The North American Monsoon has produced many days with spectacular thunderstorms and lightning. Below are some of my favorite lightning photographs from this summer. These were taken in Grand Canyon, Sedona, San Francisco Volcanic Field, and Flagstaff.
We are now in the midst of a monsoon break but moisture will return over the next several days to northern Arizona bringing another chance for thunderstorms and photography.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I stopped briefly at Wupatki National Monument and photographed an interesting rain shaft over the grasslands of the park — but no lightning.
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.
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.
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.