Hello fellow supercell enthusiasts! We’re in Dodge City, KS tonight, awaiting the possibility of a long journey tomorrow. On Sunday June 7, the Vortex2 team was able to successfully intercept a supercell in northwestern Missouri, deploying almost all of the instruments and radars in the armada. The storm from Sunday did not produce a tornado while we were measuring it, but did become tornadic only a few hours after we called off operations due to sunset. It was an amazing set of data for a great null-case supercell. Scientists will be able to study these data for years to come to find out why exactly it didn’t produce a tornado even when it had a tornado warning associated with it. However, it would have been an extremely dangerous situation for many people if it had produced, as it was in a fairly urbanized area and saturated with amateur stormchasers. The escape path that most of the people would have taken to the south was cut off by the Missouri River, and the west, north and east were cut off by the supercell itself! We are all thankful that nobody was put into this situation. Severe hail damage was reported by many teams, as up to grapefruit sized hail was dropped by this storm. The first four pictures on this blog are from that Missouri storm.
On Tuesday June 9, the team was at it again in southern Kansas, about 40 miles west of Pratt. The day started in Salina, KS that morning, and the SPC had highlighted a 15% chance-of-tornadoes contour in south central KS. This was the best chance given by the SPC so far on the Vortex2 project, so we were all excited at the opportunity to intercept a nice storm. (We recalled that the day we found our first tornado was only a 10% contour!) We made our way to the West side of Wichita by the early afternoon, and a crossroads was reached. There were supercells ready to spawn to the east and west of our position, so a decision had to be made which way to go. The call was made to head west towards the town of Pratt in hopes of encountering a good storm. As we traveled, we saw reports of tornadoes far to the east of Wichita, the path we had decided to forego. However, it would likely have been too far out of range to get all of our instruments deployed in time, so nobody seemed too upset about it. We did end up finding a great looking supercell about 30 miles west of Pratt, and all of our instruments including sticknets, radars, and mobile mesonets were able to sample the storm in its entirety. We retrieved a great data set, and even though the storm was not tornadic, it will be extremely valuable to the scientific community. The storm had a beautiful funnel drop towards the ground, but never quite made it all the way down. Check the pictures starting with the 5th on this blog post to see what I’m talking about. Also, baseball sized hail was again reported, and another windshield on a mobile mesonet was cracked as it did a cross-section of the core of the storm. Vortex2: breaking stuff for SCIENCE!
All in all, it was a great start to the week for the Vortex2 project, gathering two very nice sets of data on two non-tornadic supercells over a three day period. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!!
Senior in Earth Systems Science and Engineering-Meteorology
Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
West of Pratt, KS, with a funnel visible
west of Pratt, KS, with the funnel clearly visible below the wall cloud and rotation around the updraft. The anvil above also takes on a spiral shape