Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top 10 Images from 2010

Well, it's been forever since I updated this guy as it's been a fairly quiet period. I should add that it's been quiet for me, as northern Illinois was recently whacked with a late season severe weather event resulting in a fairly decent tornado in the Rockford area. I however was out of town for the week leading up to Thanksgiving and missed out on all of this. You would think a five day period in late November would be a safe time to leave town and not miss out on anything severe weather wise but mother nature once again proves her dominance. I am forever at her will, but that's what keeps things interesting.

That all said, I decided it was late enough in the year to go through my entire collection of images from 2010 and throw out my top 10 favorites. They aren't strictly limited to the warm season severe weather events, and there are certainly a few that probably could have made the cut that did not. However, on this day, at this hour, these are the ten images I feel are the best that I have taken this year in no particular order.

September 12 2010 -DeKalb County Illinois. Elevated convection worked its way across northern Illinois during the evening, one storm even going severe warned in the northwest portion of the state earlier in the day. By the time I intercepted the storms on my way back into DeKalb they were nothing more than elevated thunder showers. Hardly even any precipitation falling from the bases, but enough juice for intermittent bolts of lightning to snake around underneath. Right around twilight, the scene was almost surreal.

October 24 2010 - McLean County Illinois. Late season severe weather opportunity never really presented itself to the desired magnitude, but thunderstorms did erupt along a cold front just after sunset. I positioned myself in front of a cluster of on-again-off-again severe warned cells just west of Bloomington, IL and again was treated to an amazing twilight lightning display. The moon was even peaking up in the east giving me frontlit moonlighting, purple twilight, and lightning underneath with the stars shining above.

While the October 26 2010 super storm didn't produce much in the way of photogenic weather, the aftermath was certainly worthy. I ventured out to the damage path of an EF-1 tornado that struck a couple farmsteads northwest of Elburn, IL in Kane County where I shot this image. Even weak tornadoes can produce some impressive scenes.

April 4 2010 - Leroy, IL. This might be the best lightning photo I've ever taken. Tornado watches were out early this Easter Sunday but I stuck with family commitments. I was rewarded with this image as I intercepted a severe warned (previously tornado warned) supercell as it entered Leroy in McLean County on my way back to DeKalb that night. While impressive looking moving in, the storm's core had nothing to show in the way of severe weather.

July 17 2010 - Champaign, Illinois. This was a pretty fun non-chase. I shot a time lapse of this guy pulsing up and down for almost two hours across the Illinois/Indiana border. Once the sun set it looked like the show was over, but another pulse shot right up and this thing became electrified. One of the few times this year that I took the super-wide angle lens off.

June 4 2010 - Western Illinois. The day before the big day in western Illinois we caught this beautiful non-tornadic supercell just south of Macomb, IL. While it never looked overly close to producing a tornado this was one of the more fun chases I had this year. It was as relaxing a chase as they come.

May 22 2010 - Aberdeen, South Dakota. A day that I often try to forget for missing the Bowdle, SD EF4 tornado, I was just in a hurry to get to my reserved hotel room in Sioux Falls another two hours south of here and forget the day. I kept glancing up at the beautiful mammatus display above me and thinking I would kick myself if I didn't stop and at least shoot one photo. I could have been more creative in my composition, but angry as I was all I could muster was pulling off on a small side road and snapping this photo looking down the road to my south.

May 10 2010 - Wakita, Oklahoma. This tornadic mesocyclone was absolutely churning away in the sky as it passed to our north. Seconds before this image was taken a fully condensed tornado could be seen to the left of the road. There were certainly severe small tornadic circulations underneath this base as it rotated away. Watching video of this scene you'd swear it was time lapsed.

January 19 2010 - DeKalb County Illinois. Two straight days of thick freezing fog smothered northern Illinois. I went out the day before this shooting some of my favorite winter weather images as a thick soup of fog froze onto every surface imaginable. However, those images would be topped the next morning as the fog lifted and a deep blue sky emerged atop still frozen vegetation.

June 18 2010 - Shabonna, Illinois. The day after I sat out the biggest Minnesota tornado outbreak in years, I was treated to a minor consolation prize as two severe bow echos traversed the home land. I timed it just right to catch this beautiful almost blue shelf cloud go overhead at my favorite place in the world (the DeKalb wind farm) just as daylight faded away. The early afternoon bow echo produced much stronger winds, but it's passing was dwarfed by the graceful shelf cloud that preceded this weaker line.

August 15 2010 - Deep Lake, Wisconsin. I hit the star trails hard this year, and it finally paid off at the lake this summer. After being cut short by clouds two nights in a row before, I finally snuck in a much longer sequence getting some huge streaks in the sky. This was on the days following the Perseid meteor shower, but I didn't manage to catch much in this image though I did note a few out of frame while shooting.

For those of you counting, yes, there are 11 images in my top 10.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lake Michigan enhanced convection last night

I wanted to quickly point out some interesting occurrences over Lake Michigan last night. As a blast of cold air came down out of Canada and chilled surface temperatures into the 30s across surrounding coastal areas of Lake Michigan, the water surface temperatures remain in the middle 50s. This warmer surface temperature, coupled with much colder air blasting down aloft created an area of enhanced low level instability over the lake, very similar to what we would see in a lake effect snow event. You take that cold air mass aloft and lift it over the already cold 35F temperatures of the land surface and your temperature change with height as you go up is negligible when it comes to achieving any kind of instability, and unable to support convection. However, take that same cold air mass and move it over the water surface, which is about 20F degrees warmer than the land, and suddenly your low level lapse rates increase rapidly.

A few convective cells were able to tap into this area of enhanced low level juice and maintain themselves for quite some time as they passed SSE across the lake, even producing lightning at time, and showing the possibility of some small hail production.

I archived a couple meso-analysis maps, as well as a radar image of one of the more intense cells occurring a little before midnight.

Radar image of the storm over SE Lake Michigan. The green triangle indicated the potential for some small hail in the updraft.

Low level lapse rates bullseyed over southern Lake Michigan at 8 degrees C/km.

And then the lifted index maxima over the same area.

RUC analysis also indicated the possibility of surface based cape of 300-400 j/kg in the same area.

The storm quickly vanished as it moved ashore into the colder surface temperatures where instability was null.