5/6 - 10:45am CDT - First Chase of the 2012 Season
Today we're headed to South Central Kansas for our first chase of the year. This is where a cold front will be moving through later on today that will provide a focus for severe storm development. What we're watching right now is an area of easterly winds near Wichita associated with a secondary low along the front. These winds will help to enhance directional wind shear (difference in wind direction at the surface compared to aloft) and may give us a hint of a chance at seeing a tornado.
Like I said in last night's post, the tornado risk isn't very big today because the winds aloft aren't that fast. You need these fast winds aloft to blow the downdraft with the cooling rain away from the updraft where the warm, moist air enters the storm. With the directional shear that I talked about though and some very strong instabilty, that may be able to compensate a bit for the lack of upper-level winds. Things like outflow boundaries from other storms may also help to get some low-level rotation going in a storm or two. Because of this the Storm Prediction Center has issued a 2% tornado risk for eastern portions of Oklahoma and Kansas.
We're also watching the visibile satellite view today because there is an area of slightly clearer skies in Kansas near where the winds are optimal at the moment. There are still quite a few high-level clouds, which may inhibit development a bit, but that shouldn't be much of a problem today. Storms will be clustered and mostly disorganized today thanks to that lack of good winds aloft and the cold front providing a broad area of lift. The trick will be if we can find any embedded organized storms with supercellular characteristics that might want to produce a weak tornado. We'll see how it goes!
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