Thursday, May 25, 2017

Closing Thoughts by Major

SWIFT was a training that I had wanted to do before I came to the Academy. I was so excited when I saw the email saying I was accepted. I went into the training open-minded and hoping for the best. I knew that tornados were extremely rare, so I was setting myself up to not be disappointed. When we saw 3 tornadoes the second chase day, I was so excited! It was an incredible experience to see the power of a tornado so close! We learned about the atmosphere in a deeper way than we ever had before. It stretched my intellectual curiosity to think about why the processes that control atmospheric dynamics occur. I look forward to learning more about meteorology and focusing on it in the oceanography major more. Spending time with all the other mids was great too. We made some great friendships and learned a lot from each other. The two weeks traveling the country were great and will be lifelong memories for me!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Closing Thoughts by Shannon

Hello everyone! Wow. . . SWIFT was a whirl-wind adventure! The long hours spent on the road traveling through eleven different states were not futile as our total tornado count was four, with some count variation between each SWIFT member. Not only did I observe four beautiful tornadoes, but I also now have an increased understanding of tornadogenesis, the required environmental conditions necessary to produce a tornado, and the difference between a healthy and unhealthy supercell thunderstorm. While our first tornado has a special place in my heart and had an eerie resemblance to the tornado from the movie Twister, the visually appealing look and obvious rotation of the supercell from our first chase day was one of my favorite SWIFT moments. After having Professor Barrett and LCDR Burich explain the process multiple times, the connections were made between the textbook teaching and real-life experience quicker than I would have thought. As we close up our journey and begin our trek back to Annapolis, I  believe my teammates and I have an increased confidence in our ability to identify and explain updraft/downdraft, inflow/outflow, vertical wind shear, and other aspects of supercells. The entire SWIFT experience exceeded my expectations and I could not have imagined a better group to have experienced it with! (:


Closing thoughts by Greg

With our final chase day behind us, we have begun to inch ourselves closer to Annapolis every day. Today we are visiting the Dallas/Fort Worth and paying a visit to International Exotic Animal Sanctuary. Throughout the two weeks of SWIFT I have gained an increased respect for the power and aesthetic brilliance of severe weather. We were fortunate enough to see 5(some say 6) tornadoes over our 7 chase days. We all learned a lot and made a few friends along the way. Whether we were running from hail cores or fleeing the wrath of Sheila, we all had smiles on our faces and generally positive attitudes! After many days of postponing our Twister/watermelon party we are excited to be able to critique the film with actual scientific knowledge.
Overall SWIFT 2017 was a success and I truly enjoyed opportunity to experience severe weather up close!

Closing Thoughts by Keely

SWIFT was an absolute blast! From escaping hail to watching a tornado lazily spin through an open field, the entire experience was invaluable. Pictures in a classroom can only teach you so much, and being able to get out into the middle of all of it is unmatched. I got to see much of the dry desert I'm accustomed to in a new light (usually the unnatural green light of a supercell) and explore some of the landscape I never knew was right at on my doorstep. Having never really been on any sort of family roadtrip, the entire program was a new experience for me. The beauty of a supercell cannot be captured in a picture; the life cycle from a small cumulonimbus to a rotating mass took my breath away. The hours driving were long and the time for sleep was short, but I wouldn't have expected anything less.

Closing thoughts by Ally

SWIFT has definitely been the amazing and unique experience I thought it was going to be! Over these past two weeks, I have learned so much more than I ever thought I could, not only about weather, but also leadership and teamwork. Having the opportunity to apply what we learned in meteorology class, as well as the outside learning we did to prepare for the trip, was an extremely valuable experience that I am very grateful for! Learning everything from how to read models and radar, to how to look up into the sky and point out the areas of rotation and updraft has been an experience like no other. On top of the incredible learning experience, working alongside an awesome group of mids lead to memories that will last a lifetime! It is sad to see SWIFT coming to an end this year, however I am excited to take what I have learned and continue on learning more about meteorology, alongside an incredible group of friends!

