was either before we arrived, or what they saw was some cloud lowering, that was not rotating. (seen below) The cloud lowering we observed was actually a result of the inflow into the mesocyclone of the supercell. At tornado was also unlikely from the cell yesterday, because the cloud base was too high at about 4000 ft. Also the low level shear was not as strong as it needed to be as mentioned on Day 7 It is important to be able to classify these structures correctly, because this could cause some confusion if a cloud structure is misclassified as a tornado. So today we learned how lucky we are, and the importance of correct classification.