State of the chase season 2020

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JeremyS

EF3
Mar 12, 2014
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Omaha, NE
Jesus, just when you think it can't get any worse, now there's a massive cut off low that sits over the eastern US next week and fudges everything up for days.....
 
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Barring a **miraculous** flip-flop in the models, it would appear the 2020 chase season will go down as one of the worse in storm chasing history. Cannot find any hope in the models, with nothing trending towards a more favorable solution. There seemed to be some hope for a northern season in mid-to-late May, but the ECMWF is really keeping the RH to some of the lowest levels I have seen in years. This on top of anemic upper level flow of biblical-low proportions. Yes, there may be a long shot at a sneak attack next Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday, but nothing obvious to justify a major chase operation unless you live in the region. The only hope is a shift in the ridge that could make for a 3-4 day chase late next week.
 
Oct 10, 2004
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34
Madison, WI
Wow. I really had higher hopes for 2020 with the talk of an incoming La Nina and the PDO going negative for the first time in a long time. At the end of March my main concern was missing out on stuff due to the COVID pandemic. Now it seems there won't be much to miss. Can barely get any thunder with the rain showers in this neck of the woods.
 

Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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Agree. Been keeping tabs on Victor Gensini's GEFS SCP chiclet chart and it has totally gone to shit for a period that was previously bilked as likely to be active. Check out this shit:
gefs_scp_stda_chiclet.png

About 10 days ago the same time period (5/15-5/21) was full of positive SCP coverage anomalies.

The pattern has just gone to complete shit.
GFSUS_500_spd_183.png

I mean, what the hell is this? It's not so bad as a big ol' summertime death ridge, but the pattern is so fragmented...there are small troughs and local speed maxima all over the place. None of them persist long, and all of the troughs that cross the Pacific coast stall and dissipate before getting much east of 120-115 W.

There are areas with supercell shear and sufficient CAPE, but it is largely unpredictable beyond a day or so and there is nothing larger-scale to look forward to. This is not a typical May pattern, and it is excessively frustrating to be dealing with at a time like this. I have been depending on my faith in a storm chasing season to carry me along over the past few months and it just isn't materializing at all. Such garbage.

Shit, we still had freezes and daytime highs in the 50s to near 60 in the Denver area earlier this week. So...it's not warm enough to decenly be spring yet, but at the same time the upper-air pattern resembles more of a summer pattern than a springtime pattern. Ugh!
 
Sep 25, 2006
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Minneapolis, MN
I am amazed how bad the mid level flow looks. Then you look at soundings and realize that even with decent instability there are still capping issues, lack of good moisture, and high LCLs even on days with better parameters. We just can't get one day with everything coming together at the same time. Might have to take a shot at late next week because what the f*ck else is there to go after? Even the CFS doesn't show any sort of trend with prolonged periods of good parameters extending all the way to mid June. WTF?!
 
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Jan 7, 2006
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USA
www.skyinmotion.com
"One of the worst seasons ever" just doesn't pack the same punch it used to. It's becoming increasingly difficult for me not to suspect that either climate change, or climate variability on decadal time scales, has pushed us into a regime that makes Plains storm chasing less sensible an obsession than its short history of wide participation (i.e., the 1980s-2010) had perhaps led us to believe. We had just had 2018, and 2017, and 2014. If you consider the nine-year stretch from 2012-present, and are allowed to remove merely two 7-10 day periods (May 18-28, 2013; and May 21-25, 2016), so much of recent spring seasons have been dominated by unfavorable patterns for chaseable Plains supercells and tornadoes. Granted, 2015 and 2019 were convectively active for periods, albeit messy.

I believe two broad themes of research on potential impacts of climate change on CONUS severe are: (a) more CAPE but less shear, on average; and (b) more active cool/early seasons and less active late/warm seasons, on average. With respect to the second item, my observation is that the late season (i.e., June) has been behaving as one might expect, but we are not making up for it in the early season at all. Instead, eastern Canada troughing has been an omnipresent fixture in March and April, either leaving us in dry/cold NW flow or, in the case of the subtropical jet carving in from the SW, tipping the scales in favor of setups with cold air lurking nearby. Time and again, this has meant a short, frenzied period of chasing sometime from mid-late May during the transition between these two unfavorable regimes.

Of course, 2020 is not precisely following that playbook, as May is completely shut down for the first year in awhile. I would argue the early season this year exhibited the usual weaknesses we've seen lately, but a couple days in late April managed to overcome that and save the southern Plains from a total shut-out. Now, we wait and see whether June can recover at all. As ever, we're running way behind the curve, and the best-case scenario now is recovery to the point of a "decent" year. If western ridging takes hold for the remainder of the season similar to 2006, then we will have yet another candidate for dethroning 1988 (I thought 2018 might do it, but some fluky northern Plains action in June stopped it just short, IMO).
 
