Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday - Day 1 (photo added)

The word of the day is: "almost". We almost did this, we almost saw that, we were almost rained on etc.

To begin, we were wheels rolling at 8:55 am, which was not bad. Stopped in Needles to see how hot it was and raid the Food Mart @ Chevron! It was 106oF and only 7% RH - yikes! Despite the heat, the students managed to throw a football around. The football will no doubt come back into the story this week.

Sharp downhill run to the Colorado river, followed by a climb back up onto the plateau. One nice thing (there are many more!) about the drive from Needles to Kingman to Flagstaff is to watch the vegetation change as we drive east and climb to over 5000'. Kingman looks dry as a bone, with scrub vegetation and the odd cactus (which look to have a lot of new growth this year due to the rainy winter - El Nino?) And let's not forget that Kingman is one of those places that attracts "survivalists", if you know what I mean! As you head east, pine trees begin to appear, and the land looks greener, no doubt due in part to the heavy monsoonal rains over the last 2-3 weeks. And by Flagstaff, lots of pine trees. Forests even! Also, you get winded more rapidly as you dash to the gas station restroom, for dash you must in order to beat the crowd and not have to wait in the line!

Anyway, as we bombed eastward - AZ freeway speed limit is 75, which we stuck to, as we have no papers - the skies to our east looked more and more "stormy", and we were all furiously updating laptop and cell phone radar displays. Problem was...the good, big stuff had fired up earlier, and while we were an hour west of FLG, the good stuff was an hour east on I-40. As Mike said: "We should have left Barstow at 8" (which got earlier each time he said it). Turns out there were roadworks at FLG, and we lost any slim chance of a late chase due to being motionless. Can't chase when there are stationary semis ahead, behind, and beside you :-(

So by now we were on plan C, I think, which was to head to the hotel, check in, and use the wireless to check developments. This led to plan D, which was to head back WEST to try to chase a small cell moving NNE. We almost got under it, which would have been fun. But due to roads, and the cell's decision to decay, we didn't quite make it. Again from Mike...well, you can fill in here!

We DID release balloons, however. Again the almost word crops up. The 1st balloon almost worked, which means we let go, but then had zero communication with the receiver, and thus - no data. In Craig's words (roughly): "Stupid German radiosonde system". Which is why we launched the 2nd balloon with a second radiosonde system. At least we got a temp sounding to 375 mb from that one!!! However, the RH came in at 99% for the entire ascent, and even I know that's fishy!!! Let's hope tomorrow brings better luck on the radiosonde systems. Here are the students getting ready to release the balloon.

Plan E...head back to hotel, eat dinner, start forecasting for tomorrow. Craig (in jest, he now claims) suggested power bars and Amps for dinner, and blast on somewhere to watch lightning and/or chase. Right after that, we all saw lightning from a storm east of FLG, so of course this led to plan F = eat at McDonalds (or somewhere else fast), and bomb east to watch lightning. But once the fries and burgers hit our systems, and we saw (again) that the cells were dying (again), and that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time (again), we decided to bag it in favor of the hotel.

Which explains why yours truly is now in the hotel lobby, blogging here fingers to the bone, while the students polish off their forecasts. As I end this, it's 9:57 pm and most are still here, even tho' the pool closes in 10 minutes!

We are pretty confident that tomorrow is the best-looking day of the trip for widespread convection, some of which may generate problems. So the broad idea (plan A for tomorrow!) is to hope for clear skies early, strong heating of favored locations, and updrafts tapping into the incoming moisture surge. And then - color us in the middle of it all!

Lots of driving today. Author too pooped to upload photos - hopefully I can slot them in later!!!