Tim Samaras' Storm Chasing Blog

Sunday-- September 10, 2006

The formal portion of the fielding program is over. We have collected close to 50 reasonable images out of the 450+ files. Several of the better files clearly show the stepped leader slowly working towards the ground producing numerous branches. These were captured during the daytime.

The informal portion of the fielding will continue as work/family schedules permit.

Several runs were performed on the ultra-high speed, but due to the fixed long lens of this camera, these runs were unsuccessful. We do have one run that might have some images. It was a time when we were running the camera slowly (100,000 frames/second), and its possible that we might have caught one return stroke. The film will be processed this week.

I wish to thank everyone who has helped/participated in this field program. We have logged over 7,000 miles between 5 states looking for electricly active thunderstorms. At times, we got more than we bargained for with tornado-warned storms, and being too close to the lightning strikes.

Thursday-- September 7, 2006

Currently in Roswell, NM. The past couple of days we chesed some incredible electrical storms moving from the Colorado border to Roswell.

We have collected well over 350 files on the digital high speed imagery. Unfortunately, more than half of these files are likely strikes buried in the thunderstorm, or strikes outside the field of veiw.

This is normal, considering the random event we're trying to capture. Yesterday, we had several close hits where the stepped leader was actually too bright. Even at 10,000 frames/second we had only 4-5 frames because we were so close.

These close-up images show continuted stepped leader branching even 20-30 meters from the ground before contact.

It will take considerable time to evaluate/convert all these files, but needless to say, we have captured some astounding imagery of this stepped leader process.

We did run the Beckman & Whitley yesterday, and we might have a strike in the field of view-but not likely. The camera's optics is simply too tight. During the run, the strike is thought to have happened just outside the field of view. We'll process the film to check. This is something that has to be corrected for the future.

Today is the last day of the formal fielding operations. Carl and Carsten fly home tomorrow (Friday), thus we need to return to Denver by tomorrow mid-morning. Rich left last night. The equipment will still be in operation for the next several weeks, thus will continue to collect data as work/family schedules permit.

Today's target is along I-40 in eastern New Mexico. Time of departure is 10 AM MDT.

Monday-- September 4, 2006

Currently in Denver, CO

Last two days were down, as a strong cold front swept through the entire front range removing most of the moisture and instability needed for thunderstorms.


Thunderstorms are possible next to the foothills, but with limited moisture and instability, the threat is not very high. Will evaluate late this morning to determine if its worth a trip.


Moisture and instability returns to southeast Colorado and northeast New Mexico for thunderstorms. Departure likely for Raton Mesa/Lamar, CO area.


Thunderstorm frequency is expected to increase along the Colorado front range this week. Fielding is likely through this week.

Concenrated fielding efforts will end by this weekend. The program will then move to a part-time/availability basis as current job/family committments will allow.

Friday-- September 1, 2006

Currently in Lamar, CO

Wednesday, August 30th was a down day-returned to Denver to pick up supplies, and perform some modifications to the equipment.

Thursday, August 31st, was a very active/productive evening. Several images were collected just east of Limon, CO, then near Kit Carson, CO, as the MCS (Mesoscale Convective System) propagated eastward across the CO, KS Border. By 10 PM, the system then produced mainly cloud to cloud

(CC) lightning, thus most of strikes were buried in the rain.

A few runs of the digital camera caught the return stroke half way up to

cloud base.

We dropped east, then drove south through a small part of Kansas to get into position to capture the few cloud to ground (CG) just west of Holly, CO to finish up the evening. Returned to Lamar at 1 AM.


Current forecast trends indicate thunderstorm activity initiating off the higher terrain in CO along a surging cold front that is expected to move through CO late this evening.

Depart at 12 noon MDT for a target of Limon, CO.


Northeast New Mexico offers possibilities for tomorrow, but will make final determination in the morning.


Sunday looks grim for thunderstorm activity at the moment, and likely return to Denver.

Tuesday-- August 29, 2006

Currently in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

More imagery was collected southeast of Carlsbad on the 28th (last evening) on one non-severe thunderstorm. Approximately 20 runs were completed with the digital high speed camera, and 3 attempts were made with the Ultra-High Speed (UHS) camera. The lightning frequency was a strike every 30 seconds, but the strike zone was too random for the UHS camera.

Sunday evening was too eventful for fielding. We targeted a strong cell that initiated west of Boise City, OK, and followed it through the panhandle where the lightning frequency was at a rate of 5 hits per second-actually too much! We had issues of triggering at that point, plus the storm began to surge toward our direction past dusk. The supercell then became tornado warned after dark, and we were in the projected path within two miles(a bit of irony given our 'tornado season'). Fritch, Texas had wind damage and loss of power after storm passage. Likely it wasn't tornado damage, as none were reported. The storm also produced baseball hail. We were constantly moving, thus had difficulties with image capture.

