Severe Weather Ticking Time Bomb

5/24/2011, 7:34:19 AM

Tuesday, 11:45 a.m.

It is not a question of if severe thunderstorms will break out this afternoon in the central and southern Plains, but just when the flash point will occur in a widespread fashion and just how bad it will get. We already have one line of intense thunderstorms rolling through east-central into northeastern Kansas as of late morning, complete with one severe thunderstorm watch in effect. West of this area, the sun is shining, and it's quickly heating up. To the south, an ample supply of moisture is lying around. To the west, we have the upper-level low already triggering thunderstorms in Colorado at mid-morning! Here's that upper-level feature this evening:

Just to give you an idea of what we're facing, it was in the 90s for highs Monday throughout the Texas Panhandle, with 105 in Childress and San Angelo. Current dew points are around 70 over all of central and eastern portions of Oklahoma and Texas. Just to the west where the sun is shining brightly, dew points are in the 20s. In between the two is ye old dry line, a feature or discontinuity that is virtually a magnet for thunderstorm development in situations such as this. That will be the flash point this afternoon and evening, and once the thunderstorms erupt, severe weather will almost instantly break out up and down the line.

The disconcerting thing about this is that there is considerable veering of the wind with height, from due south to even a little east of south in the low levels, to southwest then westerly the higher up you go into the atmosphere. That turning or twisting of the wind with height really raises the concern for thunderstorms that spawn tornadoes. Be sure to check back to throughout the afternoon and into tonight for the latest news stories, radar images and updated forecasts as this unfolds.

We won't stop with the morning light with this severe weather outbreak, unfortunately. It is a tightly wound, upper-level feature, one that will continue to churn out nasty thunderstorms with large hail, damaging winds and more tornadoes tomorrow and tomorrow night. The NAM 500mb forecast still has a well-defined, upper-level low Thursday morning:

As you might expect, with a cold pocket of air aloft overtaking a warm and humid air mass in the low levels, the risk of all kinds of severe weather remains high and shifts eastward across the Mississippi Valley:

You'd have to think this would carry on right into Thursday, extending perhaps as far north as the lower Great Lakes and certainly covering all of the Ohio and Tennessee valleys into the northern Gulf Coast states. There will probably still be some severe weather issues come Friday from upstate New York down the length of the Appalachians, even though by then the upper-level low will be weakening and starting to lift out to the northeast.

That gets us to the Memorial Day weekend, and while it may start out relatively cool across the northern Rockies and northern Plains into the Midwest, there will be some warming with time. However, by Memorial Day itself, the whole area east of the Rockies will be warming, with the core of the warmth likely to be in the middle Mississippi Valley into the Tennessee Valley. It's an early summer heat wave in the making, one that is likely to expand eastward as next week progresses.

I don't know about you, but given how volatile (and wet) this spring has been, I say 'bring it on.'

I will also briefly touch on the tropics. Here's the latest satellite view of the Atlantic:

That broad low well east-southeast of Bermuda could get a little better organized over the next few days, but it is out in an area with marginal support from below, and even then would like move farther away, not move closer.

Farther west, there are a lot of clouds stretching from the central and western Caribbean into the Southwest Atlantic, and while no defined low appears in any real hurry to form, it is an area that would typically be home to an early-season system if you are going to get one. Certainly, the models at this point are more or less noncommittal on any possible development, but it is something to just cast a wary on.

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