Sunday, 31 May 2015

May 30th

Hello. We drove from Amarillo to Santa Fe today. We took a longer, more scenic route, via Las Vegas (New Mexico) and Mora. This took us to around 9,300 feet above sea level. We didn't plan on seeing or documenting any severe thunderstorms but serendipity dictated that we saw one! This was north of Las Vegas, and the storm drifting slowly south-west. We watched it from the 9,300 foot vantage point.

Tomorrow we will be going to Los Alamos.

Pics below show the storm, with the middle two images being from the 9,300 ft elevation location. Pic 3 shows a suspicious cloud feature.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

May 30th plans

Hello. No chance of severe storms today or tomorrow, and after that it's in the northern Plains. As we have to fly out of Dallas on Weds the northern Plains seems unlikely for us, so we're going to head across towards Santa Fe, New Mexico, to be tourists.

May 29th report

Hello. Today brought a slight risk of severe thunderstorms to parts of the western Plains. We targeted developing storms in New Mexico and found a picturesque supercell close to Conchas Lake and Dam park. The scenery was very beautiful and having a storm around made it even better. The storm was not especially powerful and began to fall apart somewhat as storms to the south left a cooler boundary layer in our storm's path. At first we saw no other chasers but a little later we saw a few.

We drove back to Tucumcari and let the storm move over - it had heavy rain, gusty winds, and fairly frequent lightning. We then drove back to Amarillo for a third night! We had some mid-evening thunderstorms move over with some decent cracks of thunder. We ate burgers at Red Robin - a new venture for us and highly recommended!

The next few days look much quieter for storms so we may well undertake some tourist activities.

Friday, 29 May 2015

May 28th report

Decided to have a rather laid back day today - headed a little west of Amarillo, eventually seeing a weak thunderstorm which briefly looked a little like an LP supercell. Then decided to head north towards Dalhart to make sure we killed the storm off which a number of other chasers were enjoying! Saw Dan Holley, Berni King and Nick Parnell out on the road. Then we enjoyed a great dinner with Lou Ruh and Ed Sweeney at Applebee's in Amarillo - yes, we're back in town for another night.
Lightning is flashing to the NW from an approaching storm although it will probably pass to our north.

Pics below include weak brief LP (almost) supercell and mammatus in E New Mexico, train at Dalhart, Texas, the mid point of Route 66, Adrian, Texas, and sunset in the Texas Panhandle.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

May 28th thoughts

Hello. A messy convective picture today with storms already in progress in places across the Plains and no real focus for convective development on the large scale. On the mesoscale, there are a number of outflow boundaries around and a dry line should sharpen close to the TX/NM border by mid-afternoon.

Once such outflow boundary is close to Amarillo so we may remain fairly close to this area, perhaps heading west towards the dry line this afternoon.

May 27th report - multiple tornadoes

Hello. We started the day in El Reno with the idea of heading north-west towards either Woodward, Oklahoma, or Canadian, Texas. We headed first to Wal*Mart to pick up a few bits and pieces. We then headed down the road a couple of miles to re-visit the location where the massive El Reno tornado of May 31st, 2013, passed - specifically we visited the place where we'd first parked up and waited for storm development, and where subsequently the tornado passed right over. We also visited the memorial for Tim and Paul Samaras and Carl Young, the three chasers who were tragically killed by this tornado. The emotions of that day came flooding back as we paused.

We then continued on our journey to the north-west and had lunch in Seiling, Oklahoma - this was a good spot as it had road options to the north-west (Woodward) and west (Canadian). The latter was the more obvious choice for us, given the model output and surface obs.

Storms started to bubble near Canadian so we headed west - one storm became dominant and quickly became severe. We approached the storm from the ENE and saw a wall cloud - a funnel cloud quickly formed but didn't last for long. We got to Canadian and headed to the south of town for a bit, watching the storm evolve. We headed back north and noted, after a while, strong flow from the rain core into the main updraught with several long 'fingers' of cloud rapidly being pulled in. Having seen this effect before not long before tornadogenesis we opted to drop a little south again into Canadian, to make sure we didn't get cut off by large hail. As we passed through town we suddenly saw a tornado developing back to our NW in the mirrors of our car. We found a spot to stop and watched a large tornado form and last several minutes. My Dad called on Facetime at that moment so he and the family got to watch the tornado live!

