Friday, May 18, 2012

5/18 - 2:45pm CDT - Regarding Next Week's Chase

As we make our way back to Oklahoma City on our last day of this week's storm chasing tour, I'm looking over quite a bit of data for next week's severe weather potential. After a lengthy period of high pressure ridging across the Plains (A.K.A. no storms) we're finally seeing signs that a large-scale trough will begin to move onshore from the Pacific and begin to affect the Plains during the middle part of the week. A smaller trough will be coming through this weekend as well but not a lot of moisture and our inability to chase during its peak on Saturday due to our down day in Oklahoma City means it will not be discussed here.

This trough coming in next week will need some moisture to work with for severe weather to form. This is something we've had a problem with for a while now but it looks like the Gulf of Mexico will finally be "open for business" starting next week. As the trough begins creating southwesterly winds and diffluence aloft in Kansas extending into Northwest Oklahoma on Wednesday (5/23), southerly winds at the surface should begin to bring in some much-needed moisture. The degree to which this will happen is still very much up in the air at this point because the GFS model has been consistently overshooting actual dew points, meaning it's been too optimistic about moisture return. The European model does agree that moisture will begin flowing into the Plains on Wednesday, but to a lesser degree than the GFS on the right.

This setup will continue right into Thursday and Friday as the trough digs in and moisture continues to flow into the region. These two days may harbor better severe weather chances than Wednesday due to having more time for moisture to return. Given the possibility that small-scale weather phenomena like cloud shields and overnight storms could limit potential on any of these days it's very difficult to point out which of them will be the best for storm chasing. Not only that, but the aforementioned computer model issues and amount of time between now and the trough moving into the Plains creates an even bigger margin of error. It's safe to say right now that things are certainly looking more favorable synoptically (on a large scale) for severe storms, but calling for a tornado "outbreak" at this point wouldn't be logical due to the variability of all the smaller features involved. This setup certainly has our attention and we're keeping close watch! Our robotic streaming webcam has been sitting dormant since we haven't had any storms lately, but we're hoping that we can put it in action next week.

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