Closing thoughts by Darby

SWIFT was a great experience for me, and I really enjoyed these past 2 weeks of storm chasing.  It was fun and I learned a lot more than I expected.  Having only taken one semester of meteorology, my knowledge of severe weather was small.  I didn't really understand how a tornado formed and what environmental parameters are needed for this process to occur.  However, I can now say that after these 2 weeks, my knowledge of supercell and tornado formation has grown exponentially, and I now have a firm grasp on this process.  It was really cool to apply what I had been learning in the classroom this past semester.  Being able to visually see the whole tornado formation process was very important to my understanding of tornadoes.  I really enjoyed this experience and am sad that it is coming to an end!

Closing thoughts by Colin

As I write this post, our chasing days are over for SWIFT 2017, and we are slowly making our way back towards Annapolis through the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This year's SWIFT was once again an amazing time spent with 8 other people, and we had quite a variety of experiences, everything from hiking up to the highest point in Oklahoma to seeing 3 or 4 tornadoes. This trip definitely lived up to my expectations, and in many ways exceeded them.

Throughout SWIFT, I gained a better appreciation for severe weather and the difficulty of forecasting it. Especially as compared to last year, I improved a lot in my understanding and use of radar products to track storms and choose the best storm to follow, as well as how to delegate roles and responsibilities to the other 6 Midshipmen in the van. I also enjoyed learning about and actually getting to climb around in a National Weather Service radome to see where some of the products we use to chase storms actually come from. Overall, SWIFT 2017 was a great time spent with great people, and has left me with a ton of awesome memories that make this trip one of the highlights of my Naval Academy time!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday in Review

Today was our last chase day, it was a success! We drove from Amarillo, Texas to southeastern New Mexico to capitalize on the orographic convective initiation off the Sangre de Cristo mountains. As the day went on we seemed to scare the storms out of growing but we ended up in the right place at the right time for the most photogenic super-cell of the day. Today was overall a great day to recap everything we learned about super-cell formation and getting to see it all in action. We got to see multiple well defined super-cells, experience the collision of multiple storms, and even witness a tornado warned storm rotate right above our heads. The last chase day of SWIFT 2017 went better than foretasted and was a great way to end a great trip!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday in Review

Swift had an early start this morning so we could get on the road to Black Mesa Oklahoma. After a short ride and a quick stop at Walmart, we arrived at Black Mesa, the highest point in the state of Oklahoma. We hiked 4 miles to the top, where we had a picnic lunch while enjoying the beautiful weather. From the top, we could see the 4 states that border Oklahoma (Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas)! After a failed attempt to walk across the border to New Mexico, we hiked 4 miles back down. While hiking down, we were able to watch the cumulous clouds start to form, indicating that there was potential for some good storms to chase! Immediately after our hike we hoped in the van and started our chase in New Mexico. We were able to see some impressive storms form from their initiation, to their finish. After a lovely dinner at Pizza Hut, we are headed to Texas to spend the night and get ready to start our last day of chasing!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Saturday in Review

Today we took a break from chasing and enjoyed the nice weather. With the trough that we had been following the past few days advancing across the United States, it left sunny, blue skies in it's path. We went to the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma and spent the afternoon exploring and enjoying the scenery. We stopped to see some bison and cattle, and enjoyed watching a baby prairie dog and the mom popping in and out of their home. We went on a little hike and climbed to the top of a small mountain to see the beautiful view on top that overlooked a lake and wide open spaces. Then we hiked up a larger mountain and enjoyed another amazing view from the top. It was a nice, relaxing day, but we are hoping to chase some storms tomorrow! We will wake up early tomorrow to hike a bit, and then hit the road to find some storms.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday in Review

