Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 4:19PM

'Meteorological spring' and 2007 chase plans

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While the rest of the world has another 20 days to go until they call it 'spring', storm chasers and meteorologists have already made it through the winter. While 'official' spring is based on the equinox, or the point at which the earth's tilt is 'halfway' between solstices, 'meteorological spring' (which begins on March 1) marks the climatological start of the transition from winter to summer. Meteorological spring is when temperatures begin to warm, precipitation begins to increase and storms and severe weather begin to ramp up. 2007's meteorological spring season is off to a tremendous start, with severe weather outbreaks already popping up. Tomorrow's Day 2 severe weather outlook from the SPC shows an unusually large risk area over the USA:

March and early April are no strangers to surprise snowfalls, but the chances for winter storms are on their way out with each passing day. If you're not a fan of the cold of winter, it's all downhill from here.

Storm season preps
March 1 is also when I traditionally start planning for our annual Plains chasing trip. This year, we tentatively have a four-person team planning on a one to two week chase sometime between May 1 and June 15. As always, the exact date will not be determined until the 'last minute', as we'll be waiting for an active severe weather pattern to set up out west before we depart. The annual forecast model-watching marathon will begin in late April, at which point I'll launch the 2007 storm chase expedition blog.

A few notes about the 2007 trips:

  • Seating capacity: This year, we will be limiting our capacity to four people. Last year, we planned on cramming six people into the car. While my car is normally able to seat six people comfortably, once you add luggage, camera and computer gear for six, the room runs out fast. Even with the large rooftop cargo carrier I bought for the trip, we were nearly busting at the seams with four while trying to keep the back 2 seats open. We finally gave in to the fact that 5 or 6 would not work, and used the back 2 seats to spread out the camera gear.
  • Raleigh vehicle reconfiguration: In what is becoming an annual tradition, 2007 will mark the third year of the annual 'car cleaning and rearranging' at my grandmother's house in Raleigh, NC. The Raleigh house's large yard and warm climate makes it the perfect place to open up all the doors, take everything out of the car and do all of the major vehicle-related preparation tasks. Last year, in anticipation of the six-person crew, we raised the rear seat row in the car and reconfigured the camera case/cooler/storage areas. Now that we are returning to a four-person crew, the rear seats will go back down to make room for a large cargo area in the back - a much more comfortable and practical arrangement. We will also be moving the power and data console into the rear cargo area, where it will be out of the way and less susceptible to damage from tripods, rain and day-to-day cargo.
  • I am not planning on doing any long-distance, early-season trips this year. My early-season chasing will be limited to Kentucky, Ohio and possibly Indiana. While tempting, early season chases (Like our April 2nd and April 6th trips in 2006) tend to be more stressful and more difficult, not to mention using up funds that could be used for the slower, warmer storm events in the Plains later in the spring. Unless additional funding becomes available, we'll be sticking to the traditional Plains peak severe weather season of mid-May to early June.

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