State of the Chase Season 2021

Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
122
176
11
Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
Well it’s amazing how a two week chase vacation starts with promise and then all hope is lost in the blink of an eye. A couple of good days to start this past Sun and Mon, a day off on Tue, a massive forecast fail targeting SW KS on Wed, but hey there are still 10 days left!!! Oh, wait, today sucks, maybe some NM table scraps over Memorial Day Weekend, and then you can basically put Chase Vacation Week Two in the crapper with a west coast ridge and northwest flow across the Plains. Amazing how it all vaporizes so fast, after all the hope and anticipation. Anybody else ever ask themselves if it’s worth investing so much time, money and emotion in a hobby where we have almost no control over our experiences??? I guess if I lived out here and took the good days when they were available it would be OK, but these chase vacations are starting to feel ridiculous. I suspect I will be heading home just after Memorial Day and saving the money and the vacation time.
Not to get too off topic but I like to try to plan other things to enjoy if I will be on an extended chase vacation away from home, such as digging for fossils, seeing the sights, or just snoozing in a nice hotel room. Otherwise, since good synoptic setups are rare I have largely modified my chasing in recent couple years to pursue targets of very good opportunity only, ignoring dodgy setups like today, and I either work or spend down days doing something at home. To me no sense commiting to a long period of chasing when the odds are only a few days will line up the ingredients for a worthwhile chase. The last few years the jet stream is apparently broken for chasing over good terrain, so you either need a tactic to take the subtler setups when you can, or yea maybe it isn't a good activity to pursue if it causes more grief than fun. I still love getting out there and even one good day, like yesterday in Nebraska, can make a season feel good.

Even in a bad year, June into July is almost assured to have a couple one off opportunities somehwere in the central or northern plains if you can make yourself available. Last July, the least active year I can remember, there was a great structure day in Wyoming. If you live far from those types of days or you cannot take shorter trips to chase, that might be a challenge, but the opportunities will be there. With the jet stream like it is and most forecasts dependent on shortwaves or split flow, looking out too far is not good for planning when to chase.
 
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Jason N

EF1
Mar 2, 2021
57
51
6
South Carolina
I agree whole heartedly with your statement in principle. since I live far enough away , I can't just drive. I have to fly. but like you I'll have things to do in between. Parks visits, grasslands, photo ops in many places when there isn't something else going on.. I just try and look for a period where its not all my vacation with Zero days of anything worthwhile risk wise... like I think it would have been if I left this Friday. instead I think if the pattern shifts again, it may end up being like this week was.. and that's enough.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Not to get too off topic but I like to try to plan other things to enjoy if I will be on an extended chase vacation away from home, such as digging for fossils, seeing the sights, or just snoozing in a nice hotel room. Otherwise, since good synoptic setups are rare I have largely modified my chasing in recent couple years to pursue targets of very good opportunity only, ignoring dodgy setups like today, and I either work or spend down days doing something at home. To me no sense commiting to a long period of chasing when the odds are only a few days will line up the ingredients for a worthwhile chase. The last few years the jet stream is apparently broken for chasing over good terrain, so you either need a tactic to take the subtler setups when you can, or yea maybe it isn't a good activity to pursue if it causes more grief than fun. I still love getting out there and even one good day, like yesterday in Nebraska, can make a season feel good.

Even in a bad year, June into July is almost assured to have a couple one off opportunities somehwere in the central or northern plains if you can make yourself available. Last July, the least active year I can remember, there was a great structure day in Wyoming. If you live far from those types of days or you cannot take shorter trips to chase, that might be a challenge, but the opportunities will be there. With the jet stream like it is and most forecasts dependent on shortwaves or split flow, looking out too far is not good for planning when to chase.
The MODs can decide, but I think it’s on-topic, because it’s all about chase (vacation) strategy in a crappy season (or string of seasons...) Personally, I don’t mind having down days, and look forward to the time to catch up on work (mitigates the impact of being gone two weeks, which is difficult given my position and level of responsibility). Just having time to read would be very appealing to me. The problem is when the days are so “busy” with forecasting and driving to targets on days that turn out to be worthless, or long repositioning drives for Day 2 opportunities that also turn out to be worthless. Completely unproductive days, no chasing success and no time for alternative activities. The only way around this is to simply avoid the marginal days, as you suggested, but when you only have two weeks you need to optimize every day. Not to say I wouldn’t bail on certain days, especially if the drive isn’t worth it, but it’s probably a different risk/reward or cost/benefit calculation than you might have living in Denver. Bottom line, I don’t mind a couple down days, as long as they are actual down days that I can do other stuff. But when it’s in the second week, and there appears to be nothing but down days, it’s time to go home. I start to feel the gravitational pull of professional and personal responsibilities that are piling up, and it’s hard to justify to myself why I’m out here if the chasing is not productive.

