Where is the weather?

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Greetings. I'm looking for a site which will tell me, "Look for a supercell here." Or the next best thing. On a broader level, I suppose my question is, "How do I find and identify ideal weather conditions?" See? I don't even know how to ask the question.

Background. I'm studying a basic metrological course. But my experience level is such that I need even more rudimentary information.
 
Oct 14, 2008
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Tulsa, OK
Hey Jim,

In essence, your question is "how do I forecast for severe weather (supercells and tornadoes)? Well... that's the hard part. First, you have to understand how (and to a certain extent why) the atmosphere generates severe weather. The atmosphere is a very complicated place that we don't fully understand. All kinds of big and small changes are taking place in the atmosphere all the time. Understanding how the atmosphere works will help you understand what the atmosphere does and how it interacts and modifies atmospheric ingredients to produce severe weather.

Once you understand the atmospheric processes and what goes into making a supercell--all the big picture processes (synoptic scale) and smaller scale processes (mesoscale)--you can use the tools that forecasters use to look at what the weather has been doing, what it is doing, and what it may do in the future. If you don't understand how and why the atmosphere does what it does, no tools to assess the atmosphere will help you.

College of Dupage has an excellent website with many of these tools (http://weather.cod.edu). Again though, if you don't know what to look for or what you are looking at, you won't be able to use the tools to help you find what you want.

Btw, if you ever find that "look for a (tornadic) supercell here" website, please let us know!

The closest thing that exists to what you are asking about is the SPC outlook. They will tell you generally what is happening and where. It's a general severe weather forecast for the public. But, it is not written for chasers and should not be relied on as a personal forecast.

Good luck Jim.

Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
 
Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Following assumes one has a general idea how severe weather gets going, background theory. Also assumes one has their favorite data/model websites already. Below is a very basic few keys to look for operationally.

A system: Look for surface low pressure with a trailing trough on surface charts/models. A short-wave aloft is required. One can look at 500 mb PVA, 200/300 mb winds, 700 mb short-waves, and others.

Instability: One can look at model CAPE but I'm not a fan in the extended period. I look for temps and dewpoint forecasts. 75/60 is decent right now. Like 80/65 in April. Prefer 85/70 in May none are exactly. Seen some 80/68 go nuts in May.

Wind shear: Look for speed and directional shear forecast. Very basic I want a low level jet at 850 mb 30-40 knots from the south. Look for southwest or west winds at 700/500/200/300 mb. Best if each level up is more westerly, turning with height.

Models will try to get at helicity/SRH a few days out, but I really prefer looking at each level. Even closer to event time models have instability/wind shear combos like EHI - energy helicity index. I still drill down the charts myself.

Same day those indices (EHI/SRH) add value over just eyeballing the charts. Models have equations that pick up on some vorticity same day. High-res models are designed for severe weather, so I start trusting the radar simulations 12-36 hours out.

Still, I forecast myself while using models. Divergence reduces confidence. Agreement boosts confidence.

Many other specifics require consideration, but above is a start. Each level has preferred levels of temperature, moisture, divergence, convergence, height falls, vertical motion, and more. However in classic set-ups these tend to work out.

I would focus on the Big 3: a system, instability, and wind shear.
 
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Sep 29, 2011
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Fort Worth, TX
www.passiontwist.com
Hey Jim, the best website I’ve been using so far is:

http://www.severeweatheroutlook.com/

Basically, you click on the date that you want to chase and chase in middle of the high/low whatever. It’s garenteed to find a tornado in enhanced or high risk areas.

MikeD, that's a pretty lame reply to a well-articulated, honest question. We expect better from the members at ST regarding the nurturing of new members. I will assume that in the future, you will refrain from posts such as this.
 

B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
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Jim -

1 - Welcome to StormTrack.
2 - Welcome to chasing.
3 - Don't listen to anyone who says to just park yourself in the bullseye on an SPC product and just wait. That's what amateurs do, and they fail.

