Confidence is increasing in a potentially major severe weather event on April 3rd.
This is an update to yesterday's post on this severe threat. A full update will come tomorrow.
The Storm Prediction Center has outlined the areas of northeast Texas, eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, southwest Missouri, and southeast Kansas for a severe weather risk on Thursday, April 3rd.
An upper level low will push eastward into the Southwestern states at the beginning of the workweek, reaching far northern Baja California by Wednesday evening, as the 500mb relative vorticity and height contour map shows above. We see that the maximum vorticity is not 'tilting' in any particular way, meaning it isn't pointing towards the southwest or southeast. Instead, we see the contour lines rather symmetrical around the upper level low, signifying a neutrally-tilted storm system.
When looking back to the GFS model forecast at the top of this post, we can now confirm that the storm is at a neutral tilt. This means it is stronger than the positively-tilted storm, but not at the mature level that is defined as a negative tilt. Because the upper level trough is of a neutral tilt, we still have to be concerned about the formation of a capping inversion that must be eroded before the storms can commence.
|Example of a capping inversion|
This graph might look complicated, but we're only going to look at the circled portion. The red line represents temperatures, and the green line depicts dewpoint. The lines bend and move as you move up the graph, as they show temperatures and dewpoints with height- the height legend is located on the left side of this chart, in hPa (interchangeable with millibars). If we start at the surface, at the bottom of the graph, we see how temperatures begin to decrease with height. This indicates instability, as warm air rises and cool air sinks. However, we suddenly arrive at a point in the atmosphere, around 850 millibars, when the temperature warms quickly and the dewpoint drops. This means the air from the surface that had been rising can no longer rise, because temperatures have now warmed above what they were a bit lower below this circled portion. Thus, thunderstorms cannot form. This phenomenon is the capping inversion. The capping inversion can be broken, as the warm temperatures in the circled portion are cooled down. When they cool down enough, the capping inversion is broken and thunderstorms can now freely form. A 'broken cap' is shown well in this example graph below.
|Example of no capping inversion|
There actually is a very slight capping inversion in this graph, too. Can you find it?
If you guessed it was located at the very bottom of the red line, you're correct. There is a slight inversion at the surface as temperatures warm a bit before rapidly cooling. The red line breaking to warmer temperatures only slightly signifies a weak cap that should be easily broken.
With our neutrally-tilted storm system, we're going to need to break the cap, but when that does happen (which it will), the fireworks will begin.
Note: Two images will be displayed below. There will be the jet stream forecast on top, with an example graphic on bottom. The top graphic (forecast jet stream) will be discussed first, before we shift to a discussion about the different regions of the jet stream, which is when the example graphic will be used. Bear in mind the example graphic is NOT a current forecast.
|Forecasted jet stream for April 3rd|
Divergence circled, more on divergence will be discussed below.
|EXAMPLE GRAPHIC for the topic discussed below.|
NOT A CURRENT FORECAST.
In the Right Exit region, we see divergence aloft, meaning air is being pushed up and outward, as the diagram above shows. This divergence acts as a helper for the formation of convection, including (but not limited to) thunderstorms. Even in winter, being in an area of divergence allows for the formation of snow. If the divergence is strong enough, thundersnow can occur as well (with other atmospheric conditions cooperating, of course). For our severe weather event here, with the divergence centered in the Right Exit region, I'm closely watching Oklahoma, Arkansas, and portions of Missouri and Texas for severe weather this Thursday, April 3rd.