Saturday, August 23, 2014

A stint as a WeatherBrains guest panelist

After several days of processing events - and having watched the video and listened to the podcast - I've gained some perspective on what it was like being a guest panelist on "WeatherBrains" episode #447. Mostly it was a bit intimidating being on the show amid folks who are career meteorologists both in television and with the National Weather Service. Given my status as a non-degreed "accomplished amateur" I felt some inadequacy as to what I could offer.

Secondly I wasn't certain what I should talk about. Kevin Myatt - friend and "WeatherBrains" alum who nominated me as a guest - had emphasized my stormchase trips out west with the Hokie Stormchasers...but other than my brief mention of it the conversation never got around to that topic. Rick Smith - my gracious last minute substitute interviewer instead of Bill Murray - did ask a followon question about the Fredericksburg (VA) weather blog, but I could have gone in other directions regarding my weather activities. Hokie Stormchaser co-leadership, chasing in northern Virginia, and collaborating with WDBJ7 here in Roanoke with respect to southern VA storm chasing were all topics that weren't explored.

The main issue I had was one I never expected:  where to look when I was talking. I'm not used to looking into a camera so I found my gaze wandering between images of the other Google Hangout participants, the camera, my notes, and the walls of our spare bedroom I was ensconced in. There was no live face to converse with or look at!! I've thus concluded that I'm not an on-air talent (and have little desire to be one!!).

All in all I enjoyed it, especially being part of a show that featured Dave Brown - the guru of Memphis TN television weather - as the main guest. It was also neat seeing the Google Hangout chat going on between the WB's participants as they handed off parts of the interview and conversation to one another. It was a privilege and an honor to take part as a guest panelist, so many thanks to Kevin Myatt and to the "WeatherBrains" crew!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Aug 21 shelf cloud video and vid caps

Finally got a chance to go thru at least one video from yesterday's chase. This clip - sped up 4x - was recorded looking north from a parking lot ~2 miles NE of Goode VA (west of Lynchburg):


Along with the shelf cloud came a lot of cloud-to-ground lightning (CG's).  Here are a few frame captures from the video:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

East route no go but storms made it over the mountains

I headed east to Appomattox this afternoon to position for what looked like a good chance of storms. Several short range models indicated that convection would fire along an old frontal boundary in that area as an upper level impulse pushed east across the Appalachians. Closer to the Blue Ridge the potential for storm initiation was doubtful given a westerly wind so I banked on the old frontal boundary overcoming the downsloping. It didn't work. The upshot was that my son and I had a nice two hour conversation in a local fast food joint before I called it quits and motored back west.

The good news was that the storms firing under the upper level lift actually held together as they crossed the Appalachians. Restarting the chase in the Bedford area I moved north a bit to catch the southern edge of a line segment crossing the Blue Ridge. As I maneuvered thru the countryside the cell I was watching went severe-warned. Finally locating an open spot in a parking lot ~2 miles northeast of the metropolis of Goode I saw this shelf cloud feature moving toward me accompanied by some heavy duty lightning/thunder couplets:

When things got too close I piled into the car and rolled south and west along rural lanes. Along the way I stopped to take this photo along the leading edge of the shelf cloud as it pushed toward Lynchburg:

Continuing south I crossed Rte 460 halfway between Bedford and Lynchburg. Navigating visually I worked hard to stay south and west of the line. I stopped several times to take photos, leapfrogging as the outflow and rain kept nipping at my heels. Here's another couple of pics I snapped along the way:
Lowering under shelf leading edge

Finally intersecting with VA Route 24 I sped west to try to keep ahead of the action. Just past the first intersection with VA Route 43 I pulled off on a side road and stopped at the edge of a field to watch a lowering with radar-indicated rotation to my northwest. 

Visibility was poor at best given the rain so I wasn't able to confirm rotation of any particular cloud feature, but lightning was both close and abundant so I was close to something active.

With this line segment now joining forces with other cells I was walled in by heavy rain and called it a chase. Even with the first two hour unproductive it was a decent August chase!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Color schemes and warnings

This is my personal preference / bias coming out but I continually find myself doing a doubletake when I see a severe thunderstorm warning graphic posted somewhere with red shaded polygons. To me the color red represents worst case scenarios and thus should be reserved for tornado warnings. Severe TS warning polygons should be posted in yellow.

That's my rant and I'm sticking to it...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Radar evidence of a stalled front

I chose not to chase today but this complex of storms on radar near Lexington VA caught my eye:
When I looped the image there were two different motion vectors apparent (the white arrows I've added). This complex was very slow moving and produced > 1" per hour rainfall rates.

I then double checked surface observations and this stalled frontal boundary (the blue dotted line I've added) jumped out at me:

The boundary wasn't a surprise as I had been watching it all day to see how it would affect convection and whether anything worth chasing would pop up. But it was cool to have the radar show the results of the converging air masses.

Tomorrow and Thursday could both be chase days. We'll see.