Monsoon Convection at Wupatki National Monument

Thunderstorms develop in the late afternoon near Wupatki National Monument.
Thunderstorms develop in the late afternoon near Wupatki National Monument.

Time lapse of thunderstorms developing near Wupatki National Monument.

Once again I traveled to Wupatki National Monument to photograph thunderstorms and lightning–and even the Moon.

Thunderstorms had generated several outflow boundaries and two of these boundaries converged and produced new thunderstorms to the southeast of Wupatki NM. The top image and time-lapse video shows the developing thunderstorms along with an appearance of the waxing Moon.

Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

Thunderstorms had also formed on the mesas and plateaus of northeast Arizona earlier in the afternoon and were moving to the west and southwest. These storms would likely arrive in the vicinity of Wupatki NM by late afternoon and early evening. Of note, the high-resolution weather forecast models indicated that the storms would dissipate as they moved across the lower elevations of the Little Colorado River valley. I was more optimistic based on the afternoon radar and satellite data.

These storms continued to move westward and generated a weak haboob–the second in two days in this area. The thunderstorms also generated plenty of lightning as they moved across the San Francisco volcanic fields.

Sunset colors over the Coconino Plateau.
Sunset colors over the Coconino Plateau.

And there was a nice sunset, too.

Monsoon Storms–July 2022

As noted in a previous post we had an early start to the North American Monsoon which brought thunderstorms and rain to northern Arizona in the second half of June. This was most welcome as it had been a very dry spring. Then we went into a down period for the first third of July with very little activity. That was completely reversed as we entered a period of very strong monsoon activity which brought frequent heavy rains and flash flooding.

So the first part of July had few targets. The remainder of July had above normal amounts of total precipitable water and very high surface dewpoints which produced an environment with mostly cloudy skies and very low cloud bases. None of this is particularly conducive to photographing storms with beautiful light (i.e., golden hour, blue hour). Nonetheless, if you head out often enough you will get some good photographs.

A cluster of late afternoon storms that lingered into twilight produced some beautiful lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

An isolated thunderstorm produced lightning at sunset over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
An isolated thunderstorm produced lightning at sunset over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
An isolated thunderstorm produced lightning at sunset over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
An isolated thunderstorm produced lightning at sunset over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

This day in Sedona produced very little lightning but did get a nice sunset and a partial rainbow.

Lightning beyond Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Lightning beyond Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
A brilliant and colorful sunset in Sedona, Arizona.
A brilliant and colorful sunset in Sedona, Arizona.
As the sun set, a partial rainbow formed.
As the sun set, a partial rainbow formed.

Convection often starts early over the elevated terrain of the San Francisco Peaks. These storms eventually produced flash flooding over recent wildfire burn scars.

Convection starts early over the peaks.
Convection starts early over the peaks.

Convective towers mix with laminar wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks. Shot from Marshall Lake–now just a dry grassland.

Morning convection and wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks.
Morning convection and wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks.
A cloud-to-cloud lightning flash over Mormon Lake, Arizona.
A cloud-to-cloud lightning flash over Mormon Lake, Arizona.

Sometimes you don’t have to travel any farther than your back porch to see lightning.

Lightning from my back porch.
Lightning from my back porch.

After several days of heavy rain and high dewpoints fog would form in the shallow basins. But getting photos of fog at sunrise in July means a very early start!

Morning fog with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.
Morning fog with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.
Morning fog with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.
Morning fog with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.
An example of what happens with too much moisture: overcast skies and low cloud bases.
An example of what happens with too much moisture: overcast skies and low cloud bases.
Sunset panoramic image from Flagstaff.
Sunset panoramic image from Flagstaff.

Maybe August will be better. The photo above is a sunset panorama (10 images stitched together) taken on the first day of August.

 

Sunset panorama

Sunset panorama over Flagstaff.
Sunset panorama over Flagstaff.

Yesterday (01 August) had only scattered thunderstorm activity for much of the day. However, radar indicated a weak convergence boundary near Flagstaff so there was a chance of late afternoon storms developing close by. And so it did happen.

A strong storm was located east of Flagstaff just before and after sunset. As the sun dropped to the horizon the underside of the storm and anvil cloud was lit with golden hour light. This is a panorama of that view. It was taken with a ultra-wide-angle lens in portrait mode with ten individual images that were stitched together.

Beautiful!

Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field

After a few days of little or no thunderstorm activity things picked up a bit on Tuesday. Moisture pushed just a bit farther west than the past couple of days allowing storms to form near and north of Flagstaff.

Lightning after sunset over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning after sunset over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

Late in the afternoon I was in Wupatki National Monument and shooting storms to the west and southwest over the San Francisco Volcanic Field. The storms had been fairly weak during much of the afternoon but became more electrically active just before and after sunset.

Thunderstorms with crepuscular rays.
Thunderstorms with crepuscular rays.
Thunderstorms with crepuscular rays.
Thunderstorms with crepuscular rays.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
More lightning.
More lightning.
LIghtning from anvil to ground.
LIghtning from anvil to ground.
Lightning over -- time to capture moonlit storms with stars above.
Lightning over — time to capture moonlit storms with stars above.

And now the forecast models show another down period of at least a few days. Glad I was able to get some nice photos today.

Lightning at Grand Canyon

Lightning at Grand Canyon.
Lightning at Grand Canyon.

The North American Monsoon is in full swing and is producing daily thunderstorms and heavy rains across the southwest. Lightning is always a favorite subject for me this time of year and I have tried a few times to get interesting photos. Today was a good day.

Rain falling at Wupatki National Monument.
Rain falling at Wupatki National Monument.

I stopped briefly at Wupatki National Monument and photographed an interesting rain shaft over the grasslands of the park — but no lightning.

Lightning near the Little Colorado River canyon.
Lightning near the Little Colorado River canyon.

I moved on towards Grand Canyon but made a stop at one of the Little Colorado River overlooks along the way and was able to get a few good bolts.

Lightning at Grand Canyon.
Lightning at Grand Canyon.
Rain falling into Grand Canyon.
Rain falling into Grand Canyon.

I arrived in time to watch new thunderstorms develop south of the canyon and then move across the canyon to the North Rim. Capturing bolts landing below the rim is always interesting and I managed to get a few. But the best and closest lightning bolts occurred while it was raining and I was safely watching from the inside of my vehicle.

Lightning behind the ruins at Two Guns, Arizona.
Lightning behind the ruins at Two Guns, Arizona.
Solstice sunset.
Solstice sunset.

A few days earlier I was able to catch this bolt of lighting at the Two Guns ruins near I-40. And a few days before that I caught this great sunset from Mormon Lake.