May 28, 2011
69
120
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Omaha, NE
I don't have any meteorological information to add, because everyone knows it's complete shit out there.

Every year becomes the worst year in recent memory, it seems. For five years running I've chased fewer and fewer times each year and have started later and later, and it's not because I'm getting more selective or lazy. Like Brett said, something has to be happening climatologically or we're in a multi-decadal low phase. The only other explanation is that I got started chasing in 2011 and it's been shit ever since then, and honestly that makes about as much sense as anything else right now.

2020 has no socializing, no sports, no travel, a tanked economy, and now no storms. It's enough to deject even the sunniest of dispositions. Hallelujah, holy shit, where's the Tylenol.
 

Joey Prom

EF1
Feb 11, 2020
73
26
6
St. Paul, Minnesota
I saw that too. We will just have to wait and see. Not every year can be a big year and the down year just make the big years all that much more memorable. I still plan to chase all I can during this month.
 
Long way off, but here is a sounding for Saturday, May 23 in North-Central OK. It looks like 24 hours later there is a similar risk in SE, KS. Still does not appear like a season worth a long term commitment yet, but for those who live in the region you may get a few days of acceptable chasing --- with 1.2 million chasers on each rare event. The next two days of modeling are going to be interesting.

ok.jpg
 

Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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Maybe all of our bitching today was the magic rain dance we need for chasing because all of a sudden next weekend looks like it has some decent potential.
It's relative - when everything starts to consistently look like shit, even something that doesn't look great starts to look okay by comparison.
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,098
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
It's becoming increasingly difficult for me not to suspect that either climate change, or climate variability on decadal time scales, has pushed us into a regime that makes Plains storm chasing less sensible an obsession than its short history of wide participation (i.e., the 1980s-2010) had perhaps led us to believe.
Sorry, I know I am not adding to the long range forecast discussion with this post, but I absolutely love that line 😜 I question myself about this every year.
 
It would appear (ATM) there will be **just** enough bulk shear and **just** enough RH to make things interesting out west beginning Tuesday. We are likely not talking wedges and outbreaks, but the more typical, late May, isolated LP's, boundary-driven landspouts and Campoesque sneak attacks. The setups where you are either a: sitting on the side of the road staring at a capped atmosphere and getting bored to death or b: end up with a trophy. I'm not going to re-post soundings or surface data, but data suggests the western regions (eastern Colorado, OK Panhandle, western Texas and eastern NM will be in play beginning Tuesday. The eastern cyclone does not disrupt the surface flow from the Gulf as much as forecast a few days ago -- and the late May conveyor belt of RH is flowing up though the typical southwestern route. Capping and LCL's will be an issue, but they always are this time of year.... but the tubes can still get jiggy in late May.
 
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I'm surprised the atmosphere is going ape S**T since my vacation got cancelled due to this Corona crap.
I feel the same. Between COVID and a new job, my chasecation is not happening and I'm limited in what local events I can partake in...if there even were any. Usually that means days upon days of scenic tubes and jaw-dropping structure.


"One of the worst seasons ever" just doesn't pack the same punch it used to. It's becoming increasingly difficult for me not to suspect that either climate change, or climate variability on decadal time scales, has pushed us into a regime that makes Plains storm chasing less sensible an obsession than its short history of wide participation (i.e., the 1980s-2010) had perhaps led us to believe. We had just had 2018, and 2017, and 2014. If you consider the nine-year stretch from 2012-present, and are allowed to remove merely two 7-10 day periods (May 18-28, 2013; and May 21-25, 2016), so much of recent spring seasons have been dominated by unfavorable patterns for chaseable Plains supercells and tornadoes. Granted, 2015 and 2019 were convectively active for periods, albeit messy.
This is a very interesting point, and one that has also crossed my mind over the last couple years. How much longer can we say "worst season/year ever" like it's something new before it becomes the new norm? The discussion of this year's pattern and severe potential is very similar to 2018 IMO, which was the most recent "worst season/year ever". Climate-scale research is beyond my area of expertise, and a more thorough discussion on it is probably worthy of its own thread. Maybe we're seeing one of Dr. Gensini's more recent studies playing out in real time: Spatial trends in United States tornado frequency
 
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Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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"One of the worst seasons ever" just doesn't pack the same punch it used to. It's becoming increasingly difficult for me not to suspect that either climate change, or climate variability on decadal time scales, has pushed us into a regime that makes Plains storm chasing less sensible an obsession than its short history of wide participation (i.e., the 1980s-2010) had perhaps led us to believe. We had just had 2018, and 2017, and 2014. If you consider the nine-year stretch from 2012-present, and are allowed to remove merely two 7-10 day periods (May 18-28, 2013; and May 21-25, 2016), so much of recent spring seasons have been dominated by unfavorable patterns for chaseable Plains supercells and tornadoes. Granted, 2015 and 2019 were convectively active for periods, albeit messy.
Didn't you use to maintain a database of Plains spring season quality using some kind of objective means? Any chance you can dig back into that and add some recent years to see if there is any numerical sense behind this sentiment?
 

