Surface boundaries are the basic storm chase target.

In this video, we discuss the different boundaries you can target for storms while out chasing.

There are numerous boundary types to keep in mind from drylines to warm fronts to cold fronts to outflow boundaries and more. We’ll talk about the different surface boundaries and what they mean in this video.

We dive into each deeper and how to target more effectively for them in other videos!

Why Surface Boundaries?

Surface based storms need lift at the surface to form. Thus, you need a boundary based at the surface to generate some of the initial lift to create thunderstorms. This low-level lift is a crucial ingredient on most storm days.

However, the presence of a surface boundary is not a guarantee storms will form. Typically storms will also need lift in the mid and upper atmosphere to form and sustain themselves. When looking for a target, surface boundaries are a good place to start. Oftentimes you will find yourself targeting these when observing storms. This is especially true on the Southern and Central Plains, where drylines and warm fronts are very common storm formation zones. When picking a target for storm formation, intersections of different air masses (boundaries) should always be a starting point.

Nine times out of ten you will target surface boundaries for storm formation. In fact, it is quite rare that you are not targeting some sort of a boundary on a storm chase day with the notable exception being on the High Plains in upslope regimes. There, the targets are more nebulous but still somewhat obvious thanks to improvements in high resolution modeling. And, it is worth noting, oftentimes these targets are still based upon boundaries of some sort.

Be sure to check out each subsequent lesson to learn more about each type of boundary you can target.

Back to: How to Pick a Storm Chase Target

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