Join our Discord for live-time conversations with many seasoned pros, long-time roadhands, and people who are just starting, like yourself. Of course, the forum offers a wealth of knowledge, but you are already here.

https://discord.gg/cXDPMt2
 
Aug 27, 2009
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Jim,

I know the struggle of trying to understand how to figure out where to start to your path to learn storm chasing and forecasting. There are typically a few websites that are referenced, like the Haby Hints and "read the SPC texts", which are all fairly good advice but if you are a real beginner you may have find that information a bit over your head and difficult to interpret. I personally really miss, or at least missed, a proper Storm Chasing 101-course that takes you by the hand from "What is a storm?" to interpreting skew-T diagrams as well as helping you in doing forecasting. I think many don't remember how painfully difficult it can be in the beginning. I wrote the following in a blog post some years ago as my chronological order on how to learn about the basics of storms/storm chasing:

  1. Bring out an empty notebook to take notes in. Taking notes and making your own drawings of things are a key to learn.
  2. Start with the SpotterNetwork.org training. It is an extensive training program that really take things from scratch and assumes you know very little, and by so leaves very few questions. It has a lot of examples and tons of really great graphical models that helps a lot. It ends with a quiz that will give you a hint whether you have learned anything. If you do this course you don’t really have to take the Spotterguides.us training (which is often referenced), which isn’t as good or extensive as the SpotterNetwork, in my opinion.
  3. Go through the “Storm analysis 101” instruction videos. You will benefit more from these videos if you have done the SpotterNetwork training before. You will get some good understanding of forecasting and to analyse a storm (answering questions like “What am I really looking at here”).
  4. Check out the extensive sub-forum on StormTrack.org called “Introductory weather & chasing”. At the time of writing there are 38 pages with hundreds of threads with many newbie questions. It would take forever to go through them all but on the other hand, the non-storm chasing season lasts forever so you have plenty of time This sub-forum is also great if you need to ask any questions about storms.
  5. Read the “Storm Chasing Handbook” by Tim Vasquez. Some chapters in the book are very basic and some (like the forecasting part) may be a bit too difficult at this point. It gives you, however, a good overall understanding about storm chasing, weather as well as some good-to-know stuff.
  6. Start reading the SPC (Storm Prediction Center) outlook texts. Many suggest that you start your learning by checking out the SPC text. I don’t agree. It contains far too many definitions that, for a beginner, don’t really make any sense at all. After going through the above it will start making way more sense. What you will learn from this is why a certain area is under threat of severe storms (as can be seen on their categorical outlook). It will guide you to what weather variables to look further into.
Then, when you are ready to get into forecasting you can have a look at my other blog post about it. It's the same chronological setup.

I am currently on my way to refresh my knowledge about it. I may write a proper guide about it, from an amateur's point of view.
 
Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Yes I agree SPC Outlooks and Texts are a good place to learn. SPC gives specific reasoning behind their forecasts. Also read days like this week where the tornado threat is not too high. Read most days even if no chase plans. Helps one learn to differentiate wind/hail from tornado days. SPC outlooks and discussions are a gold mine.

Yesterday in my longer post I left out STP, significant tornado parameter. Many others exist but that one deserves mention. Also I forgot to mention helicity tracks. They are just model tracks, but can add confidence (or not) to your human forecast of best cells. Again I favor these within 36 hours, even better 12-24 hours or less.
 

MikeD

EF1
Oct 10, 2017
86
6
11
Birmingham
Jim -

1 - Welcome to StormTrack.
2 - Welcome to chasing.
3 - Don't listen to anyone who says to just park yourself in the bullseye on an SPC product and just wait. That's what amateurs do, and they fail.