After a while the tornado started to rope out and then dissipated. We decided to head south but then noticed a chaser friend, Cat Stratton, across the road - she was with Cloud 9 tours and we saw Ian and Mark Rees and Stuart Wilson. Nathan Edwards turned up a little while later as did Will Owen - quite the convergence.

During this time the storm underwent several recycle phases and produced at least 3 more tornadoes. Circulation seemed to evolve to our NW and then roll southwards, tightening up and then producing fairly brief tornadoes before they then dissipated.

After a while longer the storm suddenly pushed a strong RFD outflow out to the east, and effectively ended any tornado risk. We decided to head to Amarillo for the night, stopping a couple of times to look at the lightning and sunset, but also getting plenty of interest from the vast numbers of mosquitoes.

We ate dinner with Nathan at Applebee's, and lightning is still flashing outside now. What a day.

The road where we stopped before the giant El Reno tornado formed - we re-visited - brought back some emotions.

Supercell near Canadian, TX.

Supercell near Canadian, TX, as it started to wrap up. We headed back south soon after this.

Fairly large tornado to the NNW of Canadian viewed from the south side of the town.


Tornado roping out.

Brief, fairly weak tornado some time later.

Wind turbine and anvil SW of Pampa, TX.

Lightning to the south, taken near Panhandle, TX.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

May 27th thoughts

Hello. We're in El Reno to start the day. There is a slight risk of severe thunderstorms over a broad area of the western Plains today. Picking a target amidst such a large area is clearly rather tricky, but we'll likely head towards either Woodward, Oklahoma, or Canadian, Texas, and then re-assess.

May 26th report

Headed to Woodward after having lunch in Greensburg. When the storm formed to the north in S Kansas we thought about heading up there but waited. The storms in central OK then got more interesting and produced a tornado - decided it was too far to get there whilst the storm was doing anything interesting. Classic indecision set in and we started to go north but the cell in S Kansas looked poor so we wheeled around and headed east and then south towards the central Oklahoma storms. Decided there was no point in getting up close and personal as the external structure at sunset as seen from the north was stunning! Pics soon but what was a rather annoying day turned into something rather spectacular at the end! Lesson - never give up!
Headed to El Reno in the end for the night although we probably should have gone back up to Woodward!

Edit: 1 pic of the storm below, and the second is of a train near Boise City, Oklahoma, back on the 24th.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Late afternoon coffee

Currently sat with a coffee outside McD's in Woodward watching things evolve. HRRR seems to be having odd issues with developing convection in this area already when there is none - cumulus seem to be getting better developed on vis imagery and there appears to be a disturbance in the upper atmosphere out west which should arrive in the next 2 hours.

May 26th thoughts

Hello. Another morning of sunshine! There is a fairly large area of slight thunderstorm risk today across parts of Oklahoma and Texas. The SW of Oklahoma and adjacent parts of NW Texas look like having the higher risk of severe weather but that's a long way south for us, and there are flooding issues around parts of that area too. A more limited risk exists across parts of NW Oklahoma and perhaps the adjacent parts of the TX Panhandle and S Kansas - we'll likely head to Woodward for lunch and take it from there.

May 25th report

Hello. Not a huge amount to report today - headed to Great Bend, Kansas, for lunch and awaited storm initiation along a weak surface boundary to our east. Continued east and noted towering cumulus development - a thunderstorm developed to our NW and other storms developed to our SSE near Wichita. The net result was a mass of storms developing quite quickly in the absence of a capping inversion - it all became a bit of a mess but we did see some lightning and torrential rain, and experience some gusty winds.

Ate dinner with Nathan Edwards at Applebee's (where else?!) in Hutchinson, KS, where we're staying tonight. As I write there are thunderstorms to the north-west heading towards us - lightning is flashing away!

Here's a B&W image of lightning at Garden City taken last night.

