State of the Chase Season: 2019

Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
I'm taking my first official chase vacation this year. The wife and I are going to go wander around the plains and see what happens. No specific destinations, no crazy chasing. Just off we go to see what we see. Weather, great! Roadside attractions, great! Good restaurants, great!

I think this will be fun. From a chasing standpoint, I'm a homer, sticking to CO and nearby areas of neighboring states. My wife is just starting to get interested in what I do when I wander off into nowhere for an entire day, then text her pictures of the crazy weather I'm seeing. This will be a mellow stand-off chase-cation as I have no interest in getting up close into the crowds, and my wife, sure as shit, doesn't want to do that.

In any case, last week of May. Hopefully I'll see some of you fellow crazy people out there.
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Madison, WI
I have taken my chasecations in the late season (late May-sometime in June) based on climatology every year since I've had a full-time job to take a chasecation from (2014) and been burned every year other than the first when my vacation coincided perfectly with the Pilger-Coleridge days yet I still missed both. 2016 hurt the most as I had booked the week AFTER DDC/Chapman which ended up being almost historically dull for that timeframe.

Unfortunately I don't have the financial luxury to wander from one end of the Plains to the other after marginal setups, so in the other years my "chasecation" has turned into a "staycation."
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I have taken my chasecations in the late season (late May-sometime in June) based on climatology every year since I've had a full-time job to take a chasecation from (2014) and been burned every year other than the first when my vacation coincided perfectly with the Pilger-Coleridge days yet I still missed both. 2016 hurt the most as I had booked the week AFTER DDC/Chapman which ended up being almost historically dull for that timeframe.

Unfortunately I don't have the financial luxury to wander from one end of the Plains to the other after marginal setups, so in the other years my "chasecation" has turned into a "staycation."
If it’s any consolation, those were all pretty lean years, except for the few isolated events you mentioned, of which I was only there for one, DDC (wasn’t chasing during Pilger/Coleridge, and missed Chapman due to post-DDC complacency). You can’t go wrong going with climatology, even though you got burned doing so it was only because every one of those seasons as a whole was pretty bad.

Climatology aside, this year it looks like IF it’s going to be more active, it’s going to be later in the season.
 
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Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
I strongly recommend flexible days. That is hard flying and with certain jobs. Need a manager who understand and FF miles to blow last minute. Otherwise, a long drive with audio books is not bad. Radio has too many ads. Even satellite radio or your own playlist can't pass 12 hours. Audio books on the other hand make the drive easy.

Tropical forcing has favored Dixie Alley early. Some years that translates into the Plains later. However we have a secondary crap pattern mixed in every 4-6 weeks. Thankfully it only lasts a couple weeks. However mid-May would be just devastating. I still favor May 15-31 over early June. Later has some classics, but May is easier to forecast. Therefore, odds are greater in May.
 
What do you guys think about the system showing on the 17th? It looks similar to the one last Wednesday/Thursday, but farther north and better moisture... perhaps eventually. I think the problem with the big system last week was it bombed out while still over the rockies and was basically just spinning itself out by the time it got east enough to potentially draw gulf moisture. Some warm dry southwesterlies is normally a good thing, but not when they're so strong they shunt away and/or mix out all the MT air. Maybe there was also a problem with incipient dry northerlies over the Gulf. I don't know. You wouldn't think a deepening plains system would have as much trouble picking up 60 degree dewpoints by now though. Not after the current rainfall.
 
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Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Weekend system had two basic problems on Saturday. First winds from 850-500 did not turn enough. Second, the lowest level CAPE/instability was not enough to overcome that issue. Waste of low level shear (up to 1-2 km) or blessing for people down there? Moisture did not really mix out; in fact, it was deep and contributed to HP mode. Saturday is why it takes more than parameters.

Midweek has some differences, including coming out farther north. Timing will be everything; but, here's what it looks like as of Sunday evening. Wednesday is borderline, mostly east of I-35 and into the Ozarks. Could fire farther west, but too early to fcst. Thursday is progged from Indiana to Alabama. Compared to the Delta, IN/TN/AL is more favored by climo. However a Gulf Coast MCS would end the party. Too early to tell now.

