Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 9:57PM CST

Storm Chasing & Photography forecast update for May 16-28

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It appears that this season may actually be shaping up to be what we call a "down year" in terms of the paucity of good storm chasing opportunities in the Great Plains. True, I have seen four tornadoes in the last week, but the storms were what are called "HP" or "high precipitation" supercells - rain-wrapped beasts that are difficult and dangerous to cover, and ones where you rarely come away with great photos and videos. We truly have yet to see a "classic" synoptically-evident-days-in-advance tornado setup in the Plains this year, and as we move into the second half of the season, one still is not on the horizon.

Long-range models are pointing to a weak trough setting up over the central High Plains early next week, which will at the very least help moisture flow north from the Gulf. The winds aloft are not very strong, which will result in shear being on the weak side for supercells. That being said, any mid-level flow above 30 knots over deep moisture in May can certainly bring "observable" events. I expect this weak trough may bring at least one "surprise" tornado day to the High Plains of Colorado or Wyoming (possibly into western Nebraska and Kansas), but there are definitely no "slam dunk" setups apparent as it stands now. Capping will remain strong with this system, keeping storms from developing aside from the aforementioned upslope regions of the High Plains.

Following this, the flow virtually everywhere across the US is shown becoming weak, stangnant and ridgelike - which sometimes is a signal that the peak spring tornado season is over. The last days of May and early June are still not on the model horizon yet, so we just can't say for certain that things won't change drastically by that time. As for my plans, I will most likely be sitting things out unless something better shows up.

The following table charts the probability of a Great Plains storm chase expedition happening for several indicated date ranges in the near future:

2014 Plains Storm Expeditions - Probabilities as of May 15
May 16-190%
May 20-2810%

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