This sunset from a few weeks ago was pretty spectacular. Drivers were pulling off the highway into the overlook area to get photographs. I overheard one person claiming this was a one-in-a-million sunset. That was probably an overstatement of several magnitudes. More likely, this was a one-in-a-hundred event, meaning you could see a sunset this great a few times a year.
I had been looking at satellite data that afternoon and saw a nice streak of high cirrus clouds moving across northern Arizona. The orientation of the clouds suggested that the sun might briefly appear below the clouds and illuminate the bottoms around and shortly after sunset.
So I headed out to Mormon Lake Overlook where there is a good view of the western sky and waited.
This is the second year in a row in which the North American Monsoon has failed to deliver its normal weather to Arizona. The monsoon had a late start in July with only a few isolated rain events early in the month and the main event starting around the third week of July. But even that faltered after a week and the final week of July was dry.
August was even worse with no measurable precipitation until after mid-month and even then the amounts were light. The National Weather Service in Flagstaff has posted some climate data for the area for August. It was the hottest August and the 2nd driest on record in Flagstaff and most of the west experienced similar conditions (Figure 1; Figure 2;Figure 3).
Photographing summer monsoon storms has been a challenge this year because there were so many dry periods. Even so, there are always interesting weather events and clouds that make it worthwhile. So here is a collection of the most interesting weather photographs from this summer.
A time-lapse movie shows that the ducks are more interesting than the convection.
Full rainbows eluded me this year butI did manage to photograph a rainbow segment.
As with rainbows, lightning was elusive this year. It was typically a case of being in the wrong place on the wrong day and at the wrong time. But I did get lucky with the following image.
And when there is no lightning and no rainbow, one can be content with the sunset.
The comet continues to rise higher in the northwestern sky after sunset. It is now in a position so that I can get reflections of the comet in water at the same time that the comet is above the San Francisco Peaks. So I worked out the geometry and set up on Ashurst Lake, southeast of Flagstaff.
It didn’t work out for a couple of reasons. There was too much wind and the surface of the water remained ruffled rather than smooth. And then, as the comet was sinking lower in the sky and the winds began to diminsh clouds developed.
So, I’ll have to try this one again when I get better conditions.
For a few hours this morning (02 July 2020) the clouds were amazing. Laminar, wave-like clouds were visible across a portion of the sky and moving quickly to the north. Farther south, the sky remained clear. These clouds were apparently forming in a region of orographic uplift generated by the Mogollon Rim.
But these clouds weren’t actually a surprise. Yesterdays models were forecasting a thin layer of moisture around 700 mb with much drier conditions both above and below that level.
The GFS did a good job of forecasting both the thin layer of moisture and the stronger winds embedded in that layer. But where did those stronger winds and moisture originate?
A look back using backward trajectories from the HYSPLIT model reveals some interesting origins. Higher-level air parcels originated over the northeast Pacific while low-level parcels originated over the eastern Pacific. The water vapor satellite images shows both of these source regions to be very dry.
The moist layer had its origins along the Mexico coast. The water vapor image shows substantial moisture associated with Tropical Depression FOUR-E.
So the shallow mid-level moist layer had its origins in the remnants of a tropical disturbance. Very interesting!
A winter storm brought snow, clouds, and fog to some of my favorite photographic locations. The early morning sun lights up a band of clouds that encircles the San Francisco Peak. Below the peaks, fog lies in the low areas of both Upper and Lower Lake Mary.
A smaller area of fog sits in the corner of the Mormon Lake basin and partially obscures some of the old ranch buildings.
Finally, a small patch of grass pokes up from the still water of Lake Mary while fog blurs the background.