Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Sunday, April 21, 2012 - 12:21AM CST

Returning to the Plains: Storm Chasing & Photography forecast for April 12-14

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The first major multi-day, observer-friendly tornado event of the 2012 season is under way in the Great Plains, set to culminate with three potent days from Thursday through Saturday (and possibly Sunday) as the bulk of a big upper trough slowly moves across. Thanks to this trough, widespread southwesterly 500mb winds from 50 to 70 knots will overspread instability in the Plains for at least three solid days. Unlike most systems this time of year that quickly sweep through, this one will stick around for several days. The result will be Thursday through Saturday seeing good storm setups, mainly centered on Kansas.

Over the past two years, I have with great interest been paying attention to video and reports from other storm chasers in the field. It seems as if my fears of an oversaturation of storm chasers - that is, a critical-mass 'day of reckoning' that makes the hobby impractical for storm chasers and dangerous to locals - may not be fully coming to pass, at least not yet. In fact, some indications point to the peak of storm chasing's popularity either being imminent or having passed in the past 2 years. And so, it is with a mix of great joy and trepidation that I will be returning to the Great Plains this week for a three to four day storm chase expedition. Lord willing, a westward departure via I-70 is in the plans on Wednesday night, with a stopover somewhere on either side of Kansas City.

The apprehension is simply for what I'll find on the roads during this trip. Will the rural prairies of Kansas be a vehicle-clogged menace, or will it be like I've always known it to be? What I see on this trip will determine whether long-cherished regular springtime chases to the Plains will be a part of my future, or remain a memory of the 'good old days'. For the answer to that question - and hopefully a few photogenic tornadoes - stay tuned!

And for old time's sake, I'll revive the chase probability table. The following table shows the probability of a chase happening during a particular time period. (Factors affecting storm chase expeditions include not just the forecast, but work and other obligations.) The probabilities of a storm chase expedition in the extended range generally remain low, until an upcoming favorable pattern can be reliably detected in long-range models.

The following table plots the chance of a chase happening in a particular date range:

2012 Storm Expeditions - Probabilities as of April 10
April 12-1599%
April 16-2210%
April 23-3010%
May 1-1210%

Very happy for you, move finally paying off :)
- Posted by p from d

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