Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 12:15AM CST

Storm Chasing & Photography forecast update for May 12-22

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The long-range models continue to show mostly bad news for storm chasers through at least the next 10 days, as a strong upper ridge continues to build over the central US. Strong mid and upper level winds should remain confined to the extreme northern US, near and mostly north of the Canadian border. Both GFS and Euro models show a small shortwave trough developing and trying to move in from the Pacific by late next week (visible on the GFS prog below), but the Euro shows it getting decimated as it runs into the ridge, long before it can affect the Plains.

Despite the stubborn ridge, moisture is shown as slowly recovering across the center of the country day by day, but it is questionable that a sufficiently deep moisture layer (robust enough to avoid detrimental afternoon mixing) will reach northward all the way to the good upper support. The situation is similar to late May of 2006, when shallow surface moisture layers 'mixed out' by late afternoon, becoming too dry to support anything more than high-based storms.

If deep moisture can somehow make the long trek in the weak flow to North Dakota/northern Minnesota, wind profiles are supportive of severe weather around Friday/Saturday of next week if mature storms can get established. It may be a worthy storm chase day or two for those stuck on fixed chase vacations or tours, but doubtful it will be enough to get 'on-call' storm chasers like me to pull the trigger on such a long trip.

My take on the current pattern is just to wait and make the most of the downtime (saving money and vacation days; taking care of day-to-day tasks usually neglected in the spring). Even if it ends up being late June or not at all, waiting for good patterns to return is always the better choice (in my opinion).

Despite the tornado/supercell threat across the Plains/Midwest being close to zero for the next 2 weeks, some non-severe thunderstorm days should be in the cards here and there, providing that moisture slowly recovers enough to re-introduce daily instability. These conditions can provide some nice low-key opportunities for lightning, cloud and storm structure close to home, which of course I will be out for should they occur at dates/times I'm off of work (it's doubtful I will use any vacation days for these).

To sum things up, I don't see any sign of another Plains trip on the horizon. Beyond the 'reasonable model horizon' of May 22, the probabilities will remain at the standard 30%.

The following table plots the chance of a Plains storm chase expedition happening in a particular date range (Midwestern storm chase days are not factored into this table):

2012 Plains Storm Expeditions - Probabilities as of May 12
May 12-160%
May 17-225%
May 23-3130%

Well Im from maine and been hoping for some decent storms to come through. But when the forcasts look good, they fall apart and we end up with a stalled out front. Which brings cool weather and heavy rain. No lightning which blows. Do you think June will bring heavy storms to my area?. Because May looks like crap.
- Posted by Tice jacques from Bangor, ME

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