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Storm Chase 2017: Second day model analysis and much more

When I was in the 10th grade, I bought my first cell phone. I mean I actually bought it, with my own money from my own work. It was a hell of an accomplishment for my teenaged self, and I was proud of it. I was more proud that it was a first edition iPhone, and I couldn’t believe the power of what I had in my pocket. It took some getting used to, but soon enough I could access the internet and send text messages with my thumb!

More than 10 years later, I’m preparing to use my 7th edition iPhone as a tool to enhance a localized internet connection in my car. What a time to be alive. The mobile hotspot has been the discussion point of the day, and we’re making sure that we have it properly set up to have access to the internet at all times during our chase. This is a critical part of our operations and so we’re being fairly hard-nosed with it. We want it to be exactly right.

While all of this preparation has been going on, forecast model guidance has begun to offer new and interesting tidbits into exactly how this weekend’s storm chase is going to unfold. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we will have a complex, intense and potentially significant series of events unfold this weekend across the High Plains, essentially from the Dakotas eastwards into Minnesota and Wisconsin.

While there are plenty of uncertainties still in regards to exactly how things evolve, our confidence is increasing that at the very least we will have the opportunity to see some big league thunderstorms on every day from Saturday to Monday. From a very pulled back perspective, that is more than we could ever ask for at this juncture. Just ask our friends at US Tornadoes who spent a week with putrid storm development conditions in the Plains. Nobody would wish that on any other storm chaser. So we will fortunate to have several days of activity ahead.

Today, so far, has been all about taking a deeper dive into the synoptic and mesoscale aspects of the upcoming few days. From a forecast model guidance standpoint, this is the juncture when forecasters start to take a deeper look into exactly what is unfolding. In other words, it is a transition from a more broad perspective and overview of the setup into a more detailed look into the evolution of potential severe convection.


Thunderstorms may develop Saturday PM in MN and WI, but development is very uncertain due to capping.

Thunderstorms may develop Saturday PM in MN and WI, but development is very uncertain due to capping.

In our best effort to not talk about Friday (which looks to feature discrete supercells in North Dakota) since we won’t be able to assemble by then, we turn our attention to Saturday. This is a classic uncertain chase day in the High Plains, but features the lowest ceiling of any of the next several days by far. The main characteristics of Saturday, by and large, will be rising  heights and temperatures in the mid levels of the atmosphere. While intense instability will develop northward, so will the presence of stout cap, or inhibition for thunderstorm development.

A notable shortwave will shift through the Northland of Minnesota during the afternoon hours, and the height falls and lift associated with it may be enough to develop some convection. This is most likely to be in Northeast Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin, near Lake Superior. But the confidence in its development is quite low at this time.

General Target: Northeast Minnesota/Northwest Wisconsin


A diffuse frontal boundary will serve to locally enhance severe storm potential on Sunday in MN.

A diffuse frontal boundary will serve to locally enhance severe storm potential on Sunday in MN.

Things kick up a notch on Sunday as a diffuse frontal boundary moves southward through Minnesota and then backs up northward into Central Minnesota by the afternoon hours. This boundary will serve as a focal point for potential convective development during the afternoon hours, with a shortwave trough moving eastward through the region during the afternoon on most forecast model guidance.

Considerable uncertainty still exists in regards to exactly where the frontal boundary, oriented from west to east, sets up. But near this boundary, the potential development of a QLCS and low level rotation could be enhanced along this boundary which appears on all guidance. The exact positioning of the boundary obviously impacts our potential chase targets and locations.

General Target: South/Central Minnesota


A large trough ejects towards the Dakotas on Monday.

A large trough ejects towards the Dakotas on Monday.

The highest-ceiling day of the three will feature a large, broad and impressive mid level trough ejecting out of the Rockies and towards the High Plains. Forecast models indicate the return of favorable mid and upper level height fields, impressive low level winds, instability, and the development of a surface low pressure system. All of these ingredients, while still uncertain, suggest the development of supercells and possibly tornadoes later Monday in the Western Dakotas.

We’ll have to consider our exact location over the next few days as the positioning of the surface low and timing of mid level features comes into better focus. The SPC has placed parts of the Western Dakotas in a  15% risk on their Day 5 Outlook.

General Target: West/Central South Dakota

We’ll be back in the morning with the latest information on our preparation process and the latest on where we are targeting!