The storm was simply moving too fast for us to collect any meaningful data Sunday evening.


Current forecast trends indicate thunderstorm activity in northeast New Mexico. Possible target of Des Moines, NM by 4 PM. Depart by 10 AM.

Wednesday is likely a travel day back to Colorado for possible frontal passage through northeast Colorado on Thursday, then follow the front southeast for Friday.

Sunday-- August 27, 2006

Currently in Lamar, CO. We set up late last night in attemps to capture

the severe-warned storm moving east out of Pueblo, CO. The frequency of

the lightning was running about 7 strikes/minute-which was adequate for some digital high-speed photography.

We reviewed some of the digital imagery last night, and were able to CAPTURE the stepped leader working down before the return stroke. The high-speed digital camera was running 200 microseconds between frames, and captured 3 frames of the stepped leader. Measured a total of ~400 microseconds for the stepped leader to 'work' from cloud base to ground.

Pictures are quite amazing.

Due to the incredible dynamic range of the Phantom digital camera, we were able to see the stepped leader, as the exposure was set for the return stoke. The strike was ~7 miles away. When the storm got closer,

the storm weakened, thus the cloud to ground (CG) strikes were beginning

to be buried in the precipitation, thus terminated the operation for the


Today, the current forecast indicates that we should have another round of severe storms initiating in southeast Colorado.

Target for today:

Lamar, CO to Boise City, OK.

Saturday-- August 26, 2006

Work finished up Thursday, and Carsten Peter, Carl Young have arrived in

Denver early in the week for the fielding experiment.

Our first shake-down trip was yesterday, Friday August 25th. The equipment and the trailer performed perfectly. We drove towards Limon,

then worked back towards Colorado Springs trying to get into position for some active storms moving off the front range. Unfortunately, the lightning frequency dropped off considerably along with storm intensity as these storms moved east into cooler, more stable air. We did manage to get some optical measurements to validate the triggering system which

worked perfectly.

Today, numerous slow-moving thunderstorms are expected under upslope flow, and a possible Denver convergance zone (an area of enhanced thunderstorm development due to a wind shift line) could form just east of Denver.

A couple of non-supercell tornadoes are not out of the question.

Target: Bennett to Ft. Morgan line.

Monday-- August 21, 2006

Work has progressed well up to date in preparation for fielding. The camera has been tested up to 600,000 frames/second, and the LCD shutter/driver assembly has been tested to open/close within 50 microseconds.

E-field meter is now operational with a PC-based moving graphic display.

Carsten Peter will join me tonight, and Carl Young will join us Wednesday evening. The first field trip will likely commence either Thursday or Friday to either New Mexico, or somewhere in the northern plains.

Wednesday-- June 29, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Lakewood, Colorado.

Current forecast for severe weather and tornadoes remain unfavorable for operations.

The fielding program will officially close as of today, June 28th. However, one or two trips to the midwest may be possible using a very limited crew if weather conditions suggest a strong chance of tornadoes through the summer and early fall.

This extension is due to the very poor fielding results during the spring of 2006, where only a few 'spin-ups' and one tornado were observed.

The investigator wishes to express thanks to the entire crew that participated during the 2006 fielding that endured over 20,000 miles (estimated) covering 12 states. This year was especially difficult, as there were few/no 'rewards' for the efforts expended.

It was a real pleasure to work with the mobile mesonet teams, Iowa State University participants, and visiting scientists.

Thanks to Texas Tech University, and CSWR for the few days of collaberation during this tough season.

Monday-- June 26, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Lakewood, Colorado.

Due to current weather conditions, our fielding operations will stand down for most of this week. The active portion of this program will likely draw to a close on Wednesday, June 28th, pending a review of the forecasted weather situation in the midwest.

After the first of July, the program will be on-call through the Summer/early Fall for significant severe weather events that could come together for the plains. These summertime fielding efforts will be on a non-interfering basis with other unrelated program/job responsibilities of the investigator. This additional fielding is due to the very unproductive spring season thus far. Status updates will now be sent on a non-daily basis.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Next update:

A fielding status message will be sent on Wednesday, June 28th.

Saturday-- June 24, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Lakewood, Colorado.

Today is likely a down day, however will continue to monitor for a possible local chase in Colorado. Upslope flow along with H5 northwesterly flow will result in a marginal opportunity.

Tomorrow will likely be down, as conditions are unfavorable for operations.

Mobile mesonet/ISU teams will return home.


Again, the prospects look grim for the next week. Will continue to monitor for any small changes in the current weather pattern that would suggest a possible good day.

The season of 2006 will likely go down as one of the worst seasons (as far as targetable tornadoes), in the 20 years of being in the field.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Friday-- June 23, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Lakewood, Colorado.

