Early May has the potential of being very active with severe weather across the south central plains of the United States, as some of the conditions required to produce thunderstorms - moisture, instability, wind shear, and forcing mechanisms such as surface boundaries and upper level disturbances – frequently come together over the plains during this time of year. Oklahoma, north Texas, and southeast Kansas experience the highest probability of these components producing severe thunderstorm events, including supercells, tornadoes, giant hail, straight line winds, and frequent lightning.
As we move into mid-May, we begin to approach the peak of the severe weather season for the southern Great Plains. The area of highest probability for severe weather expands to include northeast Kansas and the panhandle of Texas, with Oklahoma remaining in the statistical bullseye. When storms occur during this period of time, it is not uncommon to witness incredible structure, tornadoes, vivid lightning, and many other meteorological phenomena associated with supercell thunderstorms.
Late May brings us to the peak of the severe weather season for the Great Plains, and the area with the greatest potential for chaseable storm activity expands to include all of the Texas Panhandle, eastern New Mexico, eastern Colorado, southeast Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. It’s not uncommon for all these areas to experience isolated to scattered severe weather events, including supercells and their associated phenomena, simultaneously during large outbreaks.
The beginning of June marks the transition from the southern plains to the central high plains as the area with the highest probability for severe weather. The region with potential includes eastern Colorado, eastern New Mexico, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and western Iowa. During this time period, post frontal setups can advect moist and unstable air to the eastern plains of Colorado, New Mexico, and as well as the higher terrain of Nebraska and South Dakota. This sets the stage for incredible supercells and the beautiful storm structure that they produce.
During the second week of June, severe weather probabilities expand across the north central plains. States with increased likelihood for severe thunderstorms include Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota. None the less, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota are still prone to very active periods of organized convection. Photogenic supercells with amazing structure, frequent lightning and tornado activity are possible during this period of time.
June 21 marks the calendar start of summer and with that comes the longest days of the year. Because of this, average temperatures across the southern and central plains are substantially warmer when compared to those in the middle of May. This meteorological scenario shifts the average track of the polar jet stream and its associated storm systems responsible for severe weather to the north. While severe thunderstorms are still possible across the Southern Plains, the central and high plains become statistically favored for severe weather events during this period of time.
As we enter the first week of July, warm and unstable air is often transported as far north as the Canadian prairies. During this time, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and Eastern Colorado are fair game when it comes to experiencing severe weather events. Slow moving photogenic supercells with incredible structure, are not uncommon during these set ups.
Our final tour of the severe weather season. The focal point for photogenic severe weather remains across the northern Great Plains. During this period of time, powerful supercells can occur anywhere from Northeast Colorado all the way up to the Canadian border. Jaw-dropping storm structure, vivid lightning, giant hail and tornado genesis are all possible when and where conditions come together to produce these incredible rotating thunderstorms.