Anyway, it’s hard to believe here I am with 9 days left in a 14 day chase trip yet I feel like it’s already over. I mean look at the calendar, we’re talking May 28 - June 5!
 

Matt Hunt

EF3
Aug 2, 2009
249
101
11
Twin Falls, ID
Well it’s amazing how a two week chase vacation starts with promise and then all hope is lost in the blink of an eye. A couple of good days to start this past Sun and Mon, a day off on Tue, a massive forecast fail targeting SW KS on Wed, but hey there are still 10 days left!!! Oh, wait, today sucks, maybe some NM table scraps over Memorial Day Weekend, and then you can basically put Chase Vacation Week Two in the crapper with a west coast ridge and northwest flow across the Plains. Amazing how it all vaporizes so fast, after all the hope and anticipation. Anybody else ever ask themselves if it’s worth investing so much time, money and emotion in a hobby where we have almost no control over our experiences??? I guess if I lived out here and took the good days when they were available it would be OK, but these chase vacations are starting to feel ridiculous. I suspect I will be heading home just after Memorial Day and saving the money and the vacation time.
Absolutely! Having the dilemma now, deciding if I want to just pack it up and head home tomorrow, or make the now long drive down to SE NM, since I moved toward home (ID) to Fort Collins today. Would be a long drive to get down there, and may be cutting it close with storms tomorrow, but does look like 3 days in the same area. But will it be worth it? It seems each day has a very narrow corridor of instability without CINH. I'm afraid of a situation similar to yesterday happening down there. May be able to get initiation, but storms will move out of that uncapped environment pretty quickly. Just don't know if it's worth it for the miles, the gas money, and the lodging for 3 more nights, when I have not had a good chasecation thus far. I'm kind of burned out and just thinking of saving that money for other vacations later in the year. Oh, the joys of being a storm chaser, haha! It looks a lot easier on TV! Hahaha!
 
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Oct 10, 2004
1,206
277
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35
Madison, WI
I'm pretty much in the same boat as you, James. Busted hard in KS Wednesday and today was just doomed from the start. Especially frustrating since I was in Holeridge, NE by noon on Wednesday with the choice to keep going west to McCook or drop into KS...both targets looked viable at that point and I hunched that (a) the anvil blowoff from the early stuff in KS would become an issue in NE and (b) the warm front would be typically grungy (think Wayne 10/4/13 or Lawrence/Lindwood 2019) and grow upscale quickly as depicted by CAMs (which it kind of did, but not before some nice tornadoes).

When was the last time an anticipated bimodal (i.e. TP/WF+dryline) regional tornado outbreak actually panned out for both targets in the Plains (or Midwest, say IA AND IL/WI, not just one or the other)? Feels like it has been ages. Like 5/29/04. Maybe 4/14/12 or a couple of those days in May 2013?

Another thing about Wednesday, too is that while the entire event didn't bust it was yet another day where the best/even jaw-dropping tornado parameters as depicted on forecast soundings were supposed to come together near/after 00Z with the LLJ kicking in but by that point storms were either already in an unfavorable mode (NE) or couldn't become sustained (KS).
 
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Jason N

EF1
Mar 2, 2021
57
51
6
South Carolina
James, Matt and Andy.. all you guys hitting some good points and Hope the Mods don't think its bad form, but, it's a personal Calculus I think of what defines a successful chase. From the early planning phase before you even get there (i.e. staring at all the 15-30 pattern ) to the day 5 then Day 3 and finally staring at Meso-analysis on Tday(I made that up just now, its Tornado-Day). But to James's point about re-positioning, that's definitely a truth. many times I've been out, finishing a day, and then having already glanced at the tomorrow's picture, have been in the seat saying, do I really want to drive 4-6hrs tonight after the 12hr day I just had , just to get closer geographically to a similar condition tomorrow? I mean yes I've done that, but the truth is sometimes it's just not worth the stretch if the conditions end up being nearly the same, just shifted in position.. I'll wait it out past then to pick the next best location the following day provided conditions present it. I think as long term chasers, we make those decisions all the time, with what we are given for seasonal changes, personal time off , what's going on in our lives etc. for me, as I have said, its 50% science 50% passion, I treat it similarly to maybe like going to Vegas, I realize in advance I may be wasting some money, but dammit I am going to enjoy it , because I know I can afford it, I wouldn't even go if I know might be stretching my funds. Like James, I am in a higher level position and we all have work responsibilities on some level. but when I personally am on vacation, that's what I am doing. and in between chases, like you guys said.. find something to do or just chill.. pick out as Andy said in his post, forecast review, or find some lessons learned from previous day. I am not saying andy was guilty of this, but I know for me, there have been times where I placed an over reliance on saying, "all the best conditions are right where I am at(while storms are going on that are chase worthy elsewhere), I'll wait it out, the models say CI is gonna happen.. keep staring , keep staring .. Oooo there it is.. the clouds popped its going up! .. and then fizzle (WTF screams in my head) in other words I think we have all had bust days lol and it sucks.
 

