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                Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 12:04PM CST    Storm Highway blog RSS/XML feedStorm Highway Twitter FeedStorm Highway Facebook page

Chase forecast update for April 25 - May 7

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
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No major changes have been noted in model forecasts for the upcoming system, which boosts my confidence closer to certainty in a Great Plains expedition departure happening on Friday. Saturday and Sunday both look like excellent chase days in the Plains, but dangerous days for local residents. Of course as chasers, we hope for the amazing sights to happen over open fields.

Sunday's tornado risk may make an incursion into the St. Louis metro area late. That will lead me to bias my target that day in favor of making it back here in time for such a possibility. As the models show, the tornado risk will be present Monday-Wednesday in the St. Louis area, with Monday's event the biggest of the group.

Regardless of if you are in the Plains states or in the Midwest, this system is one to pay close attention to. Have your plan of action ready in advance, and stay up-to-date on watches and warnings. Your local TV station and NOAA weather radio are the best ways to stay informed leading up to and during an event.

The following table charts the probability of a Great Plains chase expedition happening for several indicated date ranges in the near future:

2014 Plains Chase Expeditions - Probabilities as of April 23
April 25-2890%
April 29-May 715%

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                Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 2:01AM CST    Storm Highway blog RSS/XML feedStorm Highway Twitter FeedStorm Highway Facebook page

Chase forecast update for April 23 - May 7

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
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We finally have some model agreement and consistency for the system coming in this weekend, and it's (at least for now) very good news for storm chasers. A classic potent tornado setup is shown for Saturday in Kansas and Oklahoma as a strong trough moves out into the Plains, and this overtop of deep moisture, strong instability, backed surface winds and a classic veering-with-height vertical wind profile.

Due to the vast improvement in the models' handling of this system, I have a much greater level of confidence in 2014 Plains expedition #1 happening this weekend. The departure date will be Friday afternoon if the current forecast holds in upcoming days' data. As always, there is still time for a 'model meltdown' where this setup 'tanks' - which is the reason why I'm not going past 75% on trip probabilities. Since we are now within 5 days of the event, that will get less likely with each passing run, though it's still something to keep in mind.

This system will produce at least one more day of tornado potential in the Plains and/or the Midwest as it moves east, possibly into Tuesday. After this, there is good agreement in a deep, persistent eastern troughing pattern entrenching itself. That will shut down severe weather/tornado potential for at least a week or more following this weekend's events.

As for tomorrow's (Wednesday's) system, it appears to be a fun chase day in western Kansas and Oklahoma, but on the low end for tornado potential thanks to insufficient moisture and instability. Again, these types of marginal days can still produce tornadoes. That said, I get my fill of those types of days right here at home throughout the year, so I tend to opt to not spend the money to go see one in the Plains. Waiting for the high-potential Plains setups like we may see this weekend is simply how I have to operate due to limited funding.

The following table charts the probability of a Great Plains chase expedition happening for several indicated date ranges in the near future:

2014 Plains Chase Expeditions - Probabilities as of April 22
April 23-240%
April 25-2875%
April 29-May 715%

Finally, severe weather! Unfortunately I won't be able to chase this weekend as I'm way too busy with other things, but once finals are over in a couple weeks I'll maybe do some lightning chasing in the stl metro. Be careful out there. Let's just hope folks in the southern plains haven't become complacent with the lack of tornadoes.
- Posted by Tim
There should be a lot happening in the STL metro Sunday night-Wednesday, so being here isn't all that bad.
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL

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                Monday, April 21, 2014 4:00AM CST    Storm Highway blog RSS/XML feedStorm Highway Twitter FeedStorm Highway Facebook page

Springtime at the Arch in St. Louis

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
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I was able to get out this past weekend and capture a few images of spring trees and flowers in bloom around the Arch downtown. (Click on any of these for a full screen view)

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                Sunday, April 20, 2014 8:00AM CST    Storm Highway blog RSS/XML feedStorm Highway Twitter FeedStorm Highway Facebook page

Popular skepticism of Christianity & conspiracy theorism: remarkable similarities

By DAN ROBINSON
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The official definition of a conspiracy theory (Merriam Webster definition) is "an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators". One could add to that definition by observing the characteristics of conspiracy theories common today:

  • A conspiracy theory involves a general mistrust of the official or traditional account of an event.
     
  • This mistrust is usually either a priori or is based on very little evidence that is typically very selective and disparate in nature.
     
  • The conspiracy theorist often holds tightly to isolated bits and pieces of "evidence" while ignoring the "big picture".
     
  • This mistrust a priori ignores or disqualifies any and all evidence supporting the official or traditionally-held story, including those held by the scientific and academic community.
     
