Another Design Experiment . March 6, 2016
The Dryline & The Kansas Project
It is not unusual to see a few severe weather setups across the Central and Southern Plains during March, particularly as the month progresses, and today marks the first one of 2016. Later in the day, the centre of a low pressure system will migrate out of the Rockies into Nebraska, with a dryline draping southward through Kansas, Oklahoma and into Texas. This could be the focus for supercell development from late this afternoon into the evening, and the Storm Prediction Center has issued a slight risk that includes South Central Kansas and the site of The Kansas Project.
A dryline is a boundary between two air masses; on the west side air is dry and dewpoints are low, on the east side air is moist and dewpoints are high. In the spring and early summer, drylines frequently establish themselves across Tornado Alley as troughs pull dry air northeastward out of the desert southwest, and moist air northward from the Gulf of Mexico. If the right combination of shear, lift, instability and moisture come together – as they often do along a dryline – severe thunderstorms and, sometimes, tornadoes may develop.
Today a dryline will sharpen across the region. Surface dewpoints are projected to be in the 20s and 30s in the dry air on the west side of the boundary, but in upper 50s and low 60s on the east side. Where this dryline sets up, you could drive eastward from one county to the next and notice a marked difference in the mugginess of the air. This could be the focus for a few isolated supercells to develop.
But it takes more than just a dryline for severe weather to occur; the right combination of a number of ingredients – shear, lift, instability and moisture – must come together in order for thunderstorms to develop and become severe. Today, the big question is whether there will be enough instability and lift to get a storm or two to form.
Today there is some question as to whether or not there will be enough lift and instability for storms to develop, but if they do, the high-sheer environment means they would likely be beautiful, sculpted supercells.
Synoptic setups like today’s happen over and over again throughout the spring and summer in the Plains. Sometimes, conditions just aren’t quite right and little or no severe weather occurs; other times, they generate significant events including major tornado outbreaks. They make the weather of the region unique; no where else in the world do these ingredients for severe weather come together in the right measure as frequently as they do in Tornado Alley.
This is why we chose South Central Kansas for The Kansas Project, the goal of which is to design and build a weather-centric dwelling, using architecture as a tool to foster a more symbiotic relationship between people and the elements. Just as a ranch or a lodge is built in the Rockies so that users can experience the splendour of the mountains, The Kansas Project will be constructed at the heart of Tornado Alley and designed to enhance the dweller’s relationship with the sky.