Archive for Friday, June 15, 2012

Storm misses Lawrence — evidence of the Tonganoxie split?

June 15, 2012


Thursday night, a big thunderstorm rolled through southern Nebraska and into north central Kansas. The National Weather Service office in Topeka issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area, including Douglas County, predicting heavy rains.

And then, Douglas County received just a few drops.

Was this evidence of a so-called “Tonganoxie split,” an oft-quoted phenomenon of storms splitting up before hitting south of the town, and thus, missing the Lawrence area?

The short answer: No.

Many may claim belief in a split because of low rainfall, but meteorologists say Lawrence receives the same amount of rain as surrounding towns, and that ideas otherwise are based on “short memories” affected by this year’s lower-than-average rainfall.

In fact, NWS meteorologist Shawn Byrne said, Lawrence has gotten more rain so far this month than Topeka has — .31 of an inch compared to .19 of an inch.

Thursday night’s storm lost its power because the sunshine-heated ground caused lower air to warm and instability in the system to be lost, canceling its ability to spill rain.

“That’s just how convection works,” Byrne said.

Though Lawrence has had more rain than other cities and towns in the area, it has been a dry year all around. Last year, the precipitation for Lawrence for all of June was 3.28 inches, higher than the expected average for the month, 2.92 inches.

In 2010, June saw a rather wet 5.4 inches. All this adds up, Byrne says, to an important point in studying meteorology — averages. To determine that Lawrence is somehow buffered from rain would require years of study and consistently low rates to keep down the average, something that’s just not there, he said.

But if you’re a Lawrencian hoping for a downpour, maybe it’s just human nature to want to blame a split.

“If you say it enough times, you believe it,” Byrne said. “But the reality is that (Thursday’s storm) just happened to break up before it hit Lawrence. We sometimes remember what we want and, unless you go back to check the records, memories can be short.”


gorilla10 3 years ago

I love reading the weather articles. For some reason I find myself always checking the NWS for their forecast. Their forecasts are wrong more than they're right. I know it's difficult to predict the weather for areas all over the country but the NWS is too good at being wrong. Their rain and storm predictions are pathetic. I love when they have no chance of rain forecasted and we get a bunch, then they quickly change their percentages as the storm is over top of us. Tough job but a little more consistency and would be nice!

DillonBarnes 3 years ago

Sounds like they are quite consistent. :-)

Enlightenment 3 years ago

That must be why the southern Bible Belt states receive more rainfall than us here in Lawrence.

blindrabbit 3 years ago

Brings to mind Dan Henry.

Really miss Katy Horner when we need her.

JackMcKee 3 years ago

Fact or fiction, I watched that storm on the radar and it was like it his a wall just to the West of Clinton Lake.

riverdrifter 3 years ago

The Tonganoxie split was popularized but weatherman Dan Henry on a KC TV station decades ago. Actually, I don't think he was a meteorologist. Anyway, it has long since been debunked.

50YearResident 3 years ago

Debunked? I live 5 miles south ot Lawernce and the split is indeed a fact.

Nathan Atchison 3 years ago

if it doesn't exist why does it keep happening? I guess we have an abundance of sunshine heated ground.

Richard Ballard 3 years ago

Short memory huh? No such thing huh?

Last nights radar at 12:00AM was certainly a "no possible way it won't rain here in the next 45 minutes" event. But it didn't!

I have lived here 45+ years. And since the advent of weather radar on TV, I have watched it happen again & again after Clinton lake was filled with water in 1980.

Friends get 1" - 2" rains in Lecompton and Ottawa, and I get .01" like last night.

Perhaps the young meteorologists are the ones with short memories, because they weren't born yet in 1980 to remember rains before that??


gorilla10 3 years ago

Did you notice the severe thunderstorm watch stopped east at Douglas county. They knew it would lose its strength as the night went on. I went to bed at 12 thinking I would wake up to a watered lawn. Wasn't happy this morning!!! Pretty crazy how it stopped the way it did given the size of the storm. It was from Nebraska to Oklahoma moving straight east. Crazy if you ask me....

Jstanobservation 3 years ago

Might want to recheck your sources.Ottawa got nothing last night,and are behind us for the year.

countrygirl 3 years ago

We got just enough to get the steps damp near Ozawkie last night. Those storms just plain fell apart before they got here.

countrygirl 3 years ago

We got just enough to get the steps damp near Ozawkie last night. Those storms just plain fell apart before they got here.

riverdrifter 3 years ago

"It is silly to see something constantly happening"

"It is silly to see something constantly happening, but then just believe someone else who said that it's not."