Today we started off in Guthrie, OK. There was an enhanced risk of convective activity with 5% chance of tornados in Northern Texas and Southern Oklahoma. We decided to head to Lawton, OK and check out some interesting gas stations with malfunctioning pumps and sketchy restrooms. We waited in Lawton for lunch at Silver Spoon Cafe to wait for the storms in Texas to initiate. We saw some cells starting to form south of Wichita Falls, TX on radar. We drove through the precipitation in one of the storms, but decided to pursue another near Windthorst, TX. We got some great views of the cell above us in the fields, but no tornados formed. We decided to go after one last storm near Megargel, TX, (pronounced Megagorgle). Unfortunately, this storm weakened after our quick chase. We headed back to Wichita Falls, TX to get dinner at Fuzzy Taco and stay at our hotel. We did a late night Walmart run for snacks. Saturday looks to be a down day for weather, so we are looking forward to going on a nice hike at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thursday in Review

Thursday began as an excitable day with a high risk issued by the SPC and a Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch issued early in the afternoon. The SWIFT team headed towards Medicine Lodge, KS before following a storm and heading north. We were able to observe several mesocyclones in a single area that stretched across our field of vision that dropped a small, brief tornado, but we were quickly forced to relocate. We were able to see the eerie green sky that is often associated with severe weather. At one point, we had a brief moment where tight rotation occurred close to us while we were driving from a dying supercell. After moving to a safe distance, we were able to observe a rapidly rotating storm that threatened to drop a tornado, but the rotation dissapated quickly afterwards. Overall, the team was able to learn from the uncertainty the day's environmental conditions had presented. After another steak dinner in Pratt. KS, we're headed to Oklahoma again for another promising setup tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday in Review

This morning we began our adventure from a hotel in Mulvane, Kansas.  Although we got into the hotel at 0200, we were all briefed and ready to go by 1015.  After looking at the models, we chose our target city to be Martensdale, Iowa.  We spent the first few hours of the trip closely watching the models and adjusting our target city because of the effects an extra-tropical cyclone.  While there were a few tornado warnings out of our reach, the radar was displaying some hopeful severe thunderstorm warnings.  We picked a specific super cellular storm (figure 1) that eventually received its own tornado warning.  The storms today had an average speed of 55 mph moving in the northeasterly direction, which proved to be quite the challenge as we were trailing the storms.  Also, there was heavy interaction among the storms decreasing the likelihood of tornadoes despite the SPC's 10% convective outlook.  Most of the storms of interest today happened in the northeast portion of Iowa, which was out of our reach due to time restraints.  Around 1800, the group made the decision to end our chase for the day, but not without a quick game of frisbee to stretch our legs.  The logistics team chose Cracker Barrel for a quick dinner stop.  Less than an hour later, we arrived in Lawrence, KS, our final destination for the evening.  Tomorrow is another chase day and we are in a great position for potential storms on the boarder of Kansas and Oklahoma!

(figure 1)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday in Review

Today was a very active day for the SWIFT team. With a chase already under our belts from yesterday's supercells, we were eager to hit the road today. We began the morning with a visit to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK where we got to see how the National Weather Service issues severe storm warnings and the process they use to issue information for the rest of the country. Afterwards, we got a great tour of the Radar Operations Center, where we had the opportunity to walk inside of a WSR-88D Radar. The weather was setting up very nicely for a chase day and the SPC issued a Particularly Dangerous Situation (PDS) tornado watch, so we were especially hopfeul to see some beautiful setups.

Within minutes of arriving back at our hotel, we were hot on the trail of some interesting precipitation signals in the Northeast panhandle of Texas. It was in McLean, TX where we got to see our first tornado of the day, a very photogenic tornado Professor Barrett affectionately referred to as "cute." After being rain-wrapped, we followed this rotation for a little bit longer before the tornado re-emerged as an Elephant-Trunk tornado. We kept an eye on the leftover rotation, but favored a more southern storm that looked promising. Unfortunately, much of what it produced was rain-wrapped, however, it was the longest-lived supercell of the cluster. We tried following one last supercell for the day, a storm that Colin had his eye on for most of the chase, however we were too late to witness the multiple vortex tornado it produced. At the end of our chase, unfortunately, we also saw the devastating effects that severe weather can bring. Our thoughts go out to the people of Elk City, and all of the affected areas.

