May or June

If you were given the choice to chase for the entire month of May, or the entire month of June, which would you choose and Why?

Make the distance you have to travel irrelevant. Assume that you’ve been given a gift. All travel and vehicle expenses are covered 100%, regardless of where you have to go.
 

Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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I’d pick May by a nose. In May you get those stretches where you have multiple tornado days in a row, but the early part of May is really susceptible to having all the moisture stuffed back into the Gulf of Mexico.
June is great. Most of the chases are in really great chase terrain and the days are a little longer. Towards the end of June the corn fields are starting to get tall enough to make it harder to get good viewing.
 
Dec 8, 2003
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If you had only given the option of two weeks I'd choose the first two weeks of June, because I have had more success in the first two weeks of June than any other two-week period, and by far, and I haven't seen much in late June. So to me it's a choice between all of May vs. the first two weeks of June, and that's pretty close to a tossup as far as I am concerned. I think I would then pick May. Barely.
 

Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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June. Hands down.

May is like the first chick you (or in my case, me) ever fell in love with...she's temperamental and can be a bit prudish or conservative at times, but you love her so much that when she actually does put out, it's the most amazing thing you've ever experienced!

ADD: To complete the analogy...June, on the other hand, is like that third girl you fall in love with...the one who is truly into you and actually calm and gives it up often and you love it even more. More reliable and equally as rewarding as the first one.
 
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Aug 9, 2012
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June for me. Being from the Midwest, June is the month in which I've seen the most tornadoes in. Even July is peaking up there with June. Love local tornado setups and being able to come home to my own bed before 10pm lol.
 

adlyons

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Feb 16, 2014
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but you love her so much that when she actually does put out, it's the most amazing thing you've ever experienced!
Jeff you dirty dog you. ;) lol

I'd also say June. There's something magical about the front range and the high plains with just how desolate they are. June also marks a significant drop off in tornado predictability. While it makes it more challenging, I think it adds a bit to the adventure and thrill of getting a chase right.
 
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James Gustina

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Mar 9, 2010
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Going by the previous decade? June.

May has still churned out some great days, but we haven't had a high quality May on the Plains since the start of the previous decade. Much better odds of smaller crowds due to the locations of setups further out onto the High Plains and catching something absolutely gorgeous and slow moving in June.
 
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Apr 10, 2008
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Since June is the overwhelming consensus I am going to pick May. I love both months, and love June for the reasons mentioned above. At the end of the day, May is still the king of months in regards to tornado activity. There are some years where May has been a dud (2020, 2014, 2009), but more often than not May ends up being the most productive month of the year for tornado activity. While the chaser hoards are in full force in May, there are still plenty of chasers out in June. I have many great tornado intercepts in June, but the bulk of my best stuff has occurred in May. For every great tornado day in June, one could name off several great tornado days in May. My final point is contrary to the point of the original post, but one of the great things about May is you still have the month of June ahead of you.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Wow, I am really surprised by these responses! I would have thought for sure May would be the overwhelming winner. Not only did May fail to be the overwhelming winner, but it‘s not even close, it appears May is the overwhelming loser! Isn’t the last two weeks of May pretty much acknowledged to be the peak? Maybe first week of June is also peak, but that’s still two peak weeks in May and only one in June. Season seems to shut down early and quickly in many years, and a death ridge seems more likely to set in in June than in May. @Bob Schafer alludes to the favorability of the first half of June, and the not-so-favorable second half. Bob, if I read you right, you would *almost* favor the first half of June over the entire month of May?!? That’s even more surprising...

If I only had two weeks, I would take the last half of May over the first half of June. I’ve never had much success in June. The vast majority of my tornados were in May. Now, the vast majority of my chase vacation days have been in May, so this may be a useless statistic, but I have often been chasing at least into the first week of June, and keep watch on things when I go back home, and it always seems things shut down except for maybe a one-off event. I also prefer the southern plains over the northern plains...

