Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Monday, April 20, 2009 - 4:33AM

May visible on long-range models

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The beginning of May is finally on the far horizon of the long-range GFS, with the Euro on the verge of that point (now out to April 30). That means we can start a little monitoring for consistency and agreement for the traditional peak month of storm chasing. Both models show a general western-trough upper air configuration around the first of the month.

Run-to-run consistency on the position and strength of the trough has not been good. Last night, the GFS showed the trough not really digging into the Plains until Monday. Today's 12z run show it farther east now, with even Friday the 24th starting to look like an storm chase day. The GFS's depiction of the trough for Saturday is especially potent.

Some questions remain about moisture quality at the surface, as the GFS doesn't show great low-level moisture in place through next Monday - maxing out in the low 60s. That could change, but honestly, it's just way too early to tell if next week will be a series of banner setups. It is something to watch though.

As for the non-weather related factors influencing a storm chase expedition, I'm somewhat doubting that I'll be 100% ready to go if this early May event turns out to be a player. I have a week of intensive work ahead of me, a family get-together this weekend (in Raleigh), - and (probably more significantly) a whirlwind of pending financial incomings and outgoings. My tax bill should be coming in less than I expected, due to higher-than-expected 2008 expenses and mileage. In fact I just talked to my accountant today, and the estimate he gave me was very encouraging! So, some chase funding should be available providing that a couple of outstanding invoices get paid on time. By the first week of May, I should have a better grasp on whether the money's going to be there, and if I'm able to hammer out some web projects ahead of schedule. I always try to go to the Plains leaving as little unfinished work back home as possible, just to make the trip more enjoyable by not having to worry about an incomplete project waiting for me when I get back.

So even though next week holds some observing potential, the other uncertainties mean that for now, I'll leave the departure probabilities unchanged from the previous version.

Based on the current outlook, this probability table charts the chance of the Plains storm chase expedition starting on a particular date:

2009 Storm Chasing & Photography Expedition - Departure Date Probability as of April 20
April 20-3010%
May 1-1022%
May 11-2022%
May 21-3122%
June 1-1522%
No trip2%

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