State of the chase season 2020

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We successfully navigated through two different reservations yesterday here in SD. There are closed roads, but the nice people did let us go through. One guy really was being a jerk for no reason at al. Just flexing. We were patient, and told him we were chasing, so he went to get his supervisor and I heard the supervisor say, “of course they can drive through. They are chasing and reporting storms. They are essential” storm chasers deemed essential! BOOM!
 
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Sep 25, 2006
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This weekend looks like it will have very high bust potential. 700 mb temps are very warm (14-16C common). In general, H7 temps of more than 12C means the cap will be very tough to break. Once you get into the 14C range that is almost unbreakable, barring a really strong cold front or some other type of help. Both days offer this kind of cap, and this capping inversion is quite visible on forecast soundings with a strongly stable layer just above the surface. Keep in mind, when you start seeing maxed out parameters (supercell composite, sig tor, etc) it is usually a sign that the parcel is capped off.
 

Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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This weekend looks like it will have very high bust potential. 700 mb temps are very warm (14-16C common). In general, H7 temps of more than 12C means the cap will be very tough to break. Once you get into the 14C range that is almost unbreakable, barring a really strong cold front or some other type of help. Both days offer this kind of cap, and this capping inversion is quite visible on forecast soundings with a strongly stable layer just above the surface. Keep in mind, when you start seeing maxed out parameters (supercell composite, sig tor, etc) it is usually a sign that the parcel is capped off.
That rule of thumb generally only applies east of -100 W longitude, where terrain heights are lower. On the high Plains 12-14 C isn't really unbreakable. Something closer to 15-17 becomes pretty hard to break, though.

I think the bigger problem with bust potential for this weekend's setups is the drought and subsequent poor moisture over the Plains. In a better year, we wouldn't be seeing such moisture starved systems with narrow moisture tongues, and everything east of the dryline would have 60+ dews. See the forecast for Saturday as an example:

NAMNSTCGP_sfc_dewp_036.png

If you compare the dewpoint map to the temperature map, the surface wind pattern suggests there is a classic SGP "dryline" extending from W NE through E CO and down into NM, but the good moisture is 100-300 miles east of that line in the dewpoint field. Imagine filling all that green shaded area of SW NE/W KS/PHs with the blues and maybe some purples in a better year.

NAMNSTCGP_sfc_temp_036.png

That, to me, is the bigger reason these events could bust. We have to hope for Saturday that the moisture tongue ends up being a bit further west (as is shown in the NSSL-WRF below)...

sfctd.spc_np.f04800.png

...so that existing storms in NC NE can access that better moisture before weakening with diurnal stabilization (or the storm mode becoming completely linear).

I apologize for this post trending towards belonging in a forecast thread. I may end up moving it.
 
May 28, 2011
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Yeah, I mean June and we're having moisture problems? C'mon.
It's 2020. EVERYTHING has problems.

Nothing about this weekend really looks all that appealing. A lot of forcing over meager/narrow moisture and messy storm mode over tough terrain. Then Sunday looks like it has more storm mode issues. Currently looking at the possible trough next weekend that I'm sure will disappoint as well, as it looks like it may be more of an omega block than a trough that will eject over the plains.

At least we still have booze.
 

Jeff Duda

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I pulled out from my weekend plans to chase. As more and more updated CAM forecasts come in, the window has kept shrinking to the point where it seems pointless to drive 8 hours from home for a snowball's chance in hell.

Monday has started to look decent in the coarser models, though. We'll see if that setup goes to shit, too.
 

Mark Blue

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Feb 19, 2007
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The SPC upgraded the risk to Moderate for a damaging wind event this evening. This whole setup reminded me of 6/5/08. Not down to the letter but an unusually strong kinematic system for June with a 100+ knot jet streak translating down to the surface causing high winds, super-fast storm motions, and killing any tornado potential. The system in 2008 offered a High Risk with PDS Tornado Watches but anvil blow off created a day that wasn't worth remembering. 2008 definitely had moisture to work with, which has been an issue this entire season, but today was a major let down just like in 2008. The only good thing that happened that day 12 years ago was our dinner at Applebees in York, NE. The hostess brought David Hoadley and his neighbor in and seated them right across from us, so we had a nice long dinner with great conversation to go with it.
 
Feb 22, 2015
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Norman, OK
Well with today's bust looming now, it is pretty unfathomable just how absolutely pathetic this year has been post-April. At least 2018 had some High Plains magic in June. This year can't even manage that with a huge trough over the west. Every single setup has found a way to not produce photogenic tornadoes. Not only that, but we have found just about every stupid large scale pattern failure mode from the massive eastern trough in Early May, cutoff mania in the second half of the month, and now an anomalous early season TC stunting moisture return.