Join our Discord for live-time conversations with many seasoned pros, long-time roadhands, and people who are just starting, like yourself. Of course, the forum offers a wealth of knowledge, but you are already here.

https://discord.gg/cXDPMt2
Well, sorry for being toxic earlier, Jim, I got back from a tired day at work...I didn’t have any time to provide a detailed analysis, which is what I’m doing now:

@Dean and @Jim: ^^I used to park myself on the bullseye of an SPC product and caught myself a pretty nice LP supercell a couple years back. I trailed it for almost fifty miles. It was the first time I caught a supercell. It produced a brief wall cloud then came apart after exiting an area of high CAPE. The best strategy I use now is camp out near the center of the SPC analysis and head toward any thunderstorm<20 miles away that shows a sign of development. What I would look for is CAPE that is above 2000 and more than 30 knots of shear.

Here’s a couple of websites that I used to ALWAYS use.

http://www.tornadohq.com/severe-weather-map/
This website is good for identifying any severe or tornados thunderstorms.

http://www.intellicast.com/National/Nexrad/RadialVelocity.aspx
This website tells you if there is any rotation in a storm.

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/exper/mesoanalysis/new/viewsector.php?sector=19&parm=pmsl#
This website tells you the conditions for a storm in a given area.

Now, if you are willing to spend some money, is GR LEVELX’s website. Pretty much any product that they offer is top-notch.

http://www.grlevelx.com/
 
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Aug 27, 2009
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SPC Reports are great but it is NOT a good resource for beginners in my opinion. I remember when I started to learn storm chasing and got that advice. I was very confused with all the abbreviations and storm lingo. It may seem easy to read once you have learned but it didn't help. I really think the storm spotter network course is the best way to start to get a basic understanding.
 
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Reactions: Jim Keener
Feb 14, 2005
879
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Charleston, South Carolina
One idea is to set yourself up for some virtual chases. In this way, you can have the intellectual challenge of a chase, but without the costs. Act as if you will be chasing on a given day. You should choose a target. Perhaps have a primary target and a secondary target. Write up your own forecast for the day. It may be a little daunting at first but keep practicing. Go ahead and share your forecast here on Stormtrack. The day of the virtual chase, try to follow what is going on very closely, I check the Rapid Update Cycle model every hour. Keep up with the SPC's mesoanalysis and try to learn some of the terms used in the many fields there. Adjust your chasing target as often as you feel the need. See how close your target is to actual tornado reports for the day
 
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One idea is to set yourself up for some virtual chases. In this way, you can have the intellectual challenge of a chase, but without the costs. Act as if you will be chasing on a given day. You should choose a target. Perhaps have a primary target and a secondary target. Write up your own forecast for the day. It may be a little daunting at first but keep practicing. Go ahead and share your forecast here on Stormtrack. The day of the virtual chase, try to follow what is going on very closely, I check the Rapid Update Cycle model every hour. Keep up with the SPC's mesoanalysis and try to learn some of the terms used in the many fields there. Adjust your chasing target as often as you feel the need. See how close your target is to actual tornado reports for the day
Thanks, Mike.
 

MikeD

EF1
Oct 10, 2017
86
6
11
Birmingham
AD65FE18-31E0-4C58-B50A-B4170397DE49.jpeg 65D03422-ADA4-4751-80B7-0C5110C03A19.jpeg 8AC54A22-E021-433A-A88E-A46DB559900D.jpeg 31307C57-640E-464E-B147-A1817FBBDEED.jpeg Here’s a good example for something you want to watch for (the second photo). Note the inflow band in the second image. The third and fourth photos are the same storm, but only 10 minutes apart! This shows you have fast a storm can change in a short amount of time. Also, notice the slant of the updraft due to the shear. The first image is the radar of the storm.
 
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MikeD

EF1
Oct 10, 2017
86
6
11
Birmingham
The storm that I took a picture of has died. It became outflow dominant and is in the dissipating stage.

The time the storm was born: 5:03 PM

The time I took the pictures: 5:25 PM

The time the storm died: 6:07 PM

The storm’s entire life cycle: 1 hour 4 minutes