UMTornadoCamp13's Blog

Back in Oklahoma

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 4:08 AM GMT on May 30, 2013

What a crazy two days it has been since our last entry.

Yesterday, we deployed to the western panhandle of Texas. We chased near the New Mexico border, following a slow-moving high precipitation supercell that crept its way eastward to Amarillo. This ended up being our first 'night chase', which we were able to perform because our radar allowed us to see more of the storm than the occasional lightning flash showed us visually. When we arrived in Amarillo, there was a layer of pea- to quarter-sized hail on the ground that cooled the air near the surface enough to reach saturation and create a blanket of fog (see the attached picture).

Today we stationed to the northeast of Amarillo as we waited for convection to fire along the dry line. The storms, however, formed in a linear fashion which inhibited the potential for chasing any tornadoes that formed. We remained alert for the remainder of the afternoon and into the evening and anticipated a second line of storms, but the evening unfortunately ended in a bust.

The team is staying in Woodward, OK for the night and is targeting the northwest part of Oklahoma for chasing tomorrow. We will hope for more action!

Updated: 4:09 AM GMT on May 30, 2013


Active Week Ahead

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 3:48 AM GMT on May 28, 2013

Hello everyone,

It looks like our wishes for more convective weather have come true. After a relaxing Memorial Weekend in Lubbock, we'll be heading out Tuesday morning to a currently undetermined target somewhere between the Texas panhandle and southwest Kansas. There should be a good chance of favorable chasing weather throughout the plains until a front passes through at the end of this week, so we're departing tomorrow morning to begin the chase. We'll likely be on the road until the activity declines, so stay tuned for more details as the week progresses!


Exploring Texas and Dust Devils

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 5:52 PM GMT on May 26, 2013

Hi all -

The team is taking it easy for the next couple days as we wait for the conditions for severe storms to ripen once more. We decided to explore Texas and traveled to Caprock Canyon State Park. After an extensive 6 mile hike, we settled down to watch the Wings game...with a rather unfavorable result in most of our opinions (Blackhawks 3 - Red Wings 1).

On our drive to and from Caprock Cayon we saw several dust devils. Dust devils are swirls of dust, sand, and debris picked up from the ground. They are typically short lived, average in height at 200m, and range in diameter from roughly 3m to 30m. Dust devils are likely to form on hot, calm afternoons in dry regions that experience intense surface heating. This makes the fields of Texas an excellent contender for dust devil production. Dust devils have also been photographed on Mars!

The team has roughly a week left in Texas until we begin our journey back to Michigan. We are crossing our fingers for more convective weather and the chance to fit in a couple more chases in what has already been an excellent experience.

Updated: 7:18 AM GMT on May 27, 2013


Chasing Near Lubbock

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 5:32 PM GMT on May 24, 2013

Hello everyone.

The team went out yesterday to chase in the Texas panhandle. The team was a lot bigger as we had three objectives to fulfill this time around. We had Vortex 2.3 objectives, outflow boundary objectives, and lightning mapping. The chase took us to the east of Lubbock. During the chase, we experienced landspouts, dust devils, the gust front, micro bursts, and a lot of blowing dust.

A landspout is similar to a tornado, it has rotation and goes from the ground to the cloud base. However, these tend to form in the early stages of thunderstorm development. The circulation comes from the ground and gets pulled into the updraft and up into the storm. The storm itself does not have an actual rotation yet. They are mostly translucent and can be powerful. However, they are generally weak and short lived.

The outflow boundary, or also known as gust front, is cold air being blown out of a storm system. This air is from the downdrafts in the storm that hit the ground and then disperse in all directions outwards from the center of impact with the ground. The winds from this outflow can be very strong, and in dry land can pick up a lot of dust and debris and create dust clouds. Some of these outflow boundaries can create more storms especially if they collide with another outflow boundary.

The team was able to experience new weather phenomenon and able to get data for some of the objectives. The area we chased was a much better location to setup and deploy than what we had in Kansas and Oklahoma previously. It was nice to have open flat land and much easier to find areas to deploy.

