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Another 2006 in the works?
GFS 500mb forecast for May 19
The Plains severe weather machine shuts down for a good period beginning next week, as the upper air pattern depicted above takes hold of the country. Good moisture gets shoved deep into the Gulf, far, far away from the prime chase terrain. It's a picture reminiscent of 2006, when even the return of a good upper air pattern couldn't overcome the meager moisture quality (resulting from the previous trough's scouring of the surface). In the short term, a trough looks to be moving through the extreme southern US, bringing chances for severe weather to the Gulf coast regions (and possibly a little further north) - far from an ideal observing setup, and more like a December pattern than a May one. Looking at the long-range models, a decent but fast-moving trough develops toward the end of next week. It doesn't look big enough at this point to make a storm observing expedition worth the money, though - and that's even if moisture can get back in place in time. Other than that, the pattern looks pretty bland for the foreseeable future.
The 2008 season is already leaving a sour taste in my mouth as a storm observer. Not only have the classic slow-moving, photogenic storms of the Plains' remote country failed to materialize - where the tornadoes have happened, they've wreaked death and destruction on par with some of the worst-casualty seasons in recent memory. Saturday's northeast Oklahoma / southwest Missouri supercell alone has already claimed twice as many lives as the Greensburg EF5 tornado did last year.
As for my expedition plans, I admit I'm not too motivated at this point to spend the $1,000 to $2,000 that it will take to make an expedition happen. If I had decided to observe storms any of this season's setups so far, they would have resulted in miserable, expensive busts. Now I know that you have to be willing to accept failure in observing to get to the successes, as it's just part of the game. Not even the best storm observers see tornadoes every time they go out. But at this stage I'm not as willing to accept the potential of a costly expedition with no returns. When I got gas yesterday, seeing midgrade now over $4 really hit home as to how much it's going to take.
Furthermore, I've been giving thoughts to spending my Plains trip budget on a new DSLR instead, and 'returning to my roots' as a storm observer by getting back into shooting lightning stills. There is plenty of that around WV and into Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania - and it would be nice to have this relaxing and less expensive subject to focus on again. So doing that, while leaving any Plains trip funding entirely up to my tour business, is looking more and more attractive to me.
Based on the current outlook, this probability table charts the chance of our trip starting on a particular date:
|2008 Storm Observing Expedition - Departure Date Probability as of May 12|
|May 26-June 15||35%|