Monday, 25 May 2015

May 25th thoughts

Hello. The sun is shining in Garden City! One of the few mornings we've looked out and seen sunshine this trip thus far! Today, a couple of boundaries are in the Nebraska/Kansas area - a weak area of low pressure in SW Kansas looks like lifting slowly north-east with a boundary extending away to the NE. Surface heating should yield reasonable CAPE this afternoon amidst modest shear - it looks like the I-35 corridor, around Salina to McPherson might be a good starting point, so we'll drift eastwards in that direction.

May 24th report

Hello. A quick report as it's almost 1.30am!

We started and ended the day in Garden City, Kansas. We headed SW into the Oklahome Panhandle, picked up the tail-end of a line of severe thunderstorms near Springfield, Colorado, and then basically came back with them to Garden City. We missed out of an HP supercell to the north in Colorado, and also on a powerful nocturnal series of tornadoes SW of Dodge City - the latter we can live with as, at times, the tornado was shrouded in fog, by all accounts, and was large.

Cracking lightning display now, still - but I can't stay up any longer to take more pics! A couple below from the motel car park just now.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

May 24th thoughts

Hello. Today there is a risk of severe thunderstorms from SE Colorado through portions of the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles. A rather weak dry line should develop and mix slowly east and north-eastwards through the day with low pressure continuing to evolve over parts of NE New Mexico and SE Colorado. Picking a chase target is quite tricky in the absence of major forcing mechanisms.

Convection-allowing model guidance suggests a cluster of thunderstorms will form over SE Colorado this afternoon, with a more isolated risk in to the NE Texas Panhandle. The better chance of seeing thunderstorms is in the former but the more isolated risk in the Panhandle will likely have better shear to work with, and could yield a very photogenic supercell or two.

We will only commit when short term observational trends (hopefully!) paint a better picture. We'll likely head south from Garden City towards the OK Panhandle and see how things evolve.

May 23rd report


We hung around Limon for a while but storms formed a way to the south towards Pueblo, so we headed south and then east towards Eads. The storms to the south formed into a line, and although they were briefly severe, and even tornado warned, they soon became a non-severe line. Even so, they produced some nice shelf clouds and occasionally decent lightning.

We met up with Nathan Edwards and Cammie and Tim during the day, which was great. We headed to Garden City for the night, and ate dinner with Cammie and Tim - it was great to catch up and talk about storms all evening!

Here are a few pics from today.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Day 6 thoughts


A large upper trough is close to Colorado today with several short wave troughs rotating around it. As has been the case in the last couple of week abundant tropical moisture is starting to move north across the Plains with widespread showers and thunderstorms across parts of the southern Plains, with flooding becoming a major issue in places.

Here in Colorado an area of low pressure is creating a backed surface wind, leading to supercell wind profiles. However, the main question is how much instability will develop. At this stage areas south-east of Limon look better for this although the better backed surface flow may well develop to the north of Limon, aided by the Palmer Divide. We'll probably hang around in Limon for a bit until things become a bit clearer, if indeed they do!

Day 5 - a long drive


Today we undertook a positioning drive to get to central Colorado in anticipation of a few severe storms on Saturday. It looked possible that a few storms may develop during the day on Friday over central and NE Colorado, and they did - however, we were very unlikely to make these in daylight although we did see some nice lightning around dusk. We drove 580 miles today from Hobbs, New Mexico, to Limon, Colorado, via Raton and I-25. It's a more picturesque route than heading north further east. We also saw some sunshine today!

Here are a couple from around sunset to the north-east of Trinidad, Colorado.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Quick stop in Vaughn

Hello. We've just stopped in Vaughn, New Mexico, for a coffee. The sun is out so it's much nicer. Soon be on our way as we still have 389 miles to go!


Morning! A grey and misty start in Hobbs, New Mexico. With a trough moving in overnight and into Saturday some increase in severe thunderstorm potential is likely. A broad area of risk is likely on Saturday so we have to look for areas which might pose a better chance. One such area is NE of Denver, Colorado, where terrain-induced circulations can help foster the development of storms and also create favourably backed low-level winds to increase the chance of low-level mesocyclone formation.