Jeff Duda

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Perhaps Mother Nature heard our collective sobbing and decided to throw us a bone -- today's 12Z GEFS has a much more optimistic forecast for the coming weeks...by far the most optimistic I have seen yet this month!

The next few days look to be down for sure, but starting in the middle of next week (roughly Wednesday/Thursday), it lights up the central US with day-after-day-after-day-etc potential. Granted, I'm using an optimistic product (ensemble max SCP), but even that product has been really stingy lately.

Look at this!
ezgif-3-461e03700acc.gif

Obvious caveats:
  • this is a maximum over 20 ensemble members, so just one member can trip an alarm.
  • Spatial dislocation between multiple members that have a similar magnitude will make the overall area look larger than it is likely to be.
  • You want to see large ensemble member agreement for true confidence.
Well...for at least the first few of these days, there does seem to be some broad ensemble agreement in that somewhere in the central US there will be a region favorable for big time supercells.

Check out a few of them.

Thursday: Somewhere along or near the I-40 corridor between the E TX PH and W AR. All 20 members have SCP > 4 somewhere in this area, and 6 have SCP > 7 somewhere. ALL depict some level of enhanced severe potential.
GEFSCGP_con_scpens_132.png

Friday: The lower-eastern Plains from C OK through C/E KS and parts of MO. 12/20 members have SCP > 7, and a few members get above 10. All but one member has some level of enhanced severe threat.
GEFSCGP_con_scpens_156.png

Saturday: Somewhat more scatter, but looks like the central or eastern Plains up towards the quad-state area (IA/NE/MO/KS). 17 members have SCP > 7 somewhere, and nearly half have SCP > 10 somewhere. All members present some level of threat, and arguably 17 present a recognizable enhanced threat.
GEFSCGP_con_scpens_180.png

Sunday: Regional scatter is now quite large, but still 14/20 ensemble members have SCP > 7 at some point, and arguably 75% of the members present a scenario with some level of enhanced severe potential.
GEFSCGP_con_scpens_204.png

Man, is it gonna suck when this goes away at 18Z and stays away at 00Z. But it has my heart and soul energized for at least the next 6-12 hours. Someday I'll look back on this and tell the local neighborhood children (between visits of the chaperone drones that will be controlling our outdoor interactions 🤪) about the days where we used to eagerly anticipate looking at fantastical longer-range models for signs of fantasy chases like folks in the 2000s had. We would get so excited to see potential at 200+ hours! Yeah, so what that it never materialized in reality...the virtual reality boost was enough to keep us going during those times.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
This is a very interesting point, and one that has also crossed my mind over the last couple years. How much longer can we say "worst season/year ever" like it's something new before it becomes the new norm? The discussion of this year's pattern and severe potential is very similar to 2018 IMO, which was the most recent "worst season/year ever"
Even in 2018, one *could have* had three consecutive tornado days - WY, DDC and the CO landspouts (I may have the sequence of the second and third reversed, I can’t recall). Never lose hope!

BTW, I missed all three 😒😔
 

Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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I run around with my rose colored glasses glued to my head. It doesn’t take much to get me excited and now I’m getting excited starting with the second half of next week. We’re in prime time now and the next 2-3 weeks are going to make or break it for a lot of chasers.
The better winds still project to be separated from the better moisture on the Southern plains which gives me pause. That seems to be a regular occurrence over the last few years. But, with the moisture in place there will be some quality days coming up for those who dig into the details and find the hidden gems. Even 2018 was a banner year for those that hit it right.
 
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Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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Thursday: Somewhere along or near the I-40 corridor between the E TX PH and W AR. All 20 members have SCP > 4 somewhere in this area, and 6 have SCP > 7 somewhere. ALL depict some level of enhanced severe potential.
View attachment 20505

Man, is it gonna suck when this goes away at 18Z and stays away at 00Z. But it has my heart and soul energized for at least the next 6-12 hours. Someday I'll look back on this and tell the local neighborhood children (between visits of the chaperone drones that will be controlling our outdoor interactions 🤪) about the days where we used to eagerly anticipate looking at fantastical longer-range models for signs of fantasy chases like folks in the 2000s had. We would get so excited to see potential at 200+ hours! Yeah, so what that it never materialized in reality...the virtual reality boost was enough to keep us going during those times.
Thursday coming in on the 18Z GEFS and...

it has...

NOT backed off! Yay!
GEFSCGP_con_scpens_126.png