Day 12 - The Journey to the Northern Plains

15 June 2010

We started the day in Sweetwater, Texas. Got up in time for the inclusive breakfast and took a look over the models for the day. Our projections were that some action, such as there was likely to be any, would be around 100 miles to our North. We so we set off. Some storms were now showing on radar, but they weren't amounting to much, never really getting as far as they would need to, to create interesting weather. The SPC agreed, they had further reduced the risk for severe weather in the south to negligible. They had also increased the risk for tomorrow to a much healthier 30%, further in the north. Much further.

It's atypical for the severe weather at this time of year to be in the southern areas we had been in. Typically weather patterns shift as the earth's tilt / aspect to the sun moves. Weather is basically all driven by where the sun heats, how much it heats, and what it's heating - e.g. water or land. The monsoon season in India, for instance, follows a fairly similar pattern each year, starting in the south, moving north as the longest days reach the northern hemisphere, and receding south as the days begin to shorten. The same goes for the plains, though somewhat more complex. Patterns in the heating of the Gulf of Mexico (that provides all the moisture for the severe weather) and the position of the jet streams, which is also linked to the Earth's aspect to the sun, all need to be in a certain balance for the severe weather.

As such, the severe weather starts in the south in April / May and shifts northwards during May and June. Of course, as we've seen, this is no hard and fast rule.

Tomorrow's severe outlook, as I said, was further north. Around 1000 miles further north, in Montana. With the longer range, though less accurate forecasts, also indicating the northern plains, and today's outlook looking so limited, it was time to move on.

At around the half way point in our chase it felt like the end of a chapter. A very exciting chapter it had been too. We feel infinitely more experienced than just 10 days of chasing ago. We have learned so much, and gained so much experience, it's really something. Now we head for harder chase territory, as projects such as Vortex 2 are shutting down for another 10 months. It's going to be an interesting second chapter and, we hope, another exciting one.

Our journey would take us through 5 states and 3 panhandles. Seriously, though, look at the pictures of Texas state lines and Nebraska for that matter. Are they really pan handles? I think not. Try holding those. Oklahoma, fine. The others, no.

The first leg of our journey would take us to Scottsbluff, from Texas, through Oklahoma, Colorado, to Nebraska, by around 0:30. Sleep at Walmart - then be up early to plough on to Montana, if the weather forecasts still agreed. Here's hoping they aren't back in Texas again!

On the way we would drive through beautiful Caprock countryside in Texas, down many incredibly long and straight roads, drink lots of red bull (from the pint cans!), and eat some cheesy bread. Stopping at Walmart to buy said bread, we couldn't help but be a bit snap happy on what weather we could see, and there were some nice cumulus congestus that needed their pictures taken.

Soon after we entered Colorado, a storm blew up around 50 miles to our west. It was always going to be a huge day of driving, but when the storm showed signs of rotation, who were we to argue with a 20 mile jaunt down a farm track to take a closer look? It dissipated soon after we got close, but we got some beautiful views of it, standing proud over the rural Colorado countryside.

Poignantly, we would pass through Limon and Sterling in Colorado, Sidney, Bridgeport and Scottsbluff in Nebraska. All places we'd chased in the last 10 days, adding to that feeling that this was a new chapter. Off to the north as grown-up chasers. Think we might even find Mordor there so we can get rid of this pesky bag of rubbish - haven't seen a bin in ages.

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

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Tue June 2010

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Tue June 2010

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