Regardless of any potential difference of opinion here, I am greatly encouraged by these responses, because this year I may have to take a late chase vacation. I just started a new job, and need to attend a board meeting to present financial results on 5/27, and would need the week leading up to it to prepare. At first I was really bummed out, thinking it was the worst possible time for a board meeting, as I usually like to be on the Plains for the week on either side of Memorial Day. If I hadn’t just started this job, I might ask to have the meeting changed, but not sure that would even help given the larger context of the financial reporting timetables here - meaning this is likely to be an issue in future years as well. But if you guys think June is better than May anyway, then maybe I should just roll with it and do a 5/28-6/13 chase vacation this year and see how it goes. It’s really only a week later than I would normally go anyway, but I do hate missing most of the last half of May. And I have a family vacation in July so don’t like the idea of taking more vacation time so soon after my chase vacation...

Things I will just have to struggle with until I can retire... 😏

EDIT: Ugh, just remembered my son’s graduation is 6/10. So now it’s going to be a late trip and a short one too... Maybe I can get the board meeting moved just a couple days earlier, or even do it remotely like everything else these days... 🤔
 
Dec 8, 2003
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Bob, if I read you right, you would *almost* favor the first half of June over the entire month of May?!?
Last year I picked my top ten days from my 20 years of chasing. I don't remember exactly, but I think 7 of those occurred in June. Not only that, but 2 of the 3 from May were May 31 and May 28... practically June. I'm not saying that proves anything. It doesn't. YMMV.
 
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Jan 7, 2006
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Almost every attribute I prefer in a chase day has its likelihood maximized in June: long days, high CAPE, slow storm motions, and a geographical preference for areas NW of the trees and cities like DFW/OKC/TUL. In theory, it's always been June all the way for me. June is also my favorite month overall, even aside from chasing.

With my current job, from 2018-present, I've had limitations in May but have been free to chase almost anything in June. Going in, I thought this would work out well: I'd undoubtedly get screwed when there were banner days >3-4 hours from OKC on weekdays in May, but the ability to chase aggressively in June would compensate. The key assumption was that the period from late May to mid-late June maximizes the prevalence of mesoscale opportunities for tornadic supercells on a day-to-day basis; if you're willing to roam, you should be able to find opportunities most days. And if you take most of the opportunities, a couple are bound to work out well.

That was a great theory, anyway. Each of the past three Junes has been nearly dead, in terms of forecastable setups in the heart of the Plains. I haven't seen a single good June tornado since 2015, back when I was freer to chase, yet less apt to spend money for borderline setups >6 hours from home (being based in OK, that "money-bottlenecked" style of chasing generally meant I leaned more into May and less into June than I do now). June has been chock full of exhaustion and disappointment for me lately.

I'm attaching a plot from my "objective" chase scoring script that really highlights the downfall of June over the past decade, particularly when focusing south of the Dakotas and WY/MT (where, admittedly, some great but very difficult-to-forecast storms have been sprinkled in almost yearly). Every single year of the past ten, save 2014, has come out in the red. There is no other comparably bad period of this duration in the dataset, which goes back to 1955.

scplains_jun.png

The upshot is that June appears to have turned frigid on us, to indulge Jeff's oh-so-eloquent analogy. Now, the critical question is whether that's driven more by standard decadal variability vs. more permanent climate trends, e.g. from AGW. An expansion of the summer doldrums further back into June, on average, would be consistent with some of the research on AGW impacts. But looking at the past 10 years individually, I don't know that it's fair to say the failure mode has always been consistent with that. There are cases like last year where the jet remained active over the heart of chase alley, but moisture and other issues were pervasive. If anything, the perpetual tendency for eastern North America troughing and/or southwest U.S. ridging that has plagued March-April also appears in recent June composites.