Enjoy your weekend.

Updated: 6:02 PM GMT on May 24, 2013


Mammatus Clouds

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 10:41 PM GMT on May 22, 2013

Hello from Lubbock,

After sometime of relaxation after a busy weekend, we are now looking at good indicators that are part of a supercell storm. Today the focus will be on the puffy and saggy clouds known as mammatus clouds.

These clouds are typically associated with cumulonimbus (storm) clouds, but they can appear in other types of clouds on peculiar occasions. Mammatus clouds are located around the base of storm cloud, and they are a good indicator of severe weather like supercells and tornadoes.

During our travels last weekend, we have seen plenty of these clouds around many of the supercell storms. The photo below shows what these clouds look like for a storm. Although they pose no immediate threat, these clouds can alert people that severe weather is within the area.

Updated: 10:42 PM GMT on May 22, 2013


An Eventful Weekend

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 9:14 PM GMT on May 21, 2013

Hello again! We're back in Lubbock after a long weekend of chasing in the southern plains.

As mentioned in our previous blog entry, we headed from Kansas into Oklahoma on Sunday. We hovered around the border, south of Wichita, and saw some impressive storms pop up throughout the afternoon. However, due to the hilly and tree-covered terrain, we were unable to retrieve the tornadic data our team was after.

On Monday, we focused our chase south of Oklahoma City and into extreme northern Texas. We followed a promising storm near Marlow, OK that had an impressive structure and wall cloud drop, but we had to eventually relocate because it moved out of our range. As soon as we moved, a tornado dropped - unfortunately, we were not able to find a good vantage point to take measurements and had to abandon the storm.
We then found a new target supercell right on the OK/TX border - however, it merged with another severe cell coming from the south, went outflow dominant, and lost its appeal for us. After a lucky and successful first chase day, we had two disappointing (albeit exciting) chase days this weekend.

Updated: 9:28 PM GMT on May 21, 2013


Rozel and Sanford, KS

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 2:59 PM GMT on May 19, 2013

Good morning from Hutchinson, KS!

We are more than excited to share our experience of chasing yesterday. The team headed up to south central Kansas to intercept convective weather initiating along the dry line (a boundary between dry air from the Rockies and moist air from the gulf). These storms paid off, producing three tornadoes in Rozel and Sanford, KS.

The storm initially dropped a tornado west of state highway 183. The tornado was back lit from a low sun, creating a beautiful pink/orange background. The first tornado remained relatively stationary and last for roughly 10 minutes (exact times remain uncalculated). We were stationed inside 10 km of the tornado. The tornado retreated for a few minutes and dropped again nearby, but didn't fully reach the ground.

After the dissipation of the second tornado, another dropped to the east of state highway 183. This time the storm was lit from the front so it appeared to be white and gray in color and lasted for roughly 5 minutes.

The team is traveling to the Kansas and Oklahoma border area to continue the chase with optimal conditions. Factors to consider while chasing today are the terrain and population. The radar must have a clear line of sight with no trees or hills to effectively take data.

Updated: 8:56 PM GMT on May 21, 2013



By: UMTornadoCamp13, 3:55 PM GMT on May 14, 2013

Hello from Lubbock,

After a week of being on the road from Ann Arbor, we finally made it to our destination. We traveled from Norman down to Lubbock, Texas, and we arrived late Saturday night. During our travels, we went to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge to see the great landscape of Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, the weather is just fair and hot, but there is hope for some storm formation later on in the week. Hopefully strong storms will be associated with the weather, so fingers crossed.

Until then we will be on standby, so stay tuned.

Updated: 3:59 PM GMT on May 14, 2013



By: UMTornadoCamp13, 4:34 PM GMT on May 09, 2013

Hello from Norman,

Yesterday we decided to go out on a test run in Norman, Oklahoma. We saw several cells popping up to our west/southwest. We headed out to position ourselves in Union City, west of Oklahoma City, to stay to the south of the Northeast moving storm. The storms produced up to 2" hail and showed rotation in the mid levels of the storm. Unfortunately, no tornadoes were produced.

