State of the Chase Season 2021

Jan 7, 2006
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@Spencer Dant , I don't want to short change your response, but am genuinely swamped this week and will have to be brief. I agree with plenty of what you say, but don't think it directly contradicts my last post. Jeff and Brett N. summed it up well: we're talking about the state of the season, and with nothing of interest in the short range, the discussion naturally flows toward broadly favorable patterns or obvious synoptic opportunities in the medium to long range. As of now, the preponderance of numerical guidance looks less promising in that regard (to me) than it did in this same timeframe in most other years I've chased. (Admittedly, I also commented that I feel some in the community are viewing our prospects through rose-tinted glasses just because the baseline we're starting from in early May and the last few years overall is so dismal, which was more contentious.)

I completely acknowledge we may have a Chapman day this year. We could even have three or four if we're lucky (although Plains soil moisture and transpiration is still not on par with 2016, which is probably relevant). I just don't see anything compelling in the ensembles suggesting a better-than-climo pattern is on its way. That doesn't mean one couldn't materialize as early as 10 days from now if we are in an especially low predictability regime -- which, given run to run shifts, I can buy. But I want to be clear: I'm not just looking at random 18z deterministic runs and melting down. I've been watching the ensembles consistently for weeks, and any impressive* signal across modeling centers has been confined to 10-12+ day lead times, then circles the drain by 5-8 day lead times. This has been happening for almost a month. For whatever it's worth, CFSv2 monthly output depicted a western ridging regime for May and June as early as last fall; although I certainly didn't watch it continuously through the winter, that scenario stayed relatively consistent. One can probably find reasonable statistical arguments or teleconnections to support an active period sometime over the next month, but in the domain of time-lagged, ensembled NWP, I'm just not seeing it right now.

*By impressive, I mean a pattern suggestive of sustained opportunity for more than "hope and pray" setups, regardless of whether there's a deep trough or outbreak scenario in play. A 4-day period of 35-kt SW flow in the ensemble mean, far removed in time from any Gulf scouring, would qualify.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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It seems that this "State of chase season 2021" thread has turned into a thread about historical evidence of global warming. That would be a good topic for a new thread.
I think it’s a logical extension of the topic. If we are to evaluate what we perceive to be a meaningful decrease in the number of good chase years in the past decade, it is reasonable to ask whether that correlates with climate change, or just reflects normal distribution across the years, i.e. a trough in activity that we have also seen in past decades like the 1980s.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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All of this is not to say that there won't be a rogue career day in June for some of us, but we're looking at the overall pattern. And the overall pattern is enough to make you choose a different hobby.
Well said, and reminds me of a quote I saved from @Brett Roberts from last year: “Plains storm chasing may now be a less sensible obsession than its short history of wide participation (i.e., the 1980s-2010) had perhaps led us to believe.”

It has always been tough to be so invested in something I can only do two weeks per year, and is so subject to disappointment at the whims of nature. At least when you live on the Plains, you always have the hope that something good will come up any day, but when you pin your hopes on a one or two week chase vacation it can get pretty depressing. I’m not going to stop chasing, but it does tend to reduce my motivation to spend a ton of time improving my skills in analysis, forecasting, etc. during the year. I just don’t want to build myself up for disappointment. The return on investment of time and energy, not to mention money, just doesn't seem to be there anymore. Although, I continue to question how much of our perception is statistically valid, versus subjective. Are we too nostalgic about “the good old days,” and failing to realize just how few and far between the best days have always been?

In any event, looks like there could be a couple days of good chasing in TX on Monday and Tuesday next week, but it’s far from a classic pattern, with a closed low that appears to weaken as it ejects. Maybe enough residual flow to squeak out an opportunity on Wednesday, but it looks pretty bad after that. My own trip doesn’t start until the weekend of the 22nd. In past years I’ve had flexibility to change the timing of my trip, although still limited to two weeks. I don’t have that flexibility this year, but if I did it would be a tough call as to whether to head out for this next setup. It doesn’t look great by any means, but there’s always a risk in letting it go in exchange for a future period that might be better but could more easily be worse. It’s somewhat liberating to have my times set and not have to make such a decision this year, although it would definitely be agonizing if next week did in fact look more classic.
 