Jeff House

Supporter
Jun 1, 2008
606
656
11
Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
I think Rozel is a more recent multiple target verification day. Warm front (nw KS) went along with Rozel on the outflow boundary. Farther south on the dry line busted; so, I guess it really has been a decade since a full string of pearls verified on the Plains. One could argue 5/22/19 spread out chasers with multiple cyclical supercells; but, they were all kind of Oklahoma.

Looks like starting around June 5-6 a northern Rockies trough could bring goods to the Northern Plains. Probably High Plains too. That leaves a couple options. 1. Do nothing for a week. 2. Chase the marginals from New Mexico to Stockton; then, have a leisurely 2-day reposition drive to the North and/or High Plains. Big Bend NP, Guadalupe NP, and Carlsbad Caverns make good bust activities.

That's actually a good Plan C. See those national parks, and reaction chase if it looks good. Then head back north for next weekend. I'm not sure if that's much fun chasing solo. With a partner I'd surely stay out there.

All hypothetical to me. PDS family keeps me in Tenn. Oh when it's cooler than normal in the Southeast, you hike!
 

John Farley

Supporter
Apr 1, 2004
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Pagosa Springs, CO
www.johnefarley.com
For those of you in the Permian Basin area, all of Jeff's suggestions are good for down day activities. Another I would add, a little farther north (maybe a travel break if you are heading north for the northern setup later in the week) is the UFO Museum in Roswell - well worth the visit if you have never been. For those with fixed chasecation times, things like those can add to your overall experience.

One other thing occurs to me - with fixed chasecations, it is easy to get very caught up in the ups and downs of the time you are out there, leading you to judge your season by the most recent chase or the next day's setup or lack thereof. For example, James was talking a few posts back about the coming downtime making his chasecation a questionable undertaking, yet a few days earlier he reported having an all-time top 3 chase. I am retired and do not have to take fixed chasecations, but if I did, I think I would count any trip that included a top 3 all-time chase as a success.
 

Bobby Little

Supporter
Mar 18, 2013
58
63
6
58
eagle, michigan
Chased for 2 days so far and probably gonna bail on the next 2 days and head back to Michigan. This period reminds me exactly of 2019 2nd week of May then.Cant see adding 6 hr target area just to add the same amount to the return home trip. Very frustrating as target area yesterday was rainwrapped .Wed was a little better..hill city, McCook,.colby.. Good luck to all who stay
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,216
1,143
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
@John Farley you are right of course, thanks for that, sometimes an objective viewpoint is the reminder needed to gain a proper perspective.

Sort of makes me wonder if lots of us lamenting the lack of quality seasons, myself included, are suffering from recency bias. I mean I remember joking with chase partners about how “our misery would soon be over” on frustrating, unproductive trips all the way back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s... And individual chase vacation periods are all that matter to a chase vacationer, but that’s just one data point for the overall season. For example I have seen most chasers on here generally lament 2013 as a poor season because there was minimal activity outside of a two-week period, but man that last two weeks of May was unbelievable, almost every single day had opportunities and there were three historic events (Rozel, Moore, El Reno). Never mind that I missed them all (actually flew home the morning of El Reno, as originally scheduled but failed to extend by a day) and had a comedy of errors every day, but I always look back on that as one of the most active and intense chase vacations ever.
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
1,933
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Mos Isley Space Port
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Looking more and more like late next week will mark the end of the Central / Southern Plains chase season. Been watching the ensembles closely and the trend is obvious, with a few, mid-week, NW flow events, typical of the transition. No doubt there will be opportunities in the Northern Plains and Canada when the jet retreats. Chase all you can for the next 5 or 6 days!
 
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Jeff Duda

EF6+, PhD
Staff member
Supporter
Oct 7, 2008
3,430
2,357
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Broomfield, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
Today's 12Z deterministic and ensemble GFS were pretty stingy on severe-conducive environments. Not the kind of thing you want to see if you're starting a chase-cation from the end of May through the first half of June. Thankfully, the CFS is still here to save hope.

