Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Strong storms today?

A warm front is lifting northward through Kansas and Missouri. Take a look at the surface map below where I have drawn in the front:

Temperatures south of the warm front are in the mid to upper 70's and will likely may a run into the low 80's. The front is having trouble pushing northward due to cloud cover. Take a look at the current visible satelite image below:

You can clearly tell where the front is loated by the clearing line from Kansas through central Missouri. If the cloud cover just to the north can break up a bit, the front will be able to push north faster and allow temperatures to heat up faster. I do think the front will still stall across northern Missouri this afternoon, but the timing is uncertain due to the cloud cover. Southern Missouri and Kansas will not have a problem heating up this afternoon as the front is well to the north. Northeastern Kansas and northern Missouri is a very difficult and complex forecast. Temperatures near the warm front this afternoon will be limited to the low to 70's from near Highway 36, and get cooler northward causing the air to be much more stable.

South of the front, temperatures will warm up to near 80 degrees and dewpoints will surge into the 70's, so any thunderstorms that do develop will have plenty of energy to feed off of. Mid Level CAPE values will also be between 3000 and 4000 J/KG, which will aid in severe thunderstorm developent. One limiting factor is a strong cap (warm layer aloft) moving northeast of the area. This will prevent any development for most of the day until it weakens later in the afternoon. Once it weakens and breaks, thunderstorms should begin to fire along the cold front in a scattered line in south central Kansas and northen Oklahoma. With effective wind shear near 50 KT, a few supercells may develop and track northeast into eastern Kansas. These supercells will have strong winds and very large hail, and possibly pose a tornadic threat especially in south central and eastern Kansas.

The area of rain and thunderstorms will expand in coverage as it slowly moves along the cold front into western Missouri. Damaging winds and large will likely be the main threat with any severe thunderstorms. With the slow advance of the front, heavy rain is expected along with the strong thunderstorm potential this afternoon and especially overnight. The ground is already saturated from the recent rain, and as a result, the NWS has put a most of Missouri under a Flash Flood Watch.

I can see several other possible scenarios developing this afternoon and overnight, and I am not not sold on this forecast. This is a very complex system and a lot of things can still change. This is going to likely be a "Nowcasting" event. I will have an update around 6 or 7 this afternoon with the latest information and update the forecast as needed.

Alex Pickman


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