Epic Supercell Structure

Last Wednesday, several of us drove up to central Kansas after lunch to go storm chasing. We targeted the southern edge of an enhanced risk across north-central Kansas, aiming for a remnant outflow boundary left over from convection the day before. Initially, we drove toward Salina, KS, but opted to head towards the west to meet up with our other chase partners, who had gotten ahead of us. We met in Great Bend, KS, just as a storm was impressively building to our west, exactly along the remnant outflow boundary we had noticed earlier. Surprised at our good luck, we headed southwest to near Kinsley, KS, as the storm intensified into a well-organized, low-precipitation supercell to our north-northwest! As we headed closer, we saw some incredible mammatus clouds on the eastern side of the anvil.

Incredible structure on the developing storm, including mammatus in the upper right corner.

Incredible structure on the developing storm, including mammatus in the upper right corner.

We watched as the storm sat nearly stationary in the Kansas plains, slowly spinning, with the sunset in the background. Lightning flashed up in the anvil to our north, occasionally wrapping around the mesocyclone. A warm breeze flowed from our south directly toward the storm ten miles away, rustling across the fields where we were watching the supercell. Back within the storm, we could clearly see the rain/hail shaft (we later learned that this storm produced baseball-size hail). It was the most jaw-dropping storm structure I have ever experienced! None of us had ever experienced anything like this storm, with picture-perfect, textbook structure.

Supercell thunderstorm on June 3rd, 2015.

Supercell thunderstorm on June 3rd, 2015.

The Hanston, KS, supercell at its strength.

The Hanston, KS, supercell at its strength!

We watched the storm for about an hour, and I was able to capture a short time lapse video of the cyclonic motion of the clouds. (Full disclosure: I am currently obsessed with watching this video.)

 

I am still astounded that we were able to find perhaps the best storm of the day, isolated away from other storms in northern Kansas. Also, I am so grateful that we were granted permission to take the afternoon off from work, making up the time over the rest of the week. It was a very long day, as we got back from the trip very late, but it was an exhilarating adventure nonetheless!

A group photo from the Hanston, Kansas supercell.

A group photo from the Hanston, Kansas supercell.

 

Wichita Mountains Trip

Last weekend, we visited the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. (I went there in May 2013 as well, as part of the UNCA SWFEx trip.) It was a beautiful day to hike, and we enjoyed exploring the rocky summit of Elk Mountain! Here are a few pictures from our trip, including some of the local flora and fauna.

Some wildflowers along the trail.

Some wildflowers along the trail.

Cactus in bloom!

Cactus in bloom!

A rainbow-colored lizard on the summit of Elk Mountain.

A rainbow-colored lizard on the summit of Elk Mountain.

Hiking around the summit of Elk Mountain, with lots of smooth boulders!

Hiking around the summit of Elk Mountain, with lots of smooth boulders!

Looking north from the summit of Elk Mountain.

Looking north from the summit of Elk Mountain.

Looking east from the summit of Elk Mountain.

Looking east from the summit of Elk Mountain.

A Day in the Research Life

It’s the end of my second week of the REU! I can’t believe that two weeks have flown by already. I am having a blast! I have made some good preliminary progress on my research, as I have been identifying potential case studies and have started to analyze them. I am so happy here, and feel honored to be working in an incredible building full of distinguished scientists and forecasters. Here are some of my experiences and photos from the National Weather Center, both from a building tour and from my day-to-day research.

I work about eight hours a day, spread between research, meetings with my mentor, and other events (guest speakers, research ethics training, and so on) provided by my program. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming to all of us. I absolutely love walking through and working in this building! I’m a little sad at the end of each week to leave the NWC over the weekend.

The front entrance of the National Weather Center.

The National Weather Center lobby.

The National Weather Center lobby, from May 2013.

I am starting to get used to a regular work schedule. Unlike college, where studying is scattered at all times through the week, I work hard continuously throughout the day, and then get to relax at night and on the weekends. I like having some pure free time! The research is also starting to pick up pace, and I’m excited to see where that leads as well.

During our building tour, we also got to tour the brand-new Radar Innovations Laboratory next door. They have some really neat things inside, including a LIDAR radar showing visitors in the lobby on a screen, and a tornado simulator in the lobby!

A screen displaying the output of the LIDAR at the entrance of the Radar Innovations Lab.

A screen displaying the output of the LIDAR at the entrance of the Radar Innovations Lab.

Radar-related equations like Maxwell's equations and the reflectivity-rainfall relationships are printed on the lobby windows.

Radar-related equations like Maxwell’s equations and the reflectivity-rainfall relationships are printed on the lobby windows.

A couple of cool radars outside, with the National Weather Center in the background.

A couple of cool radars outside, with the National Weather Center in the background. 

Stay tuned for a couple of neat activities I have gotten to do, outside of my research obligations!

Day 2 of Research

I’m enjoying my second full day of research! There’s a marginally severe storm heading into the area, and I’m getting to watch from the top floor of the National Weather Center! Nice way to cap off the end of the day.

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A marginally severe storm heading just north of Norman.

 

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Some very weak pseudo-mammatus clouds to the north.

 

Notes from the Road

After a 19 hour drive, I made it to Norman, Oklahoma! Along the way, I stopped in Memphis, after surviving eight hours of driving through Tennessee. I happened to be in Memphis around sunset, and heard about a concert and fireworks show. It was worth a short wait! In the video below, downtown Memphis is behind me and to the left, while the Mississippi is to the right.


 
I had to beat through some rain for the rest of the drive, and parts of western Arkansas and Oklahoma were suffering from incredible flooding. Every creek, river, and lake I drove by was extremely flooded!

Hiking in Virginia

Along the way, I stopped at the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway to take a short hike. Here’s Humpback Rocks outside of Afton, VA.

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Looking north along the Blue Ridge Mountains towards Shenandoah National Park.

New Adventures

My journey in meteorology brings me to another adventure. I am leaving home today to start a summer research program (REU) in the National Weather Center at the University of Oklahoma, that I visited during SWFEx in May 2013! I’ll be driving 19 hours this weekend, quite the road trip! I’m feeling incredibly excited, but also a little nervous. Nineteen hours is pretty far from home. It’s weird packing up my essentials to move to a different university during the summer, as I’ve grown accustomed to the annual move to UNCA. However, I’m really excited to meet new friends (the REU students are all from different schools) and other scientists and professionals in Norman, Oklahoma! I will be doing research on a topic in meteorology, working with mentors to produce a paper and presentation by the end of the summer. Of course, I’ll be working in one of the weather capitals of the world, with so many people doing incredible forecasting and research in meteorology! As always on trips, it is a little surreal that I will soon be in an entirely different location, experiencing new things and learning more about the world (and myself).

It’s also weird that my time at UNCA is starting to come to a close, even though I have so many goals left to accomplish. This summer, I will be mulling over graduate school options, as this program will help me consider research and graduate school as a career. I hope I can get a lot of experience this summer, to boost me into my senior year. My goal is to blog regularly, but I’m not sure if these posts will be more experience/pictures-based or more about my research. Perhaps a little of both. Time to hit the road!