I can keep hoping we've simply rolled a lot of consecutive snake eyes by random chance, and that any year now we'll snap back to more expected samples from the same background June climatology we observed for decades prior to 2011. But I'm not sure. My answer in 2010 would've been resoundingly in favor of June, but now I wonder if I'm resigned to failure 80-90% of years without finding a way to shift my most aggressive chasing weeks earlier.
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
Were money no object and I was free to dedicate the entire period (which makes for a nice pipe dream as a truck driver), I would imagine that I would enjoy northern plains chasing. With that said, the vast majority of my success has been either second season or early season. Aside from only seeing power flashes from the Valley Brook tornado in 2015, Forgan in 2019 was first May chase that I would consider a resounding success. I still haven't had a successful June chase. I've had a number of tornadoes in April, several in October and November, a few in March.

So I guess I say that to say that I'd take June if it meant I would knock off the goose egg for the month. But based on my track record, I've had marginally better success in May, although nothing compared to other months.
 
Dec 22, 2005
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May because I love a good synoptic setup, they appeal to my nostalgic weather years where I would spend hours reading case studies about events like 3/13/90 and 4/26/91, and then my memories of chasing events like 5/29/04 and 5/23/08. I thoroughly understand the positives of June mesoscale events in the western and Northern reaches of the high plains. But something about a big dynamic synoptic wave with a big juicy warm sector just makes me feel like all is right with the world. Hasn't happened much lately. Even if it means faster storm motions and more chasers.
 

JL Gacke

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Dec 9, 2015
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I want to say half and half though that's not the question and so I'll pick June.
Synoptic setup's imo seem more stabilized and storms aren't hauling the mail like a banshee. As well, May High Risk days turning sour/bust or into HP messes.
But with global warming, drought and the the awful freeze TX just received, to me it's anybody's guess.
A bit off topic; in consideration of Jeff Duda's eloquent commentary perhaps there could be a sub-forum for “Colorful” (PC) anecdotes? Might keep spirits up until things begin to fire?
 
Dec 8, 2003
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May. Peak tornado activity is mid May. More opportunities.
I know this is correct, but I have a question: Could someone easily filter out the May tornadoes that occurred outside of the most chaseable regions and see how the numbers look then? I have a hunch that a lot of May tornadoes drop in Arkansas, Missouri forests, Kentucky, etc. and into June you don't see so much of that.
 
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Mar 2, 2004
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That's a tough one... I can make a case for either month... historically through my career, May has been the most generous to me and has included days such as May 29 2004, May 24 2016, May 25 2012, May 29 2008, and several instances of 'that one week in May'. June has had several amazing days (Pilger, Goshen, Aurora included), but I think I've largely missed out on good June chasing through my career, but June offers some great opportunities in the high plains and northern plains, and those tend to be less chased by crowds, which adds appeal.

So the question; May or June... you choose one. May has been good to me, always has. But there is an appeal with June for me, and given I am in the back half of my career, quieter, less crowded days in the high/northern plains sound much more relaxed to me; that said, I will happily acknowledge how good May has been to me, but I would choose June.

Now to tweak the question, if I had ONE MONTH to pick, easily, that would be the last two weeks of May into the first two weeks of June.
 

James K

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Mar 26, 2019
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I think I'd go with June simply because I very likely wouldn't venture far from home...
And especially anymore, summer (& stuff like thunderstorms that go with it) doesn't really get going to June here.
 

Jeff House

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Jun 1, 2008
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The last two weeks of May have the highest number of tornadoes by climo. These weeks are also the most chase-able in that sequences tend to set up within driving distance of each other. Also the forecasting still has some synoptic characteristics, though it's getting into meso-scale season.

June has some photogenic beauties, less chaser convergence, and some gorgeous High Plains or even almost West background settings. However June is harder to forecast, the set-ups are often farther apart, and sometimes more days apart. Latter two I guess are a compliment (travel days) but not on limited time. June also offers the personal accomplishment of finding incredible meso-scale gems.

I would say June is the hottie one longs for. May is the one who likes you back. I buy the June votes from Rockies and High Plains members; otherwise, some snobbery in here TBH.

Bottom line: Much as I hate the crowd and jawbone about going in June, May 15-31 is THE super peak of the season.