I'd say it can't possibly get worse than this (because it's pretty difficult to get worse than virtually zero), but I'm sure I'll be proven wrong.
 

Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
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It's dead Jim. Starting to lose interest even looking at models.

I've only busted once this year as I was only willing to waste gas and time the one day on the chance for something discrete if cap could be broken. Missed the unexpected SW KS structure that over-performed.

I'm a passable but not great forecaster but these setups are mostly pretty obviously a mess well in advance. Tomorrow looks like a similar mess to today, perhaps slightly less sloppy with a borderline ok hodograph off the somewhat defined dryline and bulge near Kearney, but veering at midlevels looks weak or backed.

Without normal moisture return for the vast majority of this spring everything else needs to be just right and it has not even been close on most days. Most setups are obvious straight to garbage: uncapped regions to the west with weakly forced initiation, with nuclear caps east, diffuse drylines or mixing out, sad T-Td spreads, weak veering with height or VBV, 500 and 700mB not veered and hauling, storm motion ridiculously fast, setups happening far from orographic lift.... there seems to always be something majorly out of order that prevents anything decent and most often it seems to be wind profiles and moisture return or both. I guess I'm the master of the obvious stating all that, but I am actually surprised how many people are out chasing these events and what looks to me like following intense colors on a map like supercell composites, SPC risk areas, etc without looking at the obvious problems on setups that look destined to bust hard even to an amateur like me. Then again as already said, maybe people are just stir crazy to be out and don't care.

Something is off with the jet stream like it was last year, only it is worse this year, and last year there was at least seasonally expected moisture in place. I wish I knew enough to understand why, but until the jetstream returns to some semblance of normal operation, I am afraid these problems will persist.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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As we all know, to get the types of storms we live for, we need a number of variables to be in perfect balance - moisture, shear, conditional instability and lift. Expanding on @Dave C ’s point about moisture and wind profiles being the primary fail mode this year, I would suggest that - in general - moisture is the more relevant factor. If adequate moisture is in place, you can still get some great mesoscale accidents. Even without a classic, digging, negatively-tilted trough, you can get some perturbations in the flow that produce marginally adequate shear, and you can get the necessary lift from a dryline, outflow boundary, upslope, etc. But without sufficient moisture nothing else matters, and you won’t have instability either, so that seems to be the most significant factor in bad years like this.
 
Feb 22, 2015
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I’m of the opinion that we need some kind of “reset” where split flow becomes less dominant in the upper level pattern, which is is likely through an adjustment in the dominant tropical forcing on a longer than inter seasonal basis. The last few years have been plagued by persistent ridging over the NW portion of North America and that has made it difficult to establish a trough to funnel shortwaves into the Plains. We’ve relied on the jet undercutting high latitude ridging to get a western trough. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m willing to take my chances with (hopefully) a stronger La Niña event, where split flow is less likely. We haven’t seen a stronger La Niña since 2011.

Of course, drought is becoming a concern down here with what looks like a hot/dry period upcoming and heading into said La Niña conditions, but something has to change to stop getting these patterns where flow becomes heavily disrupted or dies in May/June (see parts of 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, this year).
 
Apr 10, 2008
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Tulsa, OK
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Tomorrow will be my last chase for a while. I have sat out the past few days, but I am going to give NE/KS target a shot tomorrow. This year will likely rank with 2000, 2006, and 2009 for worst seasons for me unless tomorrow ends up being a really solid day. After tomorrow it's game over man. It appears the southern/central Plains are in for a hot summer with worsening drought conditions.
 
Mar 15, 2007
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Season Saver today cant really see any negatives with this set-up. Anybody got any negative views why this should not produce photogenic Tors east or North East of the surface low ?
 

Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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Season Saver today cant really see any negatives with this set-up. Anybody got any negative views why this should not produce photogenic Tors east or North East of the surface low ?
CAMS don't seem too excited about today in NE/KS/MO. Rather short lived individual storms, but the HRRRs have one or two decent UH tracks along the KS/NE border early on, before storms either die out or build upscale.

HREF shows nebulous UH objects. Not even much sense of discrete storms persisting even an hour or so.

Even the degree of shear overlapping good thermo is questionable.