Yesterday, the team targeted the Limon-Lamar area for operations. Storms initiated in the early afternoon near Kiowa, Colorado, thus a tornado watch was issued. Intercepted several tornado-warned storms, however these were all undercut with cool/cold outflow thus reducing the tornado potential significantly. There were a couple of tornadoes reported, however some were bogus as these (again) were forward-flank spinups as we witnessed near Punkin Center, Colorado.

Today, meager moisture combined with weak upslope flow creates a very marginal setup for severe weather in Colorado and the Nebraska panhandle. It is possible that a high-based hailstorm might cross through the panhandle of Nebraska, however, tornado potential is very low.

Today will be a down day, but will continue to monitor.

Tomorrow and the future:

At the moment, the future looks grim. The mobile mesonet team and the ISU group will return home either today or tomorrow, thus likely ending their participation for the year.

Tomorrow is likely down.

It is possible that operations may have one more shot around the end of June/first of July with the next system moving through. If this comes to play, then a very scaled back crew (one vehicle, with possible participation with the mobile mesonets) may attempt one more trip.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Next update:

A fielding status message will be sent on Saturday, June 24th.

Thursday-- June 22, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Lakewood, Colorado.

On June 20th, the team targeted the area around Sioux City, Iowa. Waited until sunset, no storms initiated. Overnighted in Ames, Iowa.

Yesterday, the team targeted eastern Colorado around the Burlington to Goodland area. Chose to ignore the early storms that formed east of Pueblo, and waited for the storms to (hopefully) initiate off the outflow boundary in east-central Colorado/western Kansas. By late evening, two storms did initiate near Burlington, Colorado thus the northern storm was targeted. Both storms were tornado warned approximately 1 hour after initiation by the Goodland, Kansas NWS office.

The team witnessed a tornado that was on the ground for approximately two minutes 15 miles north of Vona, Colorado at sunset. Tornado was too short lived for any deployment attempts. Mobile surface observations (mobile mesonet data) were recorded in and near these multiple storm interactions, and through tornado genesis.

Finally, a tornado.

Today, the target is southeast Colorado in moderate upslope flow. Very large hail is forecasted today, with a reasonable threat for tornadoes. Excellent low level shear is suggested by the forecast model data.

Depart at 11:15 AM

Future outlook looks grimm at the moment.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Next update:

A fielding status message will be sent on Friday, June 22nd.

Tuesday-- June 20, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in York, Nebraska

Today's setup isn't very clear, as issues with shear and moisture abound. Surface/model data showing poor moisture in Iowa with possible pooling working from the south. This will be a day of carefully watching the surface observations. Storm initiation should be at or beyond 22z. Will be meeting up with Bruce Lee/Cathy Finley's mobile mesonet crew and Steve Moore that wants to use an IR camera for storm observations.

Sioux City, Iowa will be our starting point.

Depart at 9:45 CDT

Tomorrow is too early to tell, however potential targets of Kansas City or somewhere in Indiana are possibilities.

Hawaii sounds good.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Next update:

A fielding status message will be sent on Wednesday, June 21th.

Monday-- June 19, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Lakewood, Colorado.

Today the forecast models suggest upslope flow over the Cheyenne Ridge in southeast Wyoming and northeast Colorado. Moisture should steadily return into this region during the day today. The capping layer is a concern as 700 mb temps soar to +15 degrees. The higher terrain should inititate storms. Potentail target is Kimball, Nebraska.

Depart at 12 PM.

After the fielding today, the team will drive east into central Nebraska for positioning for the next day's target of eastern Nebraska or northwestern Iowa. Ample moisture, along with strong shear could create a significant severe threat for the midwest on Tuesday.

Team will join Bruce Lee/Cathy Finely and their mobile mesonet team sometime on Tuesday.

Future outlooks suggest that zonal/northwest flow will settle into the area, thus will diminish any significant severe threats.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Next update:

A fielding status message will be sent on Tuesday, June 20th.

Sunday-- June 18, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently, back in Salina, Kansas

Yesterday, the team witnessed the messy storms that formed along an outflow boundary northeast of Lawton, OK. These storms quickly became outflow dominate and surged east. By late afternoon, we abandoned these storms and targeted another storm to the west of the growing MCS that initiated north of Elk City. Great structure was witnessed with this storm, but no tornadoes. Another storm initiated near Enid, however the convection dissipated upon our arrival.

Today is a down day.

Return to Lakewood.

Tomoorow, possible upslope storms in northeast Colorado.

Tuesday hold promise in northeast Iowa as one last big day before zonal/northeast flow settles in the midwest for several days.

Departure today is 9:00 AM CDT.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Next update:

A fielding status message will be sent on Monday, June 19th.

