Tornado Weather Enters with 2012 Meteorological Spring

Today is the first day of meteorological spring, and while March is poised to come in like a lion, there may be nothing lamb-like about its exit. Not if these past few days and tomorrow's setup are any indication of what to expect. Tuesday saw 25 tornadoes in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, with several fatalities. Wednesday logged another ten in Indiana and Kentucky. Today is another light-risk day, and tomorrow the SPC has outlooked a large swath from southern Indiana and Ohio down through Kentucky and Tennessee to northern Mississippi and Alabama in a moderate risk. Like most storm chasers, I've been watching this system for several days. Typical of early-season setups, it will be a dynamic system driven by crazy upper-level winds and a strong low-level jet overspreading weak to moderate instability. With this kind of setup, 500 J/kg CAPE can get the job done. But with storm motions this fast, intercepting them will be more like a skeet shoot than a chase. Regardless, I expect to head out tomorrow for my first chase of the year. I've been casting my eyes on southeastern Indiana and southwestern Ohio, not far south of where the peak 500 mb jet energy will be nosing in. I notice that the latest NAM is a bit more conservative with instability, nudging it southward, so I guess the question is, how far south does one want to travel for this kind of fast-moving system? Probably not very. I don't see the point of going after fast-moving storms in Kentucky or Tennessee in hilly, woodsy terrain that obscures the view. That's a discussion point with Kurt and Bill, since the three of us will likely chase together. This looks to be a dangerous situation across northern Dixie Alley. Crossing fingers and hoping for minimal impact on communities tomorrow afternoon into the night.

March: When Daylight Lengthens

Today is March 6, and between the first day of the month till now we have already gained fourteen minutes of daylight here in Caledonia, Michigan. By the end of the month, that figure will have grown to an hour and 29 minutes--52 minutes in the morning and 37 in the evening. That averages out to a gain of around 2.9 minutes every day. March is the month when daylight happens. Small wonder that storm chasers do a happy dance when March 1 arrives. It's designated the beginning of meteorological spring for good reason. Henceforth the days are poised to lengthen rapidly. The sun is climbing higher in its arc over the northern hemisphere, putting in a longer workday and shining more intensely. That means warmer temperatures, juicier dewpoints, and increasing instability. Things start happening. The new storm season's convective pump is getting primed, and preludes of the next few months start showing up on the radar. So why complain about March? It may not be pretty, but it loves ya.

First Day of Meteorological Spring!

IT'S SPRING!!! Spring, spring, springity spring SPRIIIIIINNNG! O joy! O rapture! It's springspringspringspringwonderfulwonderfulspring!!!!!!!!!!! And lest I forget to mention it--it's spring! Oh, I know, you're thinking I've lost my mind. Unless, of course, you're a storm chaser or a meteorologist, in which case you know exactly what I'm talking about. As for the rest of you, forget about that old astronomical calendar that wants to make us all wait almost three more weeks for spring to arrive. That way of thinking is so passe, so limiting. Embrace a new outlook full of fresh, springy-sproingy possibilities. Think meteorological spring, which begins March 1--today! This is the day all you storm chasers have been looking forward to, and I know from reading a couple of your notes on Facebook that a good number of you have been doing air somersaults and cartwheels. You're happier than Tigger on pot, and I don't blame you one bit, because we all know what has just entered the room: Storm Season 2011. That's right, boys and girls. Dust off your laptops, put your hail helmets in the back seat, and pour yourselves a nice, stiff shot of Rain-X, because it's time for a toast. Here's to moisture rolling in from the Gulf. Here's to a higher sun, warmer temperatures, and longer days. Here's to strong mid-level jets, deep lows, and gonzoid helicities. I wish you all safe chasing and classic supercells, my friends, and ample reason for steak and beer at the end of your outings. L'chaim! Let the games begin. It's spring!

Warming Trend through February

Today temperatures are forecast to be in the mid to upper 30s here in West Michigan, and by Friday they should be well into the forties. With a little luck, we may even see our first 50-degree day of the year. This warming trend has been no secret, and it's the kind of thing that draws me out of my wintertime apathy about weather maps and whets my curiosity. The next week seems pretty well defined, but what lies beyond the horizon? So this morning I did something I haven't done for quite a while: I peered into the magic 8 ball of the 6Z GFS all the way out to 372 hours, to the forecast hour of 18Z Monday, February 28. My point in doing so was to get a sense of what general trend might be shaping up. What I see is the beginning of springtime incursions of warmer air. Not to say that we up here in the northwoods can don our swimsuits and head for the beach, but it looks like this week may mark the end of the long stretches of bitterly cold weather. We could see more days near or above freezing, and at times up into the forties, rather than in the 20s and teens. In just two more weeks meteorological spring will arrive. Granted its foibles, overall the long-range GFS appears to be rolling out the carpet. We're not there yet, friends, but today's warmup offers a view from the hilltop and the end is in sight. We've almost made it through another winter.

