Storm Observing with the Next Generation

May 10, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Summary, Uncategorized 

Ardmore OK area
8 May 9

SHORT: Messy supercell viewed through hazy skies near Springer, followed after dinner by nice nocturnal lightning show at Lake Murray.

LONG:

Since it was likely to be a hot, humid and hazy time in the inflow, with very slim hope for crisply visible structure or a tornado, Elke wanted to stay home and get some work done. Figuring that the strong cap would delay storm initiation along the front until late in the afternoon, only about an hour’s drive away, I instead waited for my two storm-observing teenagers, David and Donna, to get out of school to take them on a little country drive to a southern OK atmospheric laboratory.

After passing through the cold front near Pauls Valley, we waited for storm initiation at the southern “scenic overlook” N of Springer, passing the time with assorted conversations, testing the “Shazam” song app for my I-phone, and admiting assorted wildflowers, some of which were quite popular with local honeybees.

Some towers to the SE, ahead of the front, tried…but aborted. Finally, sharper, deeper towers became visible to our W, through the haze of Mexican biomass incineration.

Figuring that real storm genesis was imminent, given frontal lift and huge CAPE, I headed the several miles down to the NW side of Ardmore to top off the petrol supply. As we left the fuel station, two primary storms became evident, both on radar and visually: one near Loco, the other near Hennepin (W edge of the Arbuckles). Both were within easy reach. The northern storm was getting better developed faster, but the southern one was not far away and surely would rain into the bigger storm’s inflow.

We headed W off the Springer exit, past Woodford and Milo, and waited for the Arbuckles storm to become deviant and turn SE out of the road void. One distant wall cloud was getting more ragged as we approached and stopped. As the storm got closer to us (near Milo), another wall cloud got better developed (24 mm wide angle) with a long plume of scud racing inward (leftward). The low levels of the storm sported vigorous convergence but only weak rotation. Even though plenty of anvil rain fell upon us from the Healdton storm, the thermometer measured 77-80 deg F in the precip. It seemed to be boosting RH and lowering LCL. The anvil rain also seemed to have just a little negative impact on buoyancy, but not too much to suffocate the storm until after dark, when it merged with the forward left flank of an expanding HP storm to the SW. As the HP storm grew and slogged over the S side of Ardmore, we called it a night and ate dinner at the Flying J truck stop buffet.

When we left the truck stop, the light show was amazing off to our SSE-SE, on the back side of the supercell that was moving across Lake Texoma toward Sherman. Continuous in-cloud strobing and occasional visible filaments kept the sky and ground well-lit. We cruised down to the NW corner of Lake Murray in hopes of getting some lightning shots looking across the lake. The storm, still buzzing constantly with IC lightning, was a poor producer of visible CGs on the back side, but it did provide one nice shot with some mammatus visible. The tan-orange color on the water and cattails is from the parking lot lights for the boat ramp we used.

As we watched the supercell recede into the distance, an elevated storm erupted to our N and quickly moved E, flinging the flashing forks of Zeus off the edge of its core every 3-4 minutes, with considerably thunderous fanfare. I tried to time the cycles, missing a couple of good ones but capturing a few others. You wouldn’t want to be a boater out on the lake, far from dock, and see this from a storm moving your way! Fortunately, nobody was boating, and the storm was moving away from us on the shore. We heard a pair of Canada geese honking from somewhere not far across the water; but it wasn’t until after offloading the photos did I see where they were (lower right, on rock). As the storm retreated, I got one last pair of bolts before rain from another elevated storm (which was moving our way) compelled us to exit the area and head home.

Our return to Norman took us around the back side of the northernmost of the elevated storms, between Noble and Purcell, its rain still falling upon us with nothing but stars and thin wisps of scud overhead, the full glow of the full moon to our S. A fine evening of dad-kid time came to a close, good times shared, neat storms witnessed and memories made. Whatever these kids go on to do in life, they can draw from the experiences of this and other storm observing trips throughout their childhood. These recollections will remind them not only of good times with Dad and amazing sights in the sky, but the capability of any given excursion to provide moments of awe and windows of wonder into the timeless beauty of amazing phenomena that are explained nicely if imperfectly by human science, but crafted completely and without flaw by God, who is the ultimate author of all discoveries that science makes.

My wish for Donna and David is the fullest possible appreciation of such surroundings. From that standpoint, trips like these are gifts that do keep giving. In a materialistic, narcissistic, shortsighted and hedonistic world, it’s better to give a kid experiences than stuff. After all, you can’t take a Game Boy with you when you die.