Saturday-- June 17, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Salina, Kansas

Thursday, the team caught a supercell at dusk roughly 40 miles southwest of Jamestown, North Daktoa. The storm was severe warned, but no tornadoes. Drove to Winner, SD for the night.

Yesterday, the target was southwest Kansas where the flow was stronger, and the moisture was forecasted to improve with time. Isolated storms initiated by late morning in eastern Colorado and by early afternoon, have formed into an impressive line of storms. The team intercepted several tornado warned storms, but most/all reports were from gustnado-type circulations forming on the forward flank. We observed several of these-some of which were quite strong and persistant.

Today, the target is along the Red River, south of Lawton, Oklahoma. Excellent shear, great moisture are in place for a reasonable chance of supercells and possible tornadoes. Cloud cover is present over most of Oklahoma, but is forecasted to burn off by early-mid afternoon, thus the atmosphere should destabilize quickly for storm initiation by late afternoon.

ISU students James and Adam are returning home to Ames, and Rusty and Joe have met us in Salina to assist for the next two weeks.

Tomorrow looks minimal for operations, with weakening shear. Likely down, but will evaluate tonight.

Beyond tomorrow looks a bit depressing at the moment.

Departure is 9:00 AM CDT.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Next update:

A fielding status message will be sent on Sunday, June 18th.

Thursday-- June 15, 2006

Currently in Bismark, North Dakota.

Yesterday, the team gave 'chase' to a fast moving system that initiated west of Sheridan, Wyoming and moved quicly through Montana and into North Dakota. No tornadoes were reported, however, extreme winds of near 100 mph were reported in Glendive with numerous reports of damage late in the evening.

Today, our target is north of Aberdeen, South Dakota, where the best moisture and strong upper flow are present. Mid level flow is a problem, as it appears to drop off in time, which will be the biggest issue with our forecast.

Tomorrow might be a down day, but possible operations in Kansas somewhere. Long term forecasts suggest a couple of down days through the weekend.

Departure is 11:30 CDT.

Equipment status:

Probes/equipment: 100%,

Wednesday-- June 14, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Yesterday, a supercell initiated off the Black Hills in South Dakota, and moved southeast. Due to very weak flow, the team decided not to pursue this storm that only produced marginally severe hail. No other storms initiated.

Today, the target is east central Montana or western North Dakota. The capping layer will be a significant issue today with forecasted 700 temperatures of +15C or higher. Model data suggests that no precipitation will initiate before 0z. If storms initiate, supercells are likely with an attendant tornado threat.

Will coordinate with CSWR/DOW team, as they are currently located in Buffalo, Wyoming.

Tomorrow, the capping layer gets stronger, thus raises the concern of storm initiation in the eastern ND/SD target area. Bruce Lee/Cathy Finley's mobile mesonet team will join us sometime tomorrow. Hopefully we all won't roast in the horrific northern plains sunshine.

The fuitless 2006 season continues...

Tuesday-- June 13, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently located in Newcastle, Wyoming.

On June 11th, the team was west of Scottsbluff, Nebraska where a supercell was intercepted. The storm was tornado warned for several hours, but no tornado was observed. Coordinated with TTU and CSWR. CSWR/mobile Doppler radar did detect a possible brief tornado within the storm. Mobile mesonets returned home after the intercept.

June 12th, the team monitored severe storms near Kimball, Nebraska and near Newcastle, Wyoming on a drive/repositioning day. Storms were severe warned, but in a weakly sheared environment, no tornadoes reported.

Today, a marginal setup for northwest Montana with improving shear with initiation off the higher terrain. Another potential target is the black hills of South Dakota, but again, shear is pretty marginal. Will continue to evaluate the situation for target selection.

Tomorrow, conditions improve for possible operations in western South Dakota.

Sunday-- June 11, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently in Ogallala, Nebraska. Intercepted storms that were initiated from the higher terrain in Wyoming. Storms were tornado warned for several hours as the gust front pushed to the southeast trying to spin up forward flank circulations. Some of these were reported to the National Weather Service, and are included in the database as tornadoes. Mobile mesonets captured wind speeds of 60 knots or more as the team drove east trying to get ahead of the surging gust front/circulations.

Today appears to be a repeat of yesterday, with the exception of less shear. Storms should initiate off the higher terrain of the Cheyenne ridge. No hurry today, as the target is only an hour away from Ogallala.

Tomorrow will likely be a down/reposition day for travel to Montana for a hopefull active period in the northern plains through Thursday, June 15th.

Met up with Carsten Peter yesterday in Ogallala. Likely return to Denver briefly to return Carsten's rental vehicle on Monday if time allows.