Jeff House

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Jun 1, 2008
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Up until this morning I was about to settle for next week (May 17). Upon looking at the 00Z guidance, ECMWF and GFS meeting in the middle, I just can't justify a trip next week. @JamesCaruso I think starting May 22 is as good as any time.

End of May both CFS and ECWMF weekly shows hope. EC is more May 24 week. CFS is more May 31 week. Both have been awful; however, those are excellent weeks by climo.

Back to next week. So I'm debating whether to go ahead, but I'm flexible. Wait for May 24 week? Ensemble spaghettis show a mix of West trough, closed low, and ridge. Typical spread tbh. OK, so go with the known - closed low week of May 17. Looking at today's guidance I just can't justify the trip. Postponed again!

Personal calendar is a hot mess the end of May and beginning of June. I don't open up again until the middle of June. That's a longer trip from Tenn. Perhaps this is the year to stop jawboning about it, and actually chase the High / Northern Plains.
 
Apr 13, 2009
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Mods, sorry if I am hijacking this thread, feel free to move.

Clearly, with warmer global temperatures, violent tornadoes are less frequent. See nearby graph. View attachment 21596

The increasing number in the South and Southeast are likely temporary and part of the somewhat cyclical pattern first documented by Ted Fujita. There Is Nothing New About the Hypothesis Tornado Alley Has Moved East



"Is climate change affecting chasing? Absolutely. Is it eliminating chasing? I don't know, and I'm far enough removed from my studies to call myself an expert anymore."
I disagree that we have evidence that S&V tornadoes are becoming less frequent. I'm not saying that you are wrong. I am saying that I don't feel the tornado data is trustworthy enough. Tornadoes prior to the Fujita scale (1970s) were "back rated" from news and other reports. Toss them out and the trendline flattens. I also heard that in the 1980s a high rating on a tornado required extra forms and a review from above, so raters leaned toward lower ratings. Finally, the EF scale raised the bar for high end tornadoes (e.g., El Reno was an EF3 because no damage indicators above EF3).

That said, the graph does show how quiet recent years have been!

On a slightly different note, I think Southeastern tornadoes were probably underreported from the 1950s-???, so "Tornado Alley" may not be shifting, but it may be that we are counting tornadoes more accurately. Tornado Alley should be retired anyway. It may or may not reflect where tornadoes are most common, and it certainly doesn't reflect where they are most deadly.

(I'll crawl back in my hole now and let this thread return to its usual angst of the State of the Season.)
 
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Oct 10, 2004
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Yet another year of watching the days roll by as the "Severe Weather Climatology" maps on the SPC site turn a deep vermillion over the Plains and Midwest while literally nothing happens. Tells you all you need to know about the state of the "chase season," and as has been alluded to in recent posts, there are no strong signals in NWP of that changing in the foreseeable future.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Yet another year of watching the days roll by as the "Severe Weather Climatology" maps on the SPC site turn a deep vermillion over the Plains and Midwest while literally nothing happens
Awesome, going to add that to my “notable and quotable“ notebook, along with the lines from Brett Roberts and Brett Nickeson that I quoted above. Perfect expressions of the angst of this unfortunate avocation we have chosen, or that chose us...
 

Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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I have decided I am not going to gamble to see if Late May or June things turn around. I am heading out from Phoenix Saturday to chase anything that happens the first half of next week. A bare bones LP supercell in the Texas panhandle would make me very happy.
I'm also heading out this weekend. I rely heavily on local NWS forecast discussions this time of year. More than one location is using the "T-word" for the extended. I've found over the years that local offices are much better at forecasting their own weather over other sources, including social media -- where the season has been declared DOA. This is especially true in E. NM, SE CO and the Texas Panhandle where jiggy storms appear out of thin air and drop tubes with 35kt. shear. I'm also not buying some of the extended 500mb forecasts. I'll worry about the cap and LCL's later. Good luck!
 
Aug 9, 2012
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We are heading out this weekend for much of next week (at least the first half anyway). I'm currently eyeing the SUN-WED time-frame for the best potential of severe especially over the TX Panhandle into Southern//Western Oklahoma. After mid-week though, things diverge and there is quite a bit of uncertainty in the pattern. At least most global models are showing *something* to chase for a few days, it certainly looked worse a few days ago. Originally we were planning a week+ (10 day) long trip, but we decided that it doesn't make sense to just drive around and spend money on motels with nothing going on for extended periods. If the pattern dies mid-week, probably will come back home, recharge, and look forward to the next uptick in activity :).
 

