Joe’s Weather Blog: Flushing out the atmosphere with storms (THU-5/27)


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A stormy and mostly non-severe start to the morning in the region. Storms have moved into the area with locally heavy rain and some moderate winds. Really no severe weather in the storms which is more or less what I expected.

The storms and rain will continue into the mid-morning hours before things wind down and taper off for a few hours. We’ll be awaiting a cold front with a wind shift towards the northwest. Once that happens this afternoon, the severe weather risk overall is eliminated for your specific neighborhood.

The question is this: will we destabilize enough to get big storms to re-fire locally? I have my doubts.

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Today: Lots of rain/storms around into the mid-AM, then mostly cloudy with an attempt to warm up into the mid-to-upper 70s. A cold front will enter the area this afternoon and may spark some renewed storms if we can get unstable enough. Locally heavy rains are the main threat this morning.

Tonight: Variable clouds and chillier with lows in the upper 40s to near 50°. Breezy as well.

Friday: Mostly cloudy and cooler(!) with highs around 60°.

The Holiday Weekend: OK for Saturday and Sunday but rain is likely on Monday, especially in the afternoon. Highs only in the 60s to lower 70s with perhaps only 60s for highs on Monday. Not exactly balmy for the pool.



There were lots of potential outcomes for today. In a spring that has been marked by a lack of severe weather for the Kansas City metro and points north, what looks to happen today is the best outcome I think, assuming things go according to plan.

We’ve seen one or two waves of storms/rain this morning move through with locally brief heavy rains. Winds from the storms have mostly been in the 20-50 mph range or so, which is what I was expecting for the last couple of days. The timing worked out as well… so so far so good.

Now the question is what happens during the afternoon. The rain and clouds this morning will be limiting the instability. The models have been absolutely terrible for the last 24 hours or so. Short range model data has been barely usable really and all over the place.

As we’ve talked about for awhile, typically what happens when storms come through around daybreak during the spring and summer months is that it’s pretty tough to get the atmosphere recharged for big afternoon storms. The winds above us are going to be blowing over the various cold pools of surface air that the rain this morning create.

This means a continuation of the rain for awhile this morning. That is pretty important because a cold front will be cutting into the area towards the middle of the afternoon. This will in effect shut down the threat for storms after it passes.

So the window for us to get unstable is until roughly 4 p.m. (for the Metro) or so before the front moves into the area, but with better and longer chances of more instability farther south and east of Kansas City.

It appears the cold front itself will be moving into the region between 2-5 p.m. That means the renewed storm chances (if we warm up to about 80° or so) would be towards mid-afternoon. Our short-range model data (which again has been really having a rough time) do show enough instability rebuilding by then to pop more storms with winds and perhaps some hail as the main threats, especially along and east of the Interstate 35 corridor into central Missouri and southeast of the Kansas City metro. Conceivably this can still happen.

A LOT though needs to come through for this to happen, especially with this persistent lift happening this morning because of the low-level fast winds overrunning the cool air that has been created by the storms this morning. Right now, my sense is that some of the models are being way too aggressive in re-firing stronger storms in the way-too-unstable air that they’re forecasting. I think the instability in the Kansas City metro area won’t be overly high, reducing the bigger storm threat.

Areas farther to the south though may have a bit of a better window for stronger storms. Perhaps between U.S. 50 and Interstate 44 south. Here the storms this morning may not flush out the atmosphere enough, allowing more heat to build and more instability.

The latest severe weather outlook from the Storm Prediction Center shows Kansas City on the edge of a “slight” risk of severe storms. The area is “enhanced” from Oklahoma into southwest Missouri.

This to me seems reasonable at this point.

To me at least: If the low-level jet wasn’t going to be as persistent today in generating additional rains and clouds, I could get a bit more fired up about our stronger metro storm prospects. If the cold front was coming in towards 7 p.m. or so, that too would peak my interest a bit more in the metro.

The caveat again is if we can get unstable fast enough and if the front can tap into the instability quick enough locally… yes, we could get renewed, potentially severe storms with wind and hail being the main threats. Overall though, I think those threats are higher east and south of the Kansas City metro at this point. I’ll continue to monitor the trends this afternoon especially.

To reiterate: Areas from U.S. 50 to the I-44 corridor are perhaps in a more favored area for these more vigorous storms.

The other noteworthy thing about the weather is the cooler trends coming towards us. It won’t be the coolest Memorial Day weekend, but it’s not going to be warm either. Typically we should be close to 80° for highs. That is not happening, not even close really. Tomorrow could be a struggle to get much above 60° and Saturday, despite more sunshine, mid-60s or so may be a push.

So not exactly pool season quite yet, although yesterday we did hit 88° for the warmest day of the year so far. We may not get to 80° next week. Also noteworthy is when is the next opportunity for severe storms? Right now I don’t see one for a while assuming nothing crazy happens this afternoon.

Finally lots of pictures regarding the great shelf clouds that some of you saw today. A “shelf” cloud is from the “arcus” cloud family. They form along the leading edge of thunderstorms and can be quite vivid. They aren’t that unusual here in the Plains with our bigger storms.

It’s easier to just copy the definition from Wikipedia:

“A shelf cloud is a low, horizontal, wedge-shaped arcus cloud. A shelf cloud is attached to the base of the parent cloud, which is usually a thunderstorm cumulonimbus, but could form on any type of convective clouds. Rising cloud motion can often be seen in the leading (outer) part of the shelf cloud, while the underside often appears turbulent and wind-torn. Cool, sinking air from a storm cloud’s downdraft spreads out across the land surface, with the leading edge called a gust front. This outflow cuts under warm air being drawn into the storm’s updraft. As the lower and cooler air lifts the warm moist air, its water condenses, creating a cloud which often rolls with the different winds above and below (wind shear).”

Dustin from Leavenworth, Kansas sent me this picture from what he saw this morning.

Final note… I’ll be taking about 10 days off starting Saturday. I hope to get a blog out tomorrow, but then no blogs until June 9 or so, depending on the weather situation.


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