Saturday-- June 10, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located west of Omaha, Nebraska driving west on I-80

Target today is the Nebraska panhandle around the Chadron, Nebraska area. Upslope flow and reasonable moisture (at least for the high plains) are in place this morning for possible supercells and tornadoes.

Met up with Bruc Lee's mobile mesonet team (sub_ANSWERS) in Sioux City around 2 PM.

Yesterday, the team targeted northwest Iowa where the extreme temperatures initiated thunderstorms around the Yankton, South Dakota area. The storm bases were high (as expected), however the storm did go severe for a period of time while it moved east across the river into Iowa. Appears that the developing storm detected our loaction and promptly died as it moved into Iowa. Chase was terminated at sunset.

Tomorrow continues to look promising as upslope flow continues in the Nebraska panhandle.

Carsten Peter arrived in Denver very late Friday night, and missed his flight to Omaha. He will rent a car in Denver and drive out to Ogalalla early this afternoon to meet up with us.

Friday-- June 9, 2006

Currently located in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

Last night we targeted a supercell in central Montana that produced 2.75" hail. No tornadoes reported.

Today, it appears the the tornado threat is low due to the extreme daytime temperatures over the target area of the Yankton to Sioux Falls area with the dewpoint depression very high. Moisture is a big concern, as well with conflicting model data showing different values. Current observations show a thin ribbon along the Nebraska/Iowa border that continues to build slowly.

Certainly, we had much higher hopes for today.

Tomorrow looks promising with upslope flow across the Nebraska panhandle. If additional moisture is available in this area, a reasonable tornado threat is likely.

Meeting up with Bruce Lee and his group this afternoon.

Thursday-- June 8, 2006

Current fielding status:

Cheyenne, Wyoming driving north on I-25

Target today is Spearfish, South Dakota, and points eastward. Not a great setup today, as dewpoint depressions are quite high, thus the threat for tornadoes is low. Jimmy and Adam made it in late last night as well as Carl, so currently have a crew of four people.

Eastern Nebraska/western Iowa appear favorable tomorrow for supercells and possible tornadoes. Shear could be better, however the forecast is one of more promising for the last couple of weeks.

Carsten Peter is planning to join us sometime during the weekend pending his flight travel to the US from Germany.

Wenesday-- June 7, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located in Lakewood, CO.

Marginal setup for tomorrow in western South Dakota. Will evaluate the prospects late tonight for a go, no-go determination.

Friday, and through the weekend, appears to be favorable for severe weather in the northern plains/midwest.

Adam, Jimmy, and Carl are arriving today.

We'll be prepared to leave early in the morning if the conditions improve.

Tuesday -- June 6, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located in Lakewood, CO.

Conditions are improving for the northern plains. Southwesterly/zonal flow returns to the Dakotas starting as early as tomorrow evening. Thursday appears to be reasonable (not perfect by any means) to target the northern plains. Moisture is meager at best, but pickin's are getting slim.

Teams should plan on possible field trips to the northern plains on Thursday, June 8th. Out of town team members should use tomorrow as their travel day to be in Denver for possible very early departure Thursday morning. Prepare for a multiple day trip (5-7 days)

Monday -- June 5, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located in Lakewood, CO.

Appears to be a good setup today for a large hail/strong wind event across Nebraska and northern Kansas along a cold front that will progress southeastward. Tornado possibilities are quite low, but not out of the question.

No fielding efforts planned today. Crews should watch further updates for activation later in the week, as the weather conditions improve.

Sunday -- June 4, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located in Lakewood, CO

Current model data suggests that the forecast of the appropriate storms for tornadoes continues to look grim. Northwesterly flow prevails over the midwest causing temperatures to soar in the central plains.

No anticipated fielding for the next couple of days. Next ISU crew should be alert/plan for travel to Denver for anticipation of next system that is forecasted to move through the northern plains late this week.

Thursday -- June 2, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located in Lakewood, CO. Fielding will stand down for the next several days, as northwest flow and meager moisture are very marginal for tornadoes. High-based storms are likely in Nebraska and South Dakota the next several days, with soaring temperatures (high dewpoint depression) and a strong cap.

Some relief in sight is suggested in one long-range forecast around the 5th to the 7th of June in Montana and the Dakotas. Will continue to monitor for possible assembly of the next crew for the upcoming week.

We're hoping that June will be a big improvement over May.

Thursday -- June 1, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located in Lakewood, CO

Team spent the night in Boise City, Oklahoma on the evening of May 30th after targeting storms in southeast Colorado/Oklahoma panhandle. These storms (from what we observed) were outflow dominate, and didn't see any tornadoes.

On May 31st, the team targeted the possibility of upslope storms in eastern Colorado, and targeted Limon, Colorado as a start point. Once storm initiated off the Colorado front range, they moved into the high plains where it formed a rather ugly line producing large hail and high winds. We followed this line of storms to the Kansas border where we observed a persistant(10 minutes) dusty rotation on the forward flank of the storm as it passed north of Cheyenne Wells, Colorado. Chase was terminated at sunset, and returned to Lakewood (Denver).

