Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mount Jumbo - Juneau, AK

Rain-free weather during mid June inspired me to attempt Mount Jumbo, which was one of the few easy access mountains that I had yet to attempt in Juneau.  The first quarter of the trail consisted of easy forest hiking followed by wooden planks that pass across an area of meadow.  After the meadow, the trail gets steep as it ascends up forested sections of class 2 roots.  Tree line is then approached, and the views open up to downtown Juneau, as well as the impressive northeast face of Mount Jumbo.  Soon, multiple sections of class 3 rock slabs have to be tackled.  These give way to the final quarter to half mile of alpine hiking, which includes a false summit followed by the true summit of Jumbo.  The hike is the best in Juneau, in my opinion, due to the combination of great scenery, the alpine setting near the summit, and interesting scrambling.

Friday, May 29, 2015

West Central Kansas Supercell

The final chase of a 10 day chase vacation took place in West Central Kansas on May 28th.  Wes Adkins and myself departed from Amarillo during the morning, northbound to Boise City in the Oklahoma Panhandle.  After a data check, we saw the potential for discrete thunderstorm development in the vicinity of a possible pre-existing outflow boundary over western Kansas.  We departed for this location, with a thunderstorm developing over our target during the drive north.  As we approached the base of the storm near Tribune, we spotted a cone shaped funnel extending not quite halfway to the ground.  This funnel dissipated en-route, but two separate wall clouds developed in its wake, one to the west, and one to the east.  The western wall cloud attempted to go through an occlusion, but being that it was embedded in outflow from the more dominant eastern updraft core, it soon dissipated.  We were then cut off from the eastern wall cloud due to a large rain/hail shield.  So, we drove south to Syracuse, then east beneath a second storm that was merging with the northern storm.  This complex developed into a line segment.  We followed along for a while taking pictures of a shelf cloud that spread across expansive fields of wheat.  After an hour of chasing outflow, we called it a day and headed to Garden City for dinner.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Canadian, Texas Cyclic Tornadic Supercell

Wes Adkins and myself targeted the northeastern Texas Panhandle on May 27th, ending up near Moobetie by early afternoon.  From a road side rest stop, we watched what initially appeared to be a multicell thunderstorm initiate to our north near Canadian, TX.  This thunderstorm consolidated during the next hour, and developed a strong reflectivity gradient on its southern flank based on the Amarillo NEXRAD.  This quickly became our target storm, and we departed for Canadian.  The supercell appeared to have the potential to take a hard right toward the southeast, so we cautiously approached from the south.  However, it became obvious with time that the updraft was virtually stationary, so we entered the southern side of Canadian and watched a wall cloud evolve.  A strong area of low-level rotation developed northeast of the wall cloud, on the north side of town, and a tornado emerged within minutes.  As the tornado rotated around the northwest side of the low-level mesocyclone, it grew into a large cylindrical cone, possibly a half mile wide.  The tornado then moved along the western edge of the mesocyclone and entered its rope stage before completely dissipating.

Three separate wall clouds then developed after the tornado, each of which appeared to have tornadic potential.  The southwestern wall cloud came close to producing, but similar to the first tornado observed, an area of strong cloud base rotation developed to its northeast, went through an occlusion, and produced another tornado.  This process happened a third time, with another brief tornado being observed.  However, the third occlusion wrapped a large amount of rain cooled air into the base of the supercell, and the tornado potential finally came to an end.  We moved south of Canadian after the final occlusion took place, satisfied with the multi-hour cyclic tornadic supercell we observed.

Red River Low Precipitation Supercell

Wes Adkins and myself targeted northwest Texas on May 26th.  We parked beneath a towering cumulus southwest of Archer City during the early afternoon.  This developing cell was embedded in a cumulus deck that was slightly stratified, therefore we decided to depart for an area of stronger boundary layer destabilization near the Red River west of Wichita Falls.  This area featured a dryline outflow boundary intersection, and appeared to be a prime location for robust supercell development.  A supercell did develop, but appeared to ingest lower theta-e air from the cool side of the outflow boundary, and never managed to develop into a tornadic threat.  We parked south of the cell and watched it go through a typical LP progression, from a strongly rotating upright updraft, to a severely tilted and contracting updraft as it dissipated.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Supercell in Southeast Colorado and Southwestern Kansas

