Storm Chasing 101 (Part 1)
Storm Chasing is a huge thing in this country. However, how many times do you see people that are on the road and use roadrage to get to the storms, or how many times do you see people plan for those events? The featured image is the “Research Area #1,” which was set up the night before our chase began. On June 3, the research project kicked off as we left Rapid City, SD, enroute to central Nebraska for the first day of research. A future blog will show you the images that were gathered, along with detailed weather conditions that occurred during the time the images were taken.
The above image was taken in central Nebraska during the afternoon of June 3. In this image we wanted to highlight the research behind the outflow boundaries. If you look in the center of the image, you can see the whispy cloud pushing away from the center of the cloud mass. This whispy cloud is the outflow boundary. The unique thing about the outflow boundary is that as it pushed further northeastward more thunderstorms would develop right behind it. We watched three separate storms form along this boundary during the day. Weather conditions that we had on the surface during this event included the following: air temp=82F; surface winds=10-15mph; storm motion northeast. These basic weather conditions were gathered by our weather equipment, but in return helped us to place ourselves for the rest of the day, as you will be able to see below.
In this image, we are looking at a rotating super-cell over central Nebraska. This cell developed about 30 miles south of the outflow boundary that you saw above. This rotating super-cell pushed towards the northeast, as well. Conditions that we saw on the surface near this storm included: air temp=84F; winds=20-35mph; storm motion= northeast. This storm went on to drop hail later in the day over parts of Nebraska. The rotation of this cloud can be seen well in the image. Look at how the clouds were wrapping around each other and then also going vertical at the same time, along with a small horizontal roll.
This image was taken also in central Nebraska, while we were moving down towards southern Nebraska. This image shows a defined boundary between the warm moist air and the direr air. In this example we recorded the following data with our weather gear: winds= 12-17mph as air temps on the east side were around 84F; however, on the drier west side temps fell to around 62F. These huge temperature changes occurred within a 2 mile area along the same road; very neat to see this in action, not only talked about on the news.
The above images were taken as we got closer to the large storm, in this region of the storm we saw the mammatus clouds starting to take shape, the left image shows the early development stage of them, while the right image shows them in full force. Some weather research we got out of this exact location was the air temps were around 80-84F, 84F was recorded with the left image driving towards the cell, while 80F was recorded in the right image near the center of the mammatus clouds. So these clouds were well supportive of their identity of sinking air, because we all know sinking air cools the atmosphere.
Here is an image of our High Precipitation super-cell upon arrival to the storm, this is what we were able to see, very heavy rain in the rain-shaft moving across the lake near our setup location. A few weather factors that we recorded here included the winds 15-20mph ahead of the rain shaft, increasing to around 20-30mph during the passage of the storm. The increase in these winds is from the down burst of all the heavy precipitation along with that we had temps start at 80F, after the storm passed temps fell back into the 60’s, so another great example of huge temperature contrast occurring. We didn’t record rainfall for this event however; I can tell you it was heavy.
This image was taken as we started to leave from the storms center, behind us the sun started to reflect into the storm allowing us to gather another great image, this time with a rainbow in the back setting. This rounded out a great chase day from both a research prospective and also a photo prospective. We didn’t see a tornado on this day, but the research we collected was very valuable and will be great help to understand certain parameters of severe weather and be able to forecast for them in advance, such as giving a temperature forecast that has accuracy with it over a short-term period.
Featured Image Credit: Joshua Kelly