Short term/long term forecast:

Current model trend shows a ridge building back into the entire area starting today, with no relief in sight until June 7-10th.

The team will likely remain down for the next several days while temperatures will likely soar across the midwest close to the century mark through the weekend.

Heather and Elise will return back home tomorrow (June 2), Carl will also return home for a period of time.

Crew endured very well after touring 9 states, and driving ~5,000 miles in little over a week.

Current crew for week of May 31:


Equipment status:

Probes: 100%, service work being performed on second vehicle to resolve issues with transmission today. During the down time we will network both vehicles together through WIFI connections for data availability for second vehicle.

Next update:

A fielding status message will be sent on Friday, June 2nd

Tuesday -- May 30, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located in Junction City, Kansas.

On May 28th, target was northeast of Devils Lake, North Dakota. The capping layer held most of the evening, thus preventing significant storm development. One storm did form in the cold pool late Saturday evening, thus was quickly outflow dominate. Bruce Lee and his team joined us late. Overnighted in Fargo, North Dakota.

On May 29th, we decided to drive south to the stationary boundary which was expected to stall in northeast Kansas. Bruce's team returned home due to marginal conditions for the next few days. Team arrived at a developing storm northwest of Junction City, Kansas around 6 PM CDT. Storm exhibited good rotation at the base with a few funnels accompanied with a ground circulation that persisted for ~60 seconds. Later, the storm became outflow dominate, and was tornado warned after dark. We watched the storm from the south a few miles, no tornadoes observed.

Today, upslope flow is forecasted for southwest Kansas with 35 knt mid level southwesterly flow from a minor disturbance due to move through the area by late today. Tornado threat is not high, but not out of the question. Target today is around Dodge City, Kansas.

Tomorrow offers possible operations under weakening flow, but Thursday and beyond will mark the beginning of a building ridge in the Midwest, thus likely shutting down operations for a painful period of time.

Sunday -- May 28, 2006

Current fielding status:

Located Lakota, ND.

Chased the lone supercell last evening northwest of Devil's Lake, ND. Unfortunately, this storm formed on the west side of the stationary boundary in the cold air and promptly became outflow dominate.

The storm became tornado warned (only storm in ND that did) for a brief period of time. The National Weather Service put the warning out when the storm split, and developed 'book-end vortices'. We followed the northern book end as it moved north, creating several funnels and sustained rotation for over 10 minutes, alas, no tornadoes reported.

The same storm created 3" hail in Bisbee, ND with local flooding.

Today, the prospects are marginal for tornado producing storms with meager upper flow for the northern plains, and so-so moisture.

At the moment we're targeting the area around Lakota, ND and points north east probably through the tri-border area of ND, MN and Manitoba

Bruce Lee and his team will likely join us today, and will collectively refine the forecast.

Long term forecast:

After Wednesday, the long range forecast is grim with a ridge building over the midwest. Current model trends suggest no relief in sight until June 10th!

Absolutely horrible.

Saturday -- May 27, 2006 Current fielding status:

Located in Winner, South Dakota.

Yesterday, the team intercepted a high-based supercell with no tornadoes. Dewpoint depression was too high, with meager upper flow.

Sure beats sitting in a motel room all day.

Today, looks like north east North Dakota with storms likely if enough moisture is present and the capping layer can be broken.

Depart at 8:30 CDT.

Thursday -- May 25, 2006

Currently driving west on I-80 to Denver.

Yesterday, was a tough day to chase. We waited near Davenport, Iowa for several hours waiting for storm initiation. A large cluster of storms were on-going in Missouri moving to the east at 45 mph. Although this large cluster of storms did have a couple reports of tornadoes, it would have been very difficult to chase due to its size multi-cellular structure, and forward speed.

A line of storms formed in southwestern Wisconsin where it was decided by late afternoon to pursue. We were within 60 miles of the storm when the first tornado warning was issued. Being that these storms were isolated (at the time) it was determined that the next storm southward would go tornadic, which it did, but did not arrive in time to witness the reported tornado. Team members did see condensation to the ground on the southern storm, but did not see any rotation. The isolated storms later formed a line into Illinois, thus the chase was terminated.

Today, there is a good possibility of storms, some producing tornadoes, but in areas where it would be too dangerous to deploy. The area is southern Indiana and Kentucky where hills and trees would prevent good visibility.

Decision is to return to Denver for equipment repairs (described below) and wait for the next system due to arrive in the northern plains by this weekend.

Likely down for the next couple of days starting today.

Wednesday -- May 24, 2006

Current fielding status:

Currently driving east on I-80 towards Des Moines, Iowa.