Tomorrow the SWIFT Team sets its sights on Iowa!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday in Review

We started off our day at the Owasso 8th Grade Center, where we had the amazing opportunity to help teach STEM based middle school kids lessons on meteorology and the Naval Academy. We hope to have inspired some students to continue to work hard in school, in order to pursue higher education in the future, possibly even at a Military Academy! After a fun morning at the school, we quickly hit the road to start our first day of chasing. The weather forecast in the morning predicted some severe weather starting in the afternoon located at the panhandle of Texas, so we had a long drive ahead of us. In order to save time and get to the storms sooner, we made delicious PB&J sandwiches on the road, allowing us to arrive in Memphis, Texas just in time. Once there, we ended up following three different supercells all the way from Memphis to Borger. The supercells were almost picture perfect representations of  what we have been learning about, so it was really neat to see everything from the storm split to the hook echo in action. Wind shear and rotation was present, however the lack of moisture prevented any tornados from forming. We drove through a brief moment of hail, but made it out quickly with an undamaged van. After a long day of learning and chasing, we are now on our way to Norman, Oklahoma to get ready for another very promising day of chasing tomorrow!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday in Review

After a long weather discussion about the promising setup for severe weather this week, the SWIFT group visited the memorials for the catastrophic EF-5 tornado that ripped through Joplin, MO in 2011. The cross from St. Mary's Church, one of the only structures left standing in the aftermath of the tornado, and Cunningham Park, considered the heart of the EF-5 damage, featured numerous tributes to the victims of the storm. After a quick drive to Tulsa, OK, we ran through the trails of Turkey Mountain, treated to the view of the Arkansas River as we ran. We ate dinner at a great burrito joint in Owasso, OK and ended the night by finalizing our lesson plans for the middle school students we get to interact with tomorrow. And not to worry, we all made sure to call our mothers! (Happy Mothers' Day, Moms!)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday in Review

We started off the day with a tour of the 15th Operational Weather Squadron. 2nd Lieutenant Burg briefed us on the operational capacities of the squadron. We then met with the squadron members who talked to us about their work and weather knowledge. After returning to the hotel to change out of our khaki uniforms, we created weather and logistical briefs for the next few days. We headed for St. Louis where we walked around the Gateway Arch and stuck our toes in the Mississippi River! In the city, we ate at Sugarfire, a great BBQ restaurant. After lunch, we left the city and went on a 2 mile hike just south of Springfield, MO. The hike was full of nature, climbing, and jokes among the group. We stayed in Joplin, Mo, the location of the May 22, 2011 catastrophic EF5 tornado.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday in Review - Kicking Off SWIFT 2017!

SWIFT 2017 kicked off early this year at 0630. With a 13 hour drive ahead of us, we were eager to hit the road. We stopped at Major's house in Ohio where his parents treated us to a delicious lunch with famous Ohio Buckeyes as a treat! Overall, we've passed through 6 states: Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and entered a new time zone. We've gotten to know each other pretty well so far (13 hours in a van with the same people does that to a group).

Early this evening, a new run of the models indicated a strong possibility of supercells in the Texas Panhandle extending up into western Kansas, so after our visit to 15th Operational Weather Squadron at Scott Air Force Base and a peek at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, we hope to set our sights on some chasing before checking in with some middle schoolers on Monday!

Introducing Darby

Hi, I'm 2/C Darby Minton! I am from Chino Hills, California. I am on the Navy Volleyball Team and I am a member of 26th company. I did not have much interest in storm chasing before coming to the Academy, but my interest grew significantly once I declared my major as oceanography and learned more about storms and tornadoes. I am so excited that I get the opportunity to chase tornadoes and learn more about the conditions that they form in. I can't wait to see what I learn from SWIFT. There are many possibilities in the meteorology community that interest me in the future, and I am excited to continue to grow my interest in this subject. I look forward to the road trip and seeing more of the country. I am excited for the lifelong memories that I will always have from this trip!