CA chasers Danny Neal and Adam Lucio were treated to a random isolated thunderstorm. The storm blew up directly over Danny’s house in Evergreen Park before drifting northeast over the lake and dying. Before the death of the storm, it thundered constantly and let several cameras capture it’s beauty. Here is an explanation of what happened….
Chicago is in the middle of a historically record warm pattern. That’s no lie either. Today the high hit 82 degrees. This is now the earliest reading that high since records began. Not only that though, it is also the city’s 3rd consecutive day in the 80s, which is the earliest streak of 80 degree days on record.
With this pattern of abnormally warm and even humid, summer like air in place, the chances for thunderstorms have been there each day. Until now, storms have largely avoided the immediate Chicago area, firing mostly south of I-80 and in other places like Northern IN, Michigan, Ohio and downstate Illinois. Today though, with a little help from a lake breeze boundary a storm managed to fire over the heart of Chicagoland. The storm didn’t last too long, and never became severe but it was quite pretty to look at. Below are some photos as well as an explanation how the storm formed. The storm was close and I couldn’t get the whole thing in my frame, its times like this I wish I had a decent camera with a wide angle lense.
First view I got of the storm as it began to grow. Loud thunder could be heard.
My neighbors tree bears wounds from some of Chicago’s violent thunderstorms of the past.
The storms updraft and anvil became illuminated nicely as the sun began to set.
Summer in March, I love it!
The planes at Midway Airport were still taking off. I bet they had an awesome view.
So how did this one lonely storm form? Conditions across the area have been warm and humid for days, with scattered storm development. Being just warm and humid isn’t enough though. The warmth and humidity provides the energy for storms, but that energy is useless without a source of lift. Since we are sitting in the middle of a dome of hot air with no real jet streams, waves or fronts to help kick off storms, it comes down to a smaller, more local or “mesoscale” details in order to get lift for storms. Today we had that in the form of a lake breeze boundary.
These boundaries are quite common actually but don’t always spark storms. Basically what happened is cool easterly winds off lake Michigan butted up against the mean flow from the south. When these winds collide it enhances convergence, or lift. This enhanced area of convergence, along with the instability generated by the warm and humid air was enough to have this storm go up right on the boundary which you will see in the radar images below. The storm quickly moved over stable Lake Michigan air though, and thus was only able to last about 30 minutes. It was isolated, which allowed it to be so photogenic.
Boom! Storm goes up along boundary!
Danny Neal & Adam Lucio
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