Maybe this will verify for many chasers???
CFSUS_con_scp_474.png
 

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Jason N

EF1
Mar 2, 2021
57
51
6
South Carolina
Jeff Duda,

have you done much Verification with these models at all? I am curious because I know I haven't with models that go that far out, so I was curious on their general performance.
 
Aug 9, 2012
432
853
21
Galesburg, IL
tornadoguys.com
I just returned from another week in the plains, wasn't awful, but wasn't the best either. Still better than the weather we are getting back at home base (high of 47 yesterday with rain and low of 35 this morning....yuck). Liking what I am seeing toward the beginning to middle of June in extended range (after 6/6). Maybe we can at least get some ring of fire activity here in the Midwest. These 14+ hour drives are pretty crazy coming from West Central Illinois. Historically looking back on my chase records, June and July have brought me the most success, so I'm very optimistic here in the Midwest for a couple decent tornado days over the summer. Also its easier to enjoy a regular severe storm 10 minutes out the back-door than it is 14 hours away in Texas.
 

Jason N

EF1
Mar 2, 2021
57
51
6
South Carolina
yeah, after staring more into some of the long range model guidance, the runs are pretty consistent over the last 3-4 days on the trough developing over the western U.S..I am getting more and more glad I swapped weeks.
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,216
1,143
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
I booked a flight home on Monday, instead of staying through next weekend. I can change it if the forecast changes, but right now it doesn’t look too good next week. I have no interest in putting so much time, money and effort into northwest flow events or table scraps in southwest Texas.

I did not go up to SE CO today. I was down in Odessa last night, and it was just too much to go 6-7 hours up to CO today only to come back down tomorrow. Now I am regretting that decision as I watch events unfold... If it could be known for certain that there would be a large tornado in SE CO, it may very well have been worth all that driving. But we can only make decisions based on probabilities, which makes chasing much like playing roulette... I guess viewed from that perspective, there is no reason to beat oneself up for a bad decision that is only bad with hindsight, because the outcome was unknowable at the time of the decision...
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,216
1,143
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Regretting even more so that I didn’t go up to SE CO on Saturday - it seemed like too far to go from Odessa, only to come back down to SE NM on Sunday, but in retrospect I could have stayed up in SE CO for Sunday too...

I changed my flight from today (Monday) until tomorrow. Figured I might as well squeeze in one more day, since it will be my last chance until next year. Thinking of it as an extra, a “throwaway day,” so no pressure 😏 It’s “lame duck day” so need to stay within range of MAF for flight out. In Hobbs NM this morning and already booked a room in Odessa tonight. Have not set a target yet today but want to avoid going too far south, not just for travel distance but because road network around Fort Stockton is awful. Need to see how the outflow boundaries shake out after current morning convection moves through, but hoping I can stay roughly within an area bounded by Jal / Orla / Wink / Mentone, similar to my Friday 5/28 chase posted in the reports thread for that day.
 
Aug 9, 2012
432
853
21
Galesburg, IL
tornadoguys.com
Looks like the next uptick in activity could start as early as next Monday and continue through the week. I feel like once we get into June and July, daily chances for severe will be established anywhere from the high plains of WY/MT into the Midwest and over into New England per climatology. Up here at my place in the DVN (NWS Quad Cities) area, we have only had 1 severe thunderstorm warning for the entire CWA all year. This is the lowest value I can find on record to this point through at least 2000. An impressive statistic I wish did not have to exist for us lol.
 

Jason N

EF1
Mar 2, 2021
57
51
6
South Carolina
That's a pretty amazing statistic for that particular item. have you noticed a correlation in the number of thunderstorm days as well? or was it just the severe warned not being inside the CWA.
 

Bobby Little

Supporter
Mar 18, 2013
58
63
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58
eagle, michigan

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
7,319
889
21
51
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
Does this debunk the thread "SPC Tornado Data - is Tornado Alley moving east?" all to hell?
No, not at all. The Southeast clearly gets more tornadoes than a simple drawing of tornado alley over OK/TX would represent :)

Plus it's like taking a cold day and saying global warming is a hoax. Tornado Alley is a climate thing - annual variations are expected.
 

Jason N

EF1
Mar 2, 2021
57
51
6
South Carolina
Well , tomorrow I'm headed out west. Short term upper level pattern looks somewhat favorable in the Dakotas , Ern MT on the 7th 8th as of this moment and the last few runs on the mid range models.. after that maybe some Ern WY/MT on the 8th/9th . mayyyyyybe something on the 11th in Wrn NE. the shortness of this upper trough digging down before the models want to rebuild the ridge again... has me skeptical entirely.. but I'm gonna make the most of it. if you guys see anything worth taking a shot at, let me know.