To that end we've decided to head to Limon, Colorado, today - quite a long drive but there's not really much else going on today. A small risk exists today for an isolated supercell in the Limon vicinity so we might even manage to see something today - however, we're not planning on doing so - serendipity will play a part today!

Day 4 - Thursday 21st May

Hello. We started the day in San Angelo, Texas, and woke to drizzle and 13C. We perused the models and observations and thought we might chance a slim chance of a severe storm across far SW TX, where the last vestiges of tropical moisture and warmth had been shunted by the strong polar cold front. However, after heading west for around an hour or so we stopped to take stock. It was readily apparent that unless we headed pretty much right to the border with Mexico, it was unlikely we would see anything decent, and even then, there was a chance the low cloud might be there hiding things.

We checked around for hotels and, of course, Applebee's! We saw that the nearest Applebee's in the direction we wanted to head for the next couple of days (north from where we were) and saw that Hobbs, New Mexico, fitted the bill. So we headed there. There was no let-up from the low cloud, mist, and drizzle, and the only real change was the drop in temperature as we climbed - it was 10C when we got here!

We passed through a few heavy showers from elevated instability - indeed, there were thunderstorms about - at first glance this would seem very odd, but they had formed from elevated instability above the cool, polar airmass.

I managed to get the first swim and hot tub in when we got to Hobbs - it was nice to get to the hotel in the light and at a reasonable time! We then went to Applebee's for dinner, of course!

We bumped into Aussie chaser Daniel Shaw en route - here he is checking out our car!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Off to Hobbs

Hello. Just had lunch in Midland, Texas - we've decided to not bother looking for storms today so are heading to Hobbs, New Mexico, in anticipation of a few storms over the next few days.

May 21st thoughts

Good morning!

It's a cool, grey morning outside  - current temp is 14C.

A large, cold, anticyclone has evolved over the northern High Plains and a cold front has moved pretty much down to the Gulf Coast. The only real chance of a few severe storms today is across far west Texas and into portions of New Mexico, where post-frontal moist upslope flow along with an approaching upper disturbance, and heating of elevated terrain, may allow some storms to develop. Even so, it's a pretty marginal set-up.

We'll be heading west to Fort Stockton and then deciding where to go from there, depending on observational trends.
A fun chase today - headed from Weatherford SW past San Angelo to Mertzon - storms had popped to the west and north-west, north of the cold front. Lots of low, laminar cloud in the cool air hid the supercell structure - we sampled the core and retreated as 1+ inch stones started coming down. Headed generally south through Eldorado to Sonora and then east for a while through the remainder of the afternoon, staying ahead of the storm to occasionally get some reasonably imagery. Active CG lightning through the evening - managed to get one stop without rain but the best CGs had stopped by then. We headed to San Angelo for the night. Timelapse of the chase is here:

Here are a few pics.

The first shows the storm south of Mertzon; the second shows the cold front/outflow from north of Sonora; the third shows the storm from east of Sonora, looking north; the fourth shows CG lightning taken from east of Sonora, all in Texas.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Morning thoughts

Good morning! Today a stout cold front is moving southwards across central Texas - ahead of this, tropical moisture combined with surface heating should yield instability and perhaps a few severe thunderstorms, with some modest vertical shear.

The main question surrounds the progress of the front and whether storms will be undercut by it, especially as it is expected to continue to make reasonable southwards progress. It may slow down a bit with heating but there is quite a bit of cloud behind it, limiting surface heating.

We'll be leaving Weatherford this morning and heading SW towards Fort Stockton - we'll likely drop south to San Angelo before continuing westwards, as this gives us a better chance of remaining ahead of the front.

Below is an image of the supercell we saw yesterday.

Back in Weatherford!

Hello. We left the hotel by mid-morning and headed to Wal*Mart to pick up some essentials. After looking at the observations and model guidance we decided to head NW to Seymour. We got lunch there and a few fairly weak thunderstorms were moving NE to our N. We let these go but they then became much more active, and ended up producing one or more tornadoes.

We dropped east to Windthorst and then south onto newly developing storms, and intercepted a pretty supercell to the NW of Jacksboro. We watched this for a while and it appeared to produce several funnel clouds. It weakened a little and we dropped south onto another storm - the previous cell then produced a tornado, which we didn't see - a pattern seemed to be emerging!