I strongly suspect there will be one or two tornadoes during daylight. The more aggressive and lucky chasers out today will likely catch one of them, and there's a chance of a fully-condensed one given moisture profiles. But the window is just so narrow today.
 
Aug 9, 2012
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Galesburg, IL
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I try not to be too quick to judge a season until the end of December because we get events all months of the year here. In 2018, I had one of my best chases in December and another great chase in July. All of these out of traditional chase season. I've had 2% events in July that went apeshit and dropped numerous tornadoes before (2018 and again in 2015). I guess my point is, that is the great thing about storm chasing....you never know what you are going to get. You could have the worst year you've seen up to a point and one event changes it all. Sure it doesn't change the overall fact that this year has been crap, but hopefully we can all see the silver lining at the end of the tunnel when its over and see some success.

I will add though that this is probably my worst season so far since 2012. We will see what happens over the next several months. It might be sad, but I'm strangely satisfied with everything I've seen this year given the minimal effort I've put in. I started today in a grumpy mood not liking the setup in IL, but on the drive home I reflected back and realized I had a lot of fun just being out there. It never gets old.
 
Jan 7, 2006
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Not sure whether this fits best here or in the "worst seasons" thread...

The 2020 season continues to infuriate and stick its finger in the eyes of the chase community in novel ways. May was bad... really bad... but hey, it happens these days (2009, 2012, 2014, 2018). The June 4-9 period then brought a trough to the central and northern Plains with upper flow on the strong end of the distribution for late spring. While the evolution of that trough/cyclone was not optimal, and was complicated by an utterly stupid early June TC, I still couldn't believe as I looked at NWP guidance on June 2-3 that we'd make it through that whole subsequent week without any quality tornado days. It is quite remarkable to go through 5-6 consecutive diurnal cycles in June with reasonable ingredients in place (including a trough of that magnitude, so not just 30-kt shear prayer plays) and come up totally empty handed... not even a rogue quality tor on the fringes of the expected threat area on one of those days?

Now, we're rapidly approaching the end of the traditional Plains season. Only, instead of a death ridge taking over, the pattern over North America continues to be amplified with seasonably strong flow aloft at midlatitudes. The problem is... no matter how many different jet configurations evolve as the weeks go by, the atmosphere is simply allergic to sustained SW flow over the central US. Wavelengths change, cutoffs come and go... the only constant is negative height anomalies along the eastern seaboard. Medium range guidance now points to an unseasonably deep trough setting up over the west coast from about 6/28-7/3 or so. If this were happening 5-8° longitude further east, we'd likely get an anomalous, extended period of legitimate chase opportunities on the High Plains... much like what you'd expect in late May or early June in a year that doesn't suck. But instead, as of now, it appears the Plains will be stuck in the middle of a weak omega block, pissing away our last chance at some redemption. If we're lucky, there might be a day or two next week with opportunities on the NW fringes of the alley in MT/WY and nearby areas.

floop-ecmwf_full-2020062300.500wh.conus.gif

Personally, I'm at the point where I'd prefer a 600-dm heat dome over the whole central US, rather than a near miss on a once-per-decade early summer chasing stretch. How many more gratuitous middle fingers can the atmosphere possibly shoot us?
 

JeremyS

EF3
Mar 12, 2014
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How depressing:
This page documents confirmed tornadoes from May to June 2020 via various weather forecast offices of the National Weather Service. Based on the 1991–2010 averaging period, 276 tornadoes occur across the United States throughout May and 243 in June.[1]
May 2020 proved to be one of the least active on record, with only 65 confirmed tornadoes. This was the lowest since at least 1970 when 88 tornadoes were confirmed. No moderate- or high-risk outlooks were issued by the Storm Prediction Center throughout the month, a first since archives of outlooks began in 2002.[4]


 
Oct 10, 2004
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Guess we can look forward to armchair (at least in my case) chasing hurricanes in Aug/Sep if the hype in the tropical forums is to be believed...

Warren, still remember your account of Andrew from the book "Storm Chaser."

Speaking of which and in reference to Brett's post as well, kind of frustrating that Cristobal didn't manage to produce a quality tropical tornado outbreak deep inland, despite its unusual track and merger with the trough.
 
Aug 9, 2012
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Galesburg, IL
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I'm with Brett, this is annoying even getting marginal chances now that will likely get pissed away. Just give me summer and end it already. I know one thing is for certain, in following years, I won't be so picky about my early season chasing prospects. This year my strategy was to wait for quality later in the year which unfortunately never showed up. Granted the only day I missed was 4/22 which I likely couldn't have pulled off anyway.