  • The conspiracy theorist often does not subject their "supporting evidence" to the level of scrutiny that they direct toward the official story.
It has occurred to me over the years that most skepticism of Christianity - at least the most popular kind - has an uncanny, if not identical, resemblance to your garden-variety conspiracy theory. (Again, not every skeptic is like this, but certainly the most popular ones are!) Let's take a look at these specifically:
  • Skeptics have a general mistrust of the official account of the life and teachings of Jesus, more specifically of his death and resurrection.
     
  • Skeptics have no academically-solid evidence to back up a claim that the Gospels are unreliable as a historical source, that the accounts of Jesus were fabricated, that Jesus didn't exist or any number of other commonly-cited objections.
     
  • Skeptics hold tightly to selective incidents and time periods where Christianity/faith was abused by those in positions of power, while ignoring the overall "big picture".
     
  • Skeptics brush aside or even disqualify all of the evidence that points to the Gospel accounts being reliable, including the entire consensus of the academic community.
     
  • Skeptics do not subject their "supporting evidence" to the same level of scrutiny that they direct at the Gospel accounts and at people of faith. Many never even take the time to research their claims at all.
In my own experience and conversations, I've noticed the following:
  • Many skeptics have never read any counterarguments or apologetics resources. I've run into a few who have never heard of William Lane Craig, for instance.
     
  • Some of the more vitriolic and vocal skeptics have openly admitted that they don't read Christian apologetics nor the work of scholars and historians. After all, they say, "if I don't believe God exists, why would I waste time investigating any religion?"
     
  • Skeptics come up with objections with flippancy and ease, many of which are unsound and easily answered. But instead of stopping and applying some critical thinking to those objections, they put the onus on Christians to do the thinking and researching "legwork" for them.
A good skeptic is completely justified in wanting to question Christianity. But he/she should also be skeptical of the questions and accusations against Christianity! "Question Everything" should include questioning the questions themselves to see if they are valid. I invite everyone reading this to look up the following issues for yourself:
  • The claim that Jesus never existed
  • The claim that the story of Jesus was borrowed/copied from ancient religions/mythologies
  • The claim that Christianity and faith has an overall negative impact on the world
  • The claim that faith in God is irrational and illogical
  • The claim that the Bible is not a reliable source of ancient history
  • The claim that the Bible has contradictions
  • The claim that science and faith are incompatible
Read the popular bloggers and authors' claims on those subjects, then read/watch a.) the actual lifelong experts in the material who have PhDs and peer-reviewed papers on the subjects and b.) the Christian apologetics resources such as William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Michael Licona, Gary Habermas and others (here is a list of those resources).

You will see precisely how much the more vocal skeptical community is willing to hold tightly to - and base their entire disbelief on - what amounts to a overarching conspiracy theory against the official story that makes up the foundation of Christianity. They do this all the while never applying critical thinking and "Question Everything" to their own views, philosophies and beliefs, and therefore they never discover how soundly evidenced Christianity is. That, my friend, is partly why I'm still a Christian today and why I'll stay a believer. I only hope that I can help others see through what is becoming a reeking cesspool of lazy, vitriolic skepticism in our world today, and by doing so convince others not throw away something of such infinite, precious value and importance.

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                Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 12:13AM CST    Storm Highway blog RSS/XML feedStorm Highway Twitter FeedStorm Highway Facebook page

Chase forecast update for April 20 - May 3

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
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The models are beginning to back off of next week's systems having "chase expedition" potential. The first wave on Wednesday and Thursday is shown being positively tilted, moisture-deficient and with veering low-levels. The wild card is that there is still some tornado potential, and it may end up being in eastern Kansas - close enough for a one-day run out and back from St. Louis. I'm definitely not as excited about it at this point, and I'm retreating some from a chase-expedition-imminent stance. The second and much more favorable wave that we saw for next weekend, for all intents and purposes, is on 'life support' in the models. The GFS eliminated it altogether in last night's runs - replacing it with a smaller less-impressive shortwave:

This is then shown being followed by an "omega block", one of the worst types of Plains spring patterns. An omega block is a large trough in the eastern US that blocks another western trough from moving into the Plains, and is typically a pattern that lasts for a while (a week or sometimes more).

Before we get too disappointed, note that the models have been all over the place in the medium-to-long ranges this month. That last image above is way out in model "fantasy land" and isn't supported by much consistency. While this means that anything could be in play by the end of the month, it also means I can't really speculate on what to expect beyond next Thursday. At this point I simply have to retreat into "I don't know" mode for a while until a more consistent pattern emerges. Hopefully that will happen in a few days - until then, it's back to 'expedition standby mode'.

The following table charts the probability of a Great Plains chase expedition happening for several indicated date ranges in the near future:

2014 Plains Chase Expeditions - Probabilities as of April 19
April 20-220%
April 23-2730%
April 28-May 325%

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