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.
The North American Monsoon continues to bring convective activity to much of northern Arizona on a daily basis. There have been plenty of opportunities for colorful sunrises and sunsets as well as rainbows and even some fog.
The rainy season should continue for at least a few more weeks so there should be additional opportunities for colorful photographs.
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.
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.