Uhm, historical weather data shows that this is not "constantly happening". In fact, it's not even close to that.


Geiiga 3 years ago

Oh, come on. Don't go trying to explain away God's wrath on Lawrence with the fact that it doesn't actually exist. If it weren't for the Tonganoxie Split, then Lawrence would have the same climate as Seattle.

Liberty275 3 years ago

"Thursday night’s storm lost its power because the sunshine-heated ground caused lower air to warm and instability in the system to be lost, canceling its ability to spill rain. "

Interesting. Has it ever been researched whether some mineral other anomaly exists in local pockets that causes more heat to be absorbed by the ground in local areas and consistently cause instability in those areas. If such area were found in the right place, would it not support the existence of a "Tonganoxie split" affecting storms approaching Lawrence from a certain direction?

Weather_Watcher 3 years ago

From the way the storm acted it would seem more appropriate to say all the hot air in Lawrence created a shield that even a major rain storm could not overcome.

parrothead8 3 years ago

"Last year, the perception for Lawrence for all of June was 3.28 inches..."

The perception?

Liberty275 3 years ago

You's think more guys would have corvettes.

Vinny1 3 years ago

Reason why big storms miss always seem to "split" and go around is pretty basic, its a change in pressure form the hills/elevation.

Same reason why you very rarely see tornadoes, serious storms in large urban metro areas. The big buildings change the air pressure and wind and its not as conducive for big storms to move/continue.

gorilla10 3 years ago

yeah, those Topeka and Lawrence skyscrapers are always in the way!!

parrothead8 3 years ago

That's ridiculous. Buildings don't "change the air pressure."

Brad Greenwood 3 years ago

Actually it's all the concrete and such of the city that creates a "heat island" , a localized area of warmer temperatures, which does affect the air pressure.

gorilla10 3 years ago

Sure, but not enough to completely break up a storm!

blindrabbit 3 years ago

I'm sure if you ask the Tonganoxie/Linwood sage TomShewmon (aka Nancyboy) and whatever other moniker he goes by now, it can all be attributed to his "annointed one"

Mike Edson 3 years ago

Looks like it is going to do it again tonight. A line of storms are forming in western Kansas heading due east. I always thought the Tonganoxie split occurred due to the river.

whats_going_on 3 years ago

I still believe in the Tonganoxie least for big bad storms. Not so much the little ones and rain, but the baddies always seem to go right around...

SandCoAlmanac 3 years ago

Except: May 11, 2000. A tornado hit Tonganoxie. Where's the "split" in that? I'd count a tornado as a 'baddie.' When does one decide to ignore the outlier data?

50YearResident 3 years ago

I have lived south of Lawrence for 30 years. I have watched the live radar on the weather bug and it has happened time after time the storms either die out or split north or south just before coming into douglas county. My theory why this is hppening is 2 fold, first the landscape is causing air currents to rise and second is the fact we are right in the middle of I-35 and I-70 and the heat from those 2 highways causes the storms to follow outside the triangle, either north or south. Watch the next storm and watch the split for yourself. It is there and consistant.

riverdrifter 3 years ago

"It is there and consistant." No it is not. Please cite.

I can give you reams of precip data for decades that refutes this crap (USGS and NWS) but you wouldn't believe it. Nevermind.

50YearResident 3 years ago

Severe weather and rainfal are two different things. I agree the rainfall that you are referring to is nearly the same. However the severe weather definately follows the split. Sever weather is high winds, tornados and hail storms that cause people to seek shelter. Most all of the severe stuff splits north or south with a few rare exceptions.

gorilla10 3 years ago

I hope you aren't complaining about that. You state that the rainfall is nearly the same but the severe stuff isn't. That sounds like a good "split" to me!!

50YearResident 3 years ago

Yes, it is a good split. I like it.

50YearResident 3 years ago

If you watch live doppler radar right now for the next 2 hours you can watch the Tonganoxie Split as it is working, It is happening right now. Saturday, June 23, 2012 6:45 AM. C.S.T.

50YearResident 3 years ago

Be sure to animate the radar if it is not already doing it.

50YearResident 3 years ago

Watch the Tonganoxie split live right now on doppler radar! See it for yourself.

50YearResident 3 years ago

That was a perfect example of the Tonganoxie Split, it is real. You can still see the tail end of it until about 9:15. Use Weather Bug or any live power doppler. I just wanted to call attention to this split to show readers how it works, and that it is there.

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