Wes Adkins and myself drove to southeast Colorado by noon time on May 24th, observing generally mushy looking updrafts slowly evolve to our west.  While parked in front of the entrance to a ranch, an old cowboy, by the name of Charlie Fowler, drove down his long stretch of dirt road in order to investigate why we were parked near his property.  He was friendly, and we struck up a long conversation while occasionally glancing off on the horizon at our target storm.  Eventually, Charlie offered to take us on to his ranch (officially named Fowler Cedar Cliff Ranch) and show us the historical remains of a homestead via the late 1800's.  We received a personal tour of the homestead property, which featured an old barn, sod house, and windmill, and I'm very grateful to Charlie for the warm welcome.  After an hour, we parted ways, and followed what was now an intensifying supercell that displayed 70 dBZ reflectivity values in the mid to upper levels of the storm.  Large hail was a sure bet with this cell, and we made certain to stay well ahead of its precipitation core.  Cloud to cloud lightning was constantly being produced, as well as a few CG's, and the leading edge updraft showed some helical structure from time to time.  Low-level scud eventually blocked our view of the storm after sunset, while a prolific tornado producing supercell was approaching from the southwest.  We entered Dodge City, KS immediately before the southwestern supercell merged with our bowing supercell to the west.  Tornado warnings continued to be issued for this complex as we fell asleep in our Dodge City hotel.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Supercell/Possible Tornado - Trans Pecos Region of Far West Texas

Wes Adkins and myself left Lubbock, TX during the morning of Friday May 22, drove south to Odessa, exited low stratus as we entered Fort Stockton, and then parked 20 or so miles east-northeast of the Davis Mountains in Far West Texas.  Towering cumulus struggled to breach the cap for an hour or two, and then one cell pushed through along a differential heating boundary left by the previously dissipated stratus as an orphan anvil spread northeast across the zone of ascent.  This cell back built toward the Davis Mountains, where it then became anchored to the elevated heat source.  It quickly evolved into a supercell, with the base initially shrouded in rain, but eventually becoming rain free, after-which a skinny funnel developed (but failed to make contact with the ground).  We watched this supercell sit over the Davis Mountains for another hour or two, and then departed back north toward Lubbock.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sheep Creek Trail - Juneau, AK

Hiked the Sheep Creek Trail located a few miles south of Juneau, AK during mid March.  Perfect weather, buoyant clouds, scattered light snow showers, and no wind.  The beginning of the trail starts out steep, then transitions to a mountain valley flat section, followed by a very steep ascent that leads to tree line.  Mud was thick during the first two thirds of the hike, but snow around 3 feet deep was encountered during the last third.  Once tree line was reached, snow loaded avalanche slopes loomed above.  Thus, decided to defer the final ascent up to Sheep Mountain to summer when avy danger will no longer be an issue.

Sheep Creek
Power lines that span the top of a large ridge.  Apparently this is a source of electricity for Juneau.
View above treeline, with powerlines continuing their ascent up over the ridge.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Petersburg, Alaska

I visited Petersburg, AK during mid-January via the Alaska Marine Highway (the best way to travel in southeast Alaska, in my opinion).  It rained almost constantly while I was there, due to an unusually persistent series of storm systems emanating from the northern Pacific.  However, rain is something we are all used to in southeastern Alaska, and it didn't stop me from getting out to see the town and surrounding wilderness.  Day one was dedicated to exploring the landscape south of Petersburg along the Mitkof Highway, which is situated along the Wrangell Narrows.  The scenery was spectacular, with mountains surrounding both sides of the Narrows, and waterfalls cascading down road cuts.  There was also a stretch of road located along an area of bogs and marshes.  Camping sites were numerous along the highway, and would be a major reason for me to return in the future due to their location along the channels.

I hit the local bars each night I was in town (Harbor Bar and Kito's Kave), and had a great time interacting with the locals.  Several different groups of people took me around downtown in between a few drinks.  This working class fishing town definitely knows how to unwind at night.  During the final day of my visit, I hiked from downtown to the Sandy Beach Recreation Area, and then walked a couple miles of trail under a rainforest canopy located adjacent to Frederick Sound.  The rugged trail was interwoven with periods of forest solitude occasionally broken by clearings that revealed the glaciated peaks of the Coast Range.  I then walked back into town, caught the second half of an NFL playoff game at Kito's Kave, and then jumped back onto the ferry for a return trip to Juneau.

The pace of life is slow in Petersburg, even slower than Juneau.  And in some strange sense, I think it has helped me slow down my outlook on life in Alaska, and allows me to better appreciate the community I'm embedded within.

Downtown Petersburg, AK.
Fishing dock in Petersburg, AK.
Small farm located across Wrangell Narrows from downtown Petersburg.
View of the Coast Mountains.
Trail leading away from Sandy Beach Recreation Area.
Small road cut waterfall located along Mitkof Highway.
Sandy Beach Recreation Area.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Aurora Rings in the New Year

An active vivid aurora occurred over Juneau a few days after the new year.  I was working a midnight shift at the NWS office.  A coworker went outside to take a weather observation, and then came back inside stating that the northern lights were on display.  I subsequently spent the rest of the night going outdoors to photograph the aurora in between updates to the local weather forecast.  The aurora continued after my shift was over, so I headed out to Mendenhall Glacier and continued photography until the sun started to brighten the sky in the southern horizon.  A full moon added further drama to the surrounding landscape.