First Crack at Severe Weather (Has the GFS Ever Lied?)

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Here on the last day of February--just one day before meteorological spring begins--temperatures are finally settling into a warming trend here in Michigan. With plenty of snow still on the ground but the promise of better days in sight, and with me feeling my repressed itch for severe weather beginning to surface too insistently not to scratch, I've cast a wistful eye on the long-range GFS. At 180 hours out from today's 6Z run--in other words, on March 7, early afternoon--things look interesting. Not inspiring, just something to keep an eye on. If you're a

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fellow storm chaser, you know the drill, and you know how the models change. With that caveat, while I haven't been an avid follower of the GFS these days, I seem to recall that it was painting a somewhat similar scenario last week. Anyway, here are the surface maps for sea level pressure and surface dewpoints at 18Z, March 7. Click on the images to enlarge them. Obviously the moisture could stand improvement, and I wonder whether sea surface temperatures in the Gulf will be warm enough to deliver, but let's see what happens from here.

From Storm–Some Musings on My 54th Birthday

Today dawned clear and blue, the sky braided with jet contrails and accented with just enough clouds to add drama. More clouds are moving in now, but I don't mind. The forecast for "mostly cloudy" means we'll be seeing at least some sunshine, and the temperature is above melting and supposedly will hover in that vicinity through the next ten days. One month away from the vernal equinox and just ten days from meteorological spring, we're getting what may be our first hint of warmer weather ahead. And we all know what that means: Storm Season 2010. Yeah, baby! Bring it on! Today is my 54th birthday. Sitting here drinking my coffee, with the sun slanting through the sliding glass doors, the birds flitting about the feeders out on the deck of my apartment, the cat sleeping on the floor, and my sweetheart, Lisa, sitting in her room working on her blogsite, I'm taking a pause to consider how simple and yet how marvelously rich my life really is. I am a jazz saxophonist and a storm chaser, and those are the topics I mostly write about in this blog. But before them, and above all else, I am a lover and follower of Jesus. That is my true, deep, core identity--the one sure and certain thing that can never be taken from me. All else can be stripped away, and in time, it will be, whether bit by bit, like leaves falling in the autumn, or in an instant that catapults me into eternity. Most of the things in life by which we define ourselves are temporary. That is not to say they're unimportant. They're very important. But they can be removed in a heartbeat--and yet, we are still ourselves. So obviously, our identity as individuals, our "I-ness," goes much deeper than what we do. We choose our pursuits because, in a very real sense, our pursuits choose us according to God's intentions for our lives; but the fundamental state of being ourselves--that is not something we choose. We are here by decree, not personal choice. Right now, if I choose, I can set aside my saxophone for the rest of my life. I can stop chasing storms forever, never trek through another wetland in search of wild orchids and carnivorous plants, never again pick up my fishing pole, never savor another mugful of craft beer, never hike another trail, never write another word. Those are all things I love to do, but I can choose not to do them. The one thing I cannot do is stop being me. That choice is not mine to make. So today, as I celebrate the family members and friends who bless my vocation as a writer which I work hard to excel at...the interests that I pursue with passion and joy--as I consider all of these rich, wonderful, irreplaceable treasures in my life, I give thanks to the person who has been the source of them all, and who ordained that I should be here to enjoy them, fulfilling, in the process, a purpose that goes deeper than the things themselves, and a pleasure greater and more lasting than the works of my hands. Thank you, my Lord Jesus. Thank you for everything. Thanks for making me who I am--even in those times when it has been so terribly painful to be me. Thank you for my beautiful lady, Lisa; for my sweet mother and wonderful siblings; for my Jonathan-David buddy, Duane, and other close, close friends who truly know me and love me, and whom I have the privilege of knowing and loving. Thank you for the feel and smell of Gulf moisture, for the rush of inflow winds across the prairie grass, for cloud turrets over the plains that build into turbulent, dark skies and mighty tornadoes. Thank you for gifting me to pour music through the bell of my saxophone, and for my father who gave me that horn as his legacy and is now with you. Thank you for the promise of seeing him again someday. Thank you for more things than I can possibly say--things I know of, and things I will never know of, all provided by a great, unfathomably deep grace that runs like an invisible current through my life, unfelt but powerful, gentle but mighty, upholding me, carrying me, delivering me, guiding me, providing for me, shaping me. Truly, Lord, you have been a father to me, and a friend, and a brother, and a savior, and my Rock. Thank you, above all, for You. Your unfailing love has changed me. You, Lord, are the source of my identity and my life. I am who I am because you are who you are. Thank you for the gift of a grateful heart. Grant me to be your faithful follower and friend for all of my life, for there is no one and nothing else whom I desire to worship with all my heart. You, and you alone, are worthy. I love you, Jesus. On this, my 54th birthday, I thank you for the gift of my life, and the gift of yourself. Imperfect man that I am, warts and all, Lord, let me be a gift to you. --Bob