Yesterday, south-central South Dakota was targeted for storms. Certainly, there were issues with the forecast as the moisture was getting mixed out during the day, and with nearly unidirectional flow, there was the threat of a squall line, which did form in the mid afternoon hours. These types of storms are not good tornado producers, thus was the case yesterday.

The team was watching all three areas that prompted the tornado warnings in Davison and Union counties in South Dakota. Numerous 'spin-ups' (gustnadoes) were observed in the gust front region of the squall line that likely prompted the tornado warnings. While we don't consider these tornadoes, they were counted in the Storm Prediction Center preliminary log.

Today's tornado threat looks minimal, however there is a small window of opportunity early this afternoon as westerly upper level winds move across eastern Iowa with better moisture. A few hours after storm initiation, lines and segments will likely form, thus the tornado potential will decrease.

Target today is eastern/southeastern Iowa, western Illinois, northeast Missouri.

Already departed.

Likely down for the next couple of days after today.

Equipment status:

Equipment 100%, need to fix a transmission issue with second vehicle upon our return to Denver tomorrow

Tuesday -- May 23, 2006

Currrently in Kearney, Nebraska. Current model trends show low level moisture getting mixed out during the day over much of Nebraska. A small pool of moisture resides around the O'neil/Yankon, SD area where reasonable flow and reasonable 0-1 km shear is forecasted.

Target of O'neil is planned, departure is 10 AM.

Tomorrow is more complicated, with possible trip to Illinois as the low moves to the east. Concerns are unidirectional flow for tomorrow, will evaluate later.

Monday -- May 22, 2006

Go-depart at 11 AM MDT. Target of North Platte to McCook, Nebraska. Reasonable flow with meager moisture presents some opportunities, however, the moisture will likely mix out during the day, with stronger upper level winds moving into the area late this evening.

Today's target is en-route to our overnight destination of O'Neal, Nebraska for an anticipated active day somewhere in eastern Nebraska for Tuesday.

Saturday -- May 20, 2006

What is remaining constant is the variability of the current forecast models.

Possible operations on Monday (likely a trial run), and a better chance on Tuesday. Medium range models suggest good opportunity for Tuesday in central Nebraska/Kansas.

Plans are STILL ON for team assembly on Sunday for possible departure on Monday.

Current crew for week of May 21: Heather Moser, Elise Johnson, Joe Golden, Carl Young, and myself.

Equipment status: Vehicles and equipment 100(If nothing breaks)%

Friday -- May 19, 2006

Current forecast data differs significantly on solutions for next week.

The only item that does show consistency is the 500 mb trough coming through starting on Monday.

This morning's forecast run suggests that Colorado/Nebraska might have some possible activity on Monday afternoon with upslope-type storms forming along the Colorado rockies.

Because of the horrific variations with the model data, the fielding team should be ready to go on Monday. Certainly, there is a chance that the team may be standing down for a few days upon arrival in Denver, however it is felt that we should be ready to depart for a target within 24 hours.

Teams should plan to arrive in Denver by this Sunday evening. For those who are scheduled for next week, please email/call for directions and address.

Dinner is planned for Sunday evening for program/forecast discussions around 6:30 PM MDT.

Wednesday -- May 17, 2006

High amplitude ridge continues, however long range model forecasts suggests ridge breaking down by mid next week. Appears that the first opportunity will likely be either Tuesday or Wednesday of next weekfor the northern plains.

Crews scheduled for next week to prepare for possible departure for Denver on May 22 or 23 depending on future forecast model runs.

Equipment status:

In-Situ probes, deployment vehicles 100% ready.

Monday -- May 15, 2006

Northwest flow will continue over the midwest through the balance of this week, and current forecast trends show the current pattern continuing through the weekend.

There might be some high plains storms later in the week, but likely not supportive of tornado-producing storms.

No fielding expected this week, and likely through the weekend.

Long-range models suggest an overall weather pattern change by the first week of June to more of a southwesterly flow-type pattern. This may mean an active June, but likely restricted to the central/northern plains.

Modifications to in-situ probes have been completed and 100% ready. Working minor issue with the software on the mobile mesonet, otherwise everything is ready to go.

Friday -- May 12, 2006

Current fielding status:

Current weather forecast models suggest a grim future for the next week or so. Strong ridge in place over the plains with weak to strong NW flow present over the northern plains with poor moisture is not conducive for the storms of interest.

Relief may be in sight past days 10-14. Fielding effort will wait until conditions improve.

Modifications to in-situ probes have been completed and 100% ready. Newly designed mobile mesonet should be finished and tested by the end of the weekend.

Motorola radio/computer mount will be installed in the second vehicle.