Mitch Drabenstott

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May 4, 2021
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Hey guys - long time lurker but first time poster.

My chase vacation is scheduled from May 22-29 out of OKC. And I’m liking what I’m seeing for that week. The GFS/CMC/Euro deterministic runs + ensembles are pretty consistent in above normal 500mb height anomalies east of the Mississippi River, at least for the first half of that time period. The uncertainty lies in how the western trough is oriented and how long it sticks around, but I’ll take my chances with a ridge in the east in late May anytime. There’s bound to be at least a couple really good chase days in there.
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Today's SPC Day 4-8 outlook actually makes it sound like the upcoming period might not be entirely horrible. Of course, you have to adjust for Broyles (who never met a severe potential he didn't like), but an improvement over the abomination this May has been so far.
 
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Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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There may also be some NW flow events (e.g. late season) that will have to be watched carefully. The big question is if the season will suddenly end after this run of events, as the NCEP Ensembles are trying to set up a summer pattern during the last week in May. I'm not buying it yet, but the rule in this drought climatology is to chase when you can.
 
Oct 10, 2004
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There may also be some NW flow events (e.g. late season) that will have to be watched carefully. The big question is if the season will suddenly end after this run of events, as the NCEP Ensembles are trying to set up a summer pattern during the last week in May. I'm not buying it yet, but the rule in this drought climatology is to chase when you can.
Does it really end if it never began?
 

Paul Bird

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Aug 24, 2016
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We are heading out this weekend for much of next week (at least the first half anyway). I'm currently eyeing the SUN-WED time-frame for the best potential of severe especially over the TX Panhandle into Southern//Western Oklahoma. After mid-week though, things diverge and there is quite a bit of uncertainty in the pattern. At least most global models are showing *something* to chase for a few days, it certainly looked worse a few days ago. Originally we were planning a week+ (10 day) long trip, but we decided that it doesn't make sense to just drive around and spend money on motels with nothing going on for extended periods. If the pattern dies mid-week, probably will come back home, recharge, and look forward to the next uptick in activity :).
The 22nd onward is starting to look pretty interesting. Especially if the 0z Euro is to be believed. Best run we've had in awhile and a few other models are showing signs as well.

The gfs seems all over the place at the moment, but eastern ridging and western troughing are starting to appear favorable over the last 10 days of May.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Great news above about 5/22 forward. My trip is locked in for that timeframe so I have avoided looking too far ahead. Nothing I can do about it, no flexibility to go this week instead, so just have to deal with it for better or worse. If I could, I would probably go out weeks of 5/15 and 5/22, instead of 5/22 and 5/29. Only decision now is whether 5/22 looks good enough to justify missing my daughters’ dance recital, but I don’t need to make that call quite yet.
 
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Paul Bird

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Aug 24, 2016
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Great news above about 5/22 forward. My trip is locked in for that timeframe so I have avoided looking too far ahead. Nothing I can do about it, no flexibility to go this week instead, so just have to deal with it for better or worse. If I could, I would probably go out weeks of 5/15 and 5/22, instead of 5/22 and 5/29. Only decision now is whether 5/22 looks good enough to justify missing my daughters’ dance recital, but I don’t need to make that call quite yet.
The 12z gfs is beginning to phase the cutoff and the trough is digging deeper it appears. Personally I feel potential has a higher ceiling for the latter time frame you mentioned. There will certainly be chase days next week, I would just rather roll the dice on a trough instead of cutoff chasing personally.

My dates are also locked, 20th to the 27th, so that may be wishful thinking on my part. Certainly liking these latest solutions better though.
 
Jun 4, 2018
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I have my leave approved for the 17th thru to memorial day weekend. I'm in Altus, so minimal travel for me, but I'll definitely be spending this weekend doing final checks on the car/ cameras so I can roll at a moment's notice. Having grown up in Alabama, this will only be my 2nd time chasing the plains (chased north Texas on 20 May 2019, but missed the action to the north). I'm really looking forward to it and hoping to finally get my first tornado. Be safe everyone!