We then waited near Jacksboro for a time and then drove into town - the new cell became tornado warned and a strong circulation was evident on radar. We edged back north to see if we could see anything but to no avail. We then went back to Jacksboro and let another cell pass over - plenty of lightning, thunder, and very heavy rain, and it was quite windy - some very close CGs too!

We then decided to call it a night as it was dark - we headed to Weatherford but had to drive through some extremely heavy rain for a time to do so - another circulation moved to the east ahead of us, which also went on to produce a tornado.

All in all a busy first day - we saw some nice supercell structure although it was a little annoying to have let at least 2 cells move away which subsequently produced tornadoes!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Lunch in Seymour

Just stopped for a quick bite to eat in Seymour, TX, after making the decision to head NW towards better heating and low-level shear. A few showers/storms nearby but nothing severe yet.


Morning! Just about to leave Weatherford with a fairly undefined target zone generally to the west. Various outflow boundaries, ongoing convection, a cold front to the north, and an evolving dry line to the west will all play a part in creating a messy pattern. We'll refine a bit later.


Hello! We arrived in Dallas about 20 mins ahead of schedule - we did fly through some large cumulus clouds about 10 mins before landing which caused a couple of very rapid ascents and descents! Cue a few gasps from the passengers - it was rather like a rollercoaster!

Anyway, we breezed through the excellent new security system at DFW - automatic passport scanners - and soon got to the car hire place. Picked up a nice Dodge Durango.

Headed to Weatherford via some new bits of toll freeway which sped the journey up and once we settled in to our motel we headed out to Applebee's for the first of what will probably be many burgers!

It's now 22:37CDT and that means we've been awake for 22 hours! Time to head to bed I think - we'll probably head west towards Lubbock tomorrow for a risk of severe storms although we'll refine those thoughts in the morning.

It's great to be back over here! The 30C temperatures certainly help!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Almost time!


Well, the bags are just about packed and we're pretty much ready for the off. In just a few hours time we'll get up and head to Heathrow ready for our flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, for our chase trip.

Early indications suggest a reasonably active pattern, starting as early as Tuesday, so we may have to be up and at it early on Tuesday morning - early indications would suggest a jaunt west towards Lubbock, but we'll decide that on Tuesday!

Beyond that, storms still look possible mid-week but perhaps a somewhat lower severe threat for a time. Rather good agreement exists in the models for late week/into the weekend for another trough to come in from the west - we'll certainly be keeping an eye on that.

Bye for now.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

And now, the time is nigh...


It's mid-May and that tends to mean but one thing in our household - chase season is here. Helen and I will once again be heading off to the USA to pursue thunderstorms, as well as enjoying the hospitality of the Great Plains, and the food!

The season has been rather interesting to date - longer range climate models and analogues were suggested of a wet spring across the Plains, especially the southern Plains, as an emerging El Nino contributes to an active sub-tropical jetstream.

The lower latitude of this jet means that southern areas have seen the majority of what severe weather there has been thus far, but a combination of deep moisture and upper airflow patterns which are not always conducive to capping inversions has meant numerous thunderstorms on many days, perhaps limiting the overall severity (and chasibility) of the storms, but providing much needed rain across the region. Indeed, some areas have had flooding issues to deal with, and further rainfall is likely in the coming days.

Looking ahead to this weekend, another powerful Pacific upper storm system will move towards the Plains - abundant low-level moisture along with strong dynamics will yield further thunderstorms, some severe, and heavy rainfall. This trough looks like exiting early next week but a small short-wave trough may pass through around Tuesday/Wednesday. There are suggestions that shortwave ridging may develop mid-week - longer term model solutions indicate yet another upper low moving into the SW'ern USA late week or into the weekend - whilst this is a long way off, it seems that there may be several opportunities for thunderstorms through next week, especially across the western Plains.

As always, thunderstorms are the quarry but the overall experience of living like a nomad for a couple of weeks, never quite knowing where we'll be in a couple of days' time, is what makes it really special.