Tuesday -- May 2, 2006

Upper zonal/northwest flow is the current trends of the forecast data. Supercell thunderstorms that form under these conditions are great for big hail storms and very large storm complexes that last most of an evening. Although not impossible to have tornadoes under these conditions, it is the cost of fielding that drives the decision to wait for better 'weather'. At the moment, the current model trends suggests that southwest flow will return early next week, thus the fielding will be tentatively be postponed until May 8th.

Thursday -- April 27, 2006

The anticipated start date of May 1, 2006 will be postponed to May 6th due to long range forecast models showing upper level ridging over the midwest through day 10. As a result, upper level winds/moisture availability are not supportive of severe storms within our range.

Modifications to in-situ probes have been completed and 100% ready. Additional maintenance work continues on vehicles for preparation. Preparations on other experimental instruments continue, and should be completed by May 3rd.

Monday -- April 24, 2006

Program Mission:

To collect in-situ data of tornado cores by placing hardened instrumented probes directly in their paths. The collected data will include pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed/direction, and visualization for photogrammetric purposes. If the opportunity presents itself, the focus will be deployments near structures such as buildings, houses, barns, etc. The purpose is to measure near-field tornado dynamics and to provide visualization of their effects on structures.

Bruce Lee and Cathy Finley from Windlogics will be joining us in the latter stages of the fielding with two mobile mesonet vehicles. The mobile mesonets will be attempting to gather near-surface data in a particular quadrant of the RFD. When coupled with the probe array data,

they hope to obtain thermodynamic mapping (and possibly kinematic mapping) that may tell us something about what air is actually getting into the tornado. Even if the hardened probes do not take a direct hit,

a peripheral tornado sampling could be very worthwhile.

At times the group will be collaborating with a mobile Doppler radar (CSWR/Josh Wurman) to collect multiple datasets of surface observations and upper wind dynamics of tornado cores.

Our Fielding Domain:

Our field domain virtually has no boundaries. Roughly a rectangular box

outlined from the Canadian provinces to southern Texas, from Colorado to


Our Fielding Dates:

May 1st to June 30th.

Fielding Updates:

A near-daily mission status statement will be sent out on a mass-email listing that will include results from the prior day, forecast/location of the day's activities, and short/long term forecasts of potential severe weather and possible operations. It will also cover needed logistics and other important information. If you wish to include additional names to the mission status statement, please send the email addresses to the field leader (Tim Samaras) for inclusion. There are no

restrictions to this list.

Current Status:

Preparations are underway for May 1st readiness. Calibrations and Modifications to video/met. probes and other new instruments/techniques nearing completion.

Monday -- April 17, 2006

Mike Nelson has been following my storm chasing activities and research for the past 12 years, and has asked me to provide input to this new forum called a 'blog'. He and I actually previewed the movie "Twister" together back in 1996 and had a great laugh. For those who are wondering if real storm chasing and instrument deployments are similar to this movie, I have dissapointing news for you. They are very different. There are no sisters, sidewinders, fingers of God, and above all, no breaks for steak and eggs at aunt Edna's house. We don't drive through corn fields, not worrying about where to fold the maps, and most of all, real tornadoes look...well...real.

My research involves measuring tornado dynamics by placing hardened probes directly in the paths of destructive tornadoes. These probes measure the pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction of tornadoes as they pass over the probes. We also have other special probes that contain video cameras that provide visualization of tornado cores as they pass overhead.

Our fielding will begin on May 1st, and we're teamed up with Iowa State University and the National Geographic Society. My entries to this 'blog' will be status messages sent my myself or other team member discussing the current status of the fielding This will include what happened yesterday, our forecast for today, and short term/long term forcasts. Some logistics may be included, so it will read very different from the other two excellent chasers here on this page.


Storm chasing is a very dangerous activity. The three of us will be posting areas of the country that is forecasted to have very dangerous weather. Certainly, this is not an invitation to drive to these areas to see tornadoes by people with little/no chasing experience. We strongly discourage this. If you are really interested in storm chasing, there are a couple of options.

Option 1: Check with your local National Weather Service to enroll in a spotter class. Then try to team with an experienced spotter or chaser the first couple of times.

Option 2: Join a storm chase tour group. Roger Hill offers an excellent tour (www.silverliningtours.com), and Roger is simply the best in the business. There are other great chase tour companies out there as well.

Keep in mind that the biggest hazard is all the driving. We all log from 15,000 miles to over 45,000 miles..just in the spring! This increases your odds of getting into trouble. Extremely large hail, deadly lightning, heavy rain/hydroplaning are other hazards that we as storm chasers must deal with. Believe it or not, the tornado itself actually is far down the 'list'.

Wednesday -- April 5, 2006

Tim is gearing up for the chase season and will be posting his ventures in the coming days...stay tuned and check back often!!

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