In order for tornadoes to form, we need four key ingredients:
1.) Instability of the atmosphere - The atmosphere needs to be able to support warm rising air. The faster and farther the air can rise, the larger the storm can grow.
2.) Environmental lifting mechanism - There needs to be a source for the warm air to begin to rise. This is often produced by fronts.
3.) Wind shear - There needs to be a change in the direction of the wind at different altitudes. This supports the rotation and tilting of the storm.
4.) Low level moisture - Moisture acts as fuel to the storm as heat is absorbed when water changes phase from liquid to gas. This helps the storm to grow stronger as is carries the heat into the upper levels of the atmosphere.

Yesterday, there was not enough wind shear to support the development of tornadoes. The location of the jet stream was not in our favor so the probability of tornadoes was decreased.

It was a good practice run; we learned about the preparation process and now have experience navigating around the storms. The outlook for today is again not in our favor, but we are looking forward to get back on the chase.

We will spend our next few days in Norman, OK and tour the National Weather Center located on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. On Saturday, we will make our way down to Lubbock, TX to join the team at Texas Tech.


About the Team

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 2:49 AM GMT on May 07, 2013

Hi from St. Louis, MO!

We've arrived at our first destination with enough time to visit the Gateway Arch! Since we found our first opportunity to take a picture as a group, we thought it would be nice to share a little bit about ourselves so you can get to know the team.

From left to right:

Zach: Zach is from Forreston, IL and enjoys to race cars in his spare time. Zach would like to pursue a career in researching tornadogenesis (the development of tornadoes). His favorite meteorological phenomenon is thundersnow.

Omar: Omar is from Detroit, MI and enjoys traveling to new places. He would like to continue his career path of being a meteorologist by going into academia. His research interests are looking at tornado outbreaks and their formation. His favorite meteorological event is tornadoes within hurricanes.

Trent: Trent hails from Monroe, MI. He enjoys trying new restaurants and spending time with his friends. Trent would like to pursue a degree as an operational meteorologist and public weather awareness. His favorite meteorological phenomenon is freezing rain.

Morgan: Morgan is from Lake Orion, MI. She is a member of the club polo team and enjoys playing volleyball. Morgan has a particular interest in aviation meteorology and would like to research forecasting techniques for turbulence, icing, fog, and other aviation weather problems. Her favorite meteorological phenomenon is noctilucent clouds.

Zach, Trent, and Morgan will be entering their senior year studying Earth System Science & Engineering with a concentration in Meteorology. Omar graduated this Spring with his degree in Earth System Science & Engineering with a concentration in Meteorology as well.

Updated: 4:03 PM GMT on May 07, 2013


Pre-Travel Preparations

By: UMTornadoCamp13, 10:53 PM GMT on May 04, 2013

Hi all and welcome to the blog for The University of Michigan's 2013 Tornado Camp!

Four of us undergraduate students are headed down to assist with the VORTEX2 project run through Texas Tech. We are currently packing and preparing for our departure on Monday morning. Since the drive to Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX is quite long, we will be staying in St. Louis, MO our first night.

With a high pressure system sitting across the central Great Plains, we are going to have to wait for several days in order to see more active weather. So after St. Louis, we are headed on down to Norman, OK to tour the campus of the University of Oklahoma and the National Weather Serivice (NWS) Storm Prediction Center.

From there, we'll station in Lubbock and prep for active weather. The team will continue to storm chase until the beginning of June. More information regarding the nature of our trip will continue to be posted. Please follow our journey this summer through our blog and feel free to ask us any questions!

We would like to give a special thanks to the department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan for supporting our trip as well as Professor Posselt, Professor Samson, and Ms. Johnson for all their hard work. Thank you to Texas Tech and Professor Weiss for hosting us this summer.

We are excited to learn and share our experiences!
Morgan, Omar, Zach, Trent

Updated: 2:49 AM GMT on May 07, 2013


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UMTornadoCamp13's Recent Photos

Amarillo Hail Fog
Friona Supercell
The Team at Caprock Canyons State Park
Dust Devil