Storm Chasing and Photography—Spring 2018

Cumulonimbus Mammatus over Wyoming grasslands.

03 June 2018

We left Flagstaff yesterday and spent the night in Albuquerque and today we will drive the rest of the way to Denver. We will be spending two weeks in Denver visiting family and friends—and will do a bit of storm chasing if the right conditions present themselves.

We had dinner last night at the Owl Cafe—a Route 66-style diner. We’ve been here before and like the decor. The food isn’t too bad, either.

The drive from Albuquerque to Denver was interesting as we were in a post-frontal airmass and the clouds had these abstract undulations. We stopped a few times for photos along US 84 in eastern New Mexico.

Owl Cafe interior.
Owl Cafe interior.
Owl Cafe interior.
Owl Cafe interior.
Windmill and clouds in eastern New Mexico.
Windmill and clouds in eastern New Mexico.
Gate and clouds in eastern New Mexico.
Gate and clouds in eastern New Mexico.

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Updating to a Secure Website

The Internet moves on—and web sites are moving from HTTP to HTTPS (secure). In fact, some browsers now put up an alert to an unsecured web site. This means it’s time to convert this WordPress site from HTTP to HTTPS.

It should be easy. But things could go wrong. So this is just a notice that if this site behaves badly it could be the upgrade.

Update: The conversion isn’t working quite right. Some pages show the secure lock while others do not. I’ve submitted a trouble ticket to my hosting company.

Update 2: Tech support provided useful information and it now appears that everything is working.

Lightning-caused Wildfires

And so it begins. The North American Monsoon has begun with many thunderstorms but not much rain. As a result, lightning-sparked wildfires are a possibility.

Just by chance, I was heading out towards Mormon Lake this morning to capture images of the building thunderstorms over the San Francisco Peaks. I had noticed that the early buildups had some interesting structure—a combination of convective vertical growth as well as some laminar wave clouds.

As I drove towards Upper Lake Mary I saw a small plume of smoke from a wildfire. Moments later, I spotted a helicopter dropping water on the fire.

Fortunately, the fire was a very short distance from the lake allowing multiple passes in quick succession.

Helicopter lifting water bucket from Lake Mary.
Helicopter lifting water bucket from Lake Mary.
Helicopter approaching Lake Mary to refill bucket.
Helicopter approaching Lake Mary to refill bucket.

The recent increase in moisture and a slight cooling of temperatures that we’ve experienced over the past few days will result in good chances of quickly containing this wildfire.

Ligntning map for 07 July 2018.
Ligntning map for 07 July 2018.

The lightning map for 07 July 2018 shows plenty of lightning across the higher terrain—so it’s likely this fire was caused by lightning.

Milky Way and Sunset Crater National Monument

The weather has been fairly typical for late June and early July: warm temperatures, breezy afternoon winds, and mostly clear and sometimes absolutely clear skies.

That will change dramatically over the next few days as the North American Monsoon ramps up across Arizona and the desert southwest. As subtropical moisture begins to move northward we will see a significant increase in cloudiness and thunderstorms. Clear night skies will quickly become a distant memory.

With that in mind, I took advantage of clear skies and did some Milky Way photographs. I decided to try Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument so that I could get some of the volcanic hills and ridges in the image.

The Milky Way arches across the sky at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
The Milky Way arches across the sky at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

Near the horizon is Mars which is becoming very bright in the evening sky—and will reach its peak brightness later in July. The planet Saturn is also visible within the starry mass of the Milky Way.

Moonrise and Cathedral Rock—June 2018

Another month and another moon rise behind Cathedral Rock. This was an easy setup with the location in Crescent Moon Picnic Area in Sedona. The day before the full moon resulted in this image taken from the meadows near the entrance to Crescent Moon. There were about a half-dozen “moon chasers” there to photograph the moon rise—and there were many others who just happened to be in the right place at the right time to enjoy the event.

Moonrise behind Cathedral Rock.
Moonrise behind Cathedral Rock.

The previous night (i.e., two nights before the full moon) presented another chance to capture the rising moon with  Oak Creek in the foreground. This one was harder because a better position was more to the right (i.e., south) but there was nowhere to go because of trees and heavy brush. Still, I’m happy with the result.

Moon rise behind Cathedral Rock with Oak Creek.
Moon rise behind Cathedral Rock with Oak Creek.

Both nights I was testing a recently purchased lens (Nikon AF-P 70-300mm). So far, the results have been pretty good.