Apologies to my readers for the lack of blog last week. A nasty little virus has entered my family and caused us to lose our mission. But, I’m back and writing this week and we have what could be a pretty strong spell of severe weather ahead.

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Steam Imagery is one of my very favorite tools, mainly because we can gather quite a bit of information about the current state of the atmosphere from a short loop. So what does this loop tell us?

  • A weak surface is located in the vicinity of the Texas panhandle. Note the rotation counter-clockwise.
  • A short wave trough is digging deep behind the low surface.
  • A somewhat messy line lies near the Texas/New Mexico border. This will sharpen and move east as the day goes on.
  • A warm front is slowly rising over Oklahoma and Kansas. Non-severe showers and thunderstorms are ongoing but are expected to move northeast with a warm front throughout the day.

That’s our setup for today.

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The moisture to fuel the expected inclement weather is ready and waiting. The dew point in the 60s and 70s hides below the boundary of the warm front and will filter north as it rises.

By this afternoon/early evening as moisture flows north, low surface moves eastward near KS/OK border and dry line also runs east so a few strong storms are possible.

That is, if they can overcome the limit.

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Limit reversal is expected to be quite strong today. Therefore, the best chance for hurricanes to erupt would be near the lowest, along the KS/OK border. It is possible that storms could cross the limit and strengthen further south along the dry line, but the pressure there is weaker and the onset of convection is not a guarantee.

What dangers do we expect? Consider a sound.

This is a valid sound observed at 12z (8 a.m. ET) for Dodge City, KS. While that’s current and won’t tell us much about the atmosphere at the time the storm is expected, it’s still useful.

  • A cap is available. It’s not insurmountable, but we’ll need additional instability added to the atmosphere along with a lift mechanism to get over it. Instability will form below this limit all day until the low surface approaches and lifts the instability beyond the limit. Strong storms are possible.
  • Good cuts have been made. We have surface wind support from ESE. They will switch to SSE when the front warms up. We also have pretty good cutting speeds, especially at the lower levels. Low shear forces are particularly important during cyclone generation.
  • The lapse rate is already pretty good at ~7 degrees C/km and will become steeper as the cold front moves further east.
  • There really isn’t a CAPE to speak of yet, but that will come as the warm front rises and heat/humidity is moved north.
  • A layer of dry air exists in between the floors along with decent wind speeds. When this dry air is drawn into hurricanes, strong gusts of wind can be brought to the surface.

So it seems that we have, or will have, the necessary ingredients for all hazards (hail, high winds, tornadoes).

Today’s event has the potential for very strong tornadoes and heavy hail, mostly initially while cells are still fragmented. It will then switch to a wind-driven threat as convection increases into a more linear regime.

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Here’s HRRR’s version of how this would play out and, based on the analysis we just did, it could be pretty accurate.

The biggest threat, as previously mentioned, is along the OK/KS border near the triple point. Humidity is expected to be good here, and lift will be maximized through being close to both the cold front and the warm front.

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Parameters like the Significant Cyclone Parameter (STP) take into account a number of components that, when combined, are thought to have a higher chance of producing a significant tornado. It’s not a guarantee, but it does show you where, according to the model output running through the formula, the atmosphere is most likely to spawn. The STP for HRRR indicates the highest probability along the KS/OK border, as I discussed.

Now, don’t just focus on tornado potential for today. Yes, there is a risk of a strong and prolonged tornado. However, the window for these will be rather short because the cold front catches convection and the discrete cells initially convert to a curve. At this point, strong winds – which can often affect a larger area than a tornado and take a devastating blow on its own – become the main threat.

My take: shelter for severe wind-blown thunderstorms as you would for tornado warnings today. Have your safe place ready and ready to act if needed. Make sure you get an alert this afternoon and evening.

Keep safe!

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