Moderating a moderate moderate

26 May 2016

It was a big forecast for big weather and we’d drive some big distances to see not-a-lot of it.

Today had looked like a pretty good one weather-wise for a few days. The atmosphere was set to be ripe with moisture and a reasonable strong warm front looked set to provide plenty of lift to get storms going. There were a few questions about how well the ebbs and flows of upper air patterns would support the storms below, but all in all it looked like a strong setup. Unfortunately ‘strong’ setups like this aren’t always what you want as a storm chaser. There is a tendency for storms to evolve rapidly, often in clusters and often very high precipitation, with complex situations unfolding where the sort of storms we’re looking for are embedded within larger systems. With this on our minds when the SPC upgraded the forecast to a moderate we decided to change our plans. We would head west, as we had already planned, but then we’d keep going west and aim for a secondary target involving upslope flow in Colorado.

It was a few hours to get to our target area but by the time we did there were some storms establishing themselves along the Front Range. We got close enough to the tail end of these to see a brief funnel cloud and some structure, before the haboob started.



We saw dust being kicked up at the southern end of the storms and then gradually more moving up the storm’s length, until the view to our west was essentially a big long smudgy line of expanding dust. Not a photographer’s paradise.

We were not without hope though. A new updraft was looking strong back to our east, just over the border to Kansas again. It looked tantalising on radar though we couldn’t help but feel that it might be a little stumpy for its own good. Really you want storms to reach the heady heights of 50,000ft, but this one was making his anvil at about 30,000. It was, however, tornado warned by the time we reached it, and remained that way for a long time owing to its strong rotation and occasional funnel clouds, though really the weather service need not have warned it…there really wasn’t much chance for this storm…but we kept following anyway. During it's life it made some good shapes, brief, elevated funnels and kept us hoping with its tornado warning and obvious rotation, slowly petering out as it got into some interactions with some other storms in the area.

last storm

Once this one had finally petered out to being some rain we made our way back to an intersection with our own tracks from several hundred miles earlier. Notably we stopped at the gas station where we have twice before, on separate years, encountered the grumpiest / rudest shopkeeper in the US, but this time we found no such hostility, indeed the person working was pretty friendly. I’m yet to decide whether or not this is a good thing…we were almost looking forward to finding out how she would plan to offend us today. Finally we found our way to a brilliant motel with an unusually well-travelled host whose warm welcome, unfathomable sense of humour and bizarre taste and décor made for an excellent place to make ourselves less car shaped and start making fresh plans for tomorrow.

SPC Day 1 Weather Outlook as at 06:00UTC (01:00 Central Time the night before)

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Thu May 2016

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Thu May 2016

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