The Plains And Severe Weather

Forecasting for Nebraska is different than the East Coast or Palm Springs. Things I studied in school but seldom worried about before are significant factors here.

Each individual thunderstorm cell is weather. That they happen frequently this time of year is climate. The atmosphere begins each day primed for storms. All that’s necessary is a spark, of which there are many.

I have a feed from the OAX (Omaha/Valley NWS Office) on a big monitor at my desk at home. Thanks to Greg Senia and dozens of people who’ve made their computer code free and open source, my maps are very high resolution, illustrative and free. My Mississippi State lectures are coming to life.

There are storms heading eastbound out of Nebraska toward Iowa and Missouri right now. If you look carefully you’ll see a thin line heading away from the storms. That’s a gust front, wind that’s plunged from the storm at cannonball speed and is now forced to move horizontally along the Earth’s surface.

In Connecticut most tornado reports were for winds like these, not tornadoes. In New England I seldom saw them this pronounced nor as frequently.


Here’s the school part. We were taught these downdraft winds could actually spawn new storm cells.

Look at the storms again carefully. Though they’re moving east, new cells are springing up on their western flank. The winds are literally doing all the heavy lifting as my professors said they would. They are lifting warm surface air up into the atmosphere where it quickly becomes buoyant, producing towering clouds, thunderstorms and often keeping the process in motion.

Another three or four weeks of living on edge every day. Then it should slow down.

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