Thinly sliced snow

A major winter storm dropped anywhere from one to two feet of snow in the Flagstaff area this weekend. The mountains got even more with some areas reporting more than four feet of new snow.

 

Thinly sliced snow.
Thinly sliced snow.

Deep snow was sitting on this table and set of chairs in front of one of my favorite coffee shops — the Kickstand Kafe. The weight of the snow was pushing the snow below it through the vertical bars of the chair back resulting in thinly sliced snow.

Dramatic lenticular clouds above the Kachina Peaks

A strong cold front and upper-level low was rapidly approaching Arizona. Ahead of this weather disturbance these spectacular lenticular clouds developed over the Kachina Peaks during the night of 03/06/2012. As the sun rose in the morning the clouds were nicely illuminated. About an hour after sunrise atmospheric conditions began to change and the wave clouds became more diffuse and detached from the peaks and drifted downstream.

Dramatic wave clouds above the Kachina Peaks.
Dramatic wave clouds above the Kachina Peaks.

Here is a video clip showing the wave clouds. The original clip is 40m40s long. The clip shown here has been sped up by a factor of 200x so the time lapse now occurs in around 12 seconds.

The many moods of the San Fransisco Peaks

Living near the mountains and at a high elevation in Flagstaff has its benefits. One of them is the opportunity to capture amazing images of the San Francisco Peaks as the seasons and weather change.

Recent snowfalls provided two very different views of the Peaks. First we have the peaks obscured by clouds. A laminar wave cloud floats above the peaks while other clouds cloak the summits. Skiers and hikers at the top of the mountain are hidden in the clouds and fog only to drop out of the bottom of the cloud as they descend.

Wave clouds above the San Francisco Peaks.
Wave clouds above the San Francisco Peaks.

Another image captures the final moments of sunset as the snow turns red across the peaks. These colors might only last for a minute or two before quickly fading away.

Sunset colors on the San Francisco Peaks.
Sunset colors on the San Francisco Peaks.

The price we pay for these incredible views? Long winters, cold temperatures, and roads that don’t seem to get plowed quickly enough — or at all.

A fair trade.

Yet another tornado for Northern Arizona

Last week another tornado moved across northern Arizona. The damage produced by this tornado was confined to a small area and was nothing like the tornado outbreak of 06 October 2010.

What makes this tornado interesting is where it occurred. The tornado formed just west of the San Francisco Peaks and then moved up the west flank of Humphreys Peak. Damage was isolated along the early portion of the path at around 9000 feet. As it moved up the mountain, damage increased in intensity and coverage with the peak damage occurring near 9800 feet. Farther up the mountain isolated damage continued until the tornado dissipated near 10500 feet.

The worst damage occurred as the tornado crossed the Humphreys Trail just a short distance from the trail register. In the first few days after the event travel along this section of the trail can best be characterized as challenging. Climbing over and under downed trees –  and around others — certainly slows the hiking pace.

 

Somewhere under all those trees is the Humphreys Trail.
Somewhere under all those trees is the Humphreys Trail.Â

This is not the highest elevation tornado of record. That belongs to a tornado that occurred in the Sierra Nevada mountains a few years ago with evidence of damage at elevations above 12000 feet.

The  limited damage inflicted upon the mountain might never have been noticed if it had not passed over a heavily used hiking trail. Now that’s serendipity. Or bad luck.

Nobody saw the tornado so all we have to go on is the radar data. And according to that information the event occurred between 5:25 and 5:35 pm on 14 September 2011.

Lightning and Mammatus: The beauty of thunderstorms

The North American Monsoon is bringing thunderstorms to the southwest United States including northern Arizona. You would think that with almost daily thunderstorms it would be easy to shoot great images of lightning and thunderstorms. Well, not always…

One of the characteristics of the rainy season in the higher elevations of northern Arizona is that as the storms develop in the late morning or early afternoon it quickly becomes overcast so that it is difficult to see the individual storms. It is equally difficult to photograph lightning because it is often raining over large areas obscuring the view of the lightning.

Lightning in Sunset Crater National Monument.
Lightning in Sunset Crater National Monument.

So I was particularly pleased when we had two days in a row in which I was able to photograph lightning and actually see the thunderstorms. The lightning was photographed in Sunset Crater National Monument overlooking the Bonito Lava Flow; the mountain that it is striking is O’Leary Peak. There is a fire lookout station at the summit of the peak and I’m certain they get their fair share of close bolts.

Sunset colors on an Arizona thunderstorm.
Sunset colors on an Arizona thunderstorm.

The following day proved equally photogenic. This thunderstorm was photographed in late afternoon