Looking farther ahead, 6-10 day forecasts keep delaying the relatively quieter period. State of the season is not bad.
 
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Weekend system had two basic problems on Saturday. First winds from 850-500 did not turn enough. Second, the lowest level CAPE/instability was not enough to overcome that issue. Waste of low level shear (up to 1-2 km) or blessing for people down there? Moisture did not really mix out; in fact, it was deep and contributed to HP mode. Saturday is why it takes more than parameters.
I was talking about the big plains snowstorm bomb system before that. I'm way up in Michigan so I have trouble getting excited about stuff happening in the deep south. I'd say it was scary enough for the people that actually live there though. I seem to recall the day of the 2011 Joplin tornado didn't have perfect looking hodographs. There was extreme instability in that case though.

Midweek has some differences, including coming out farther north. Timing will be everything; but, here's what it looks like as of Sunday evening. Wednesday is borderline, mostly east of I-35 and into the Ozarks. Could fire farther west, but too early to fcst. Thursday is progged from Indiana to Alabama. Compared to the Delta, IN/TN/AL is more favored by climo. However a Gulf Coast MCS would end the party. Too early to tell now.
Yea. Lingering stratiform rain and debris will probably ruin instability north of the Ohio river on Thursday. I don't know exactly what it takes for that not to happen though. Just seeing a nice supercell structure in the southern Great Lakes / northern Ohio Valley would make me happy. It's rare to get good instability that far north in April, but I'm scared that the synoptic pattern will be pathetic by late May. I don't know what was wrong with last year but there was just no shear or synoptic forcing at all from late spring through summer. It was like the tropics extending into the northern US. I worry that maybe it's global warming. When western Canada is so damn warm so early and there's no shear to be seen anywhere its hard to even get a decent MCS to survive east of the Mississippi by June.

Looking farther ahead, 6-10 day forecasts keep delaying the relatively quieter period. State of the season is not bad.
The southern plains and central Mississippi valley will definitely get something. I don't know that the season will have anything close enough for me to chase though. Just seeing a nice supercell would make me happy though. Not being anywhere near the plains I don't really care that much about tornadoes.
 
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chrisbray

EF4
Apr 24, 2012
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Bourbonnais, Illinois
We had some good discussion about MJO on the discord server today. Essentially, models are currently suggestive of phase 1/2 in May at some point, and Phase 2 has a significant correlation to March/April/May tornado outbreaks. The cited paper is: https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/10.1175/MWR-D-12-00173.1

Essentially we are in a pretty good match in terms of 500mb Heights compared to patterns suggestive of a favorable phase of MJO coming up in a couple weeks. Seems to be good reasons to remain optimistic about May
 
Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
While the IO is flaring up as expected, convection in the West Pac muddies the waters. I expect characteristics of both. Still a chase day pickers market. I don't see a great pattern the next 15-20 days. Hopefully it'll light up right at peak season May 15-31. Please, no VBV junk.
 
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Dan Robinson

WxLibrary Editor
Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
Jeff, agreed. No real change in the medium range operational runs and ensembles. Pesky southern stream too far south remains with Dixie taking most of the action. Better chances for pooling to eke something out in the Plains as we head into May, but odds are against it. I don't see an April 2019 chase trip in the Plains in my future.
 
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Jun 16, 2015
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Oklahoma City, OK
quincyvagell.com
I don't really see much on the horizon through the end of April. Sunday looks similar in some ways to 4/10/19 in Kansas/Nebraska. You could see one elevated supercell around sunset with hail, but otherwise the environment is lacking better low-level moisture and sufficient daytime heating to erode the cap along much/most of the dryline.

The last week of April tends to see at least one higher-end event in Dixie in most seasons. This year could do the same, but it's very unlikely that any such event would take place in the Plains or Midwest, based on model projections. Save efforts for May. I'd rather see late season light up than early season, but that's just me.
 
Mar 8, 2016
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Bloomington, IL
Perfectly fine getting the ridging out of the way in this time frame rather than in peak season. Highly unlikely it manages to stick around into peak season, especially given the current ENSO situation.
 
I recall looking at the various models ahead of our chasecation last May (we flew over from the UK on May 21st) - and it looked fairly mediocre...and the pattern didn't get 'great' at all - but then we had tornadoes on May 27th/28th - saw several other great storms, and had a cool time...so, although I do follow the pattern on the lead-up, I try to be less bothered by how it looks! (which is much easier to say than do!).

A crumb of comfort is that models are poor at longer range - and this time of year presents even more challenges than earlier in the year.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I recall looking at the various models ahead of our chasecation last May (we flew over from the UK on May 21st) - and it looked fairly mediocre...and the pattern didn't get 'great' at all - but then we had tornadoes on May 27th/28th - saw several other great storms, and had a cool time...so, although I do follow the pattern on the lead-up, I try to be less bothered by how it looks! (which is much easier to say than do!).

A crumb of comfort is that models are poor at longer range - and this time of year presents even more challenges than earlier in the year.
Exactly. As poor as last year was, one could have seen tornados on three consecutive days (Wyoming, the Colorado landspouts, and then near Dodge City). I missed all three, but the opportunities were there.

Last year I kept delaying my trip until it looked good, and then suddenly realized I no longer even had a full two weeks left available on my calendar. So I rushed out there for that first day of potential activity, which was Wyoming day. That hadn’t even looked all that great initially, and then on the day of, I was flying into Denver. I think having less time to do analysis that morning, and having to make a quick decision while on the road leading out of Denver (whether to head north toward Cheyenne or east toward an eastern Colorado target) contributed to a poor targeting decision.

This year I am somewhat relieved to *not* have flexibility and be locked in to the period 5/24-6/8. A little later than I’d like, so I’m actually happy to see that the season does not appear to be headed for an early peak. And this means less agonizing over the models to try and time a perfect trip. It’s going to be that two weeks for me, for better or for worse.
 
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If the GFS is to be believed, end of April at least looks persistently stormy for the upper Midwest after the last southern stream low over the SE kicks out. It might primarily be just a heavy rain / flooding threat with zonal jet and a lot of repeat MCS activity north of the boundary, but there will definitely be shear if convection does occur in the warm sector at times. There's no signal for a classic plains type outbreak any time soon though.
 
As May 1st. approaches, I tend to watch how models are handling moisture values in the Plains. Right now, the GFS has been holding positive (entrenched) dew point values of 60+ from the eastern Texas Panhandle northward through Kansas -- without any Gulf disruptions. This is generally a good sign. 🙂
If I've learned anything about the longer-range crystal-ball gazing as my chasecation time approaches each year, it's that if there are no (or just a few) cold front 'scours' down to the Gulf in the first couple of weeks of May, then there could be some good chasing to be had later in May. Even modest troughs in late May will give some great action when moisture is around.
 
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Oct 10, 2004
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Madison, WI
Yeah, last year the generally anemic flow pattern didn't help but it was the unrelenting moisture issues that were the real nail in the coffin for the chase season that wasn't.
 
Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Situation has perked up a bit over the weekend. EPS looks decent for week 2. However split flow risks are noted. Southern stream could disrupt. Tough to get northern stream super juicy just yet.

Weeks 3-4 look interesting. Japan's Himarwari satellite loops show West Pac convection is gradually decreasing; but, it's still there. Indian Ocean in flaring up with climo. ERTAF seems to go with a fast progression; West Pac convection races east. Either way, they note positive developments for weeks 3-4.

I'm more of a satellite forecaster than an index forecaster. I like what's going on for results in a few weeks. Could start as early s the 11-15 day period. Hopefully lasts through the 16-30 day.

At least one energy vendor has a nice pattern going into mid-May. One can infer the 200/500 mb from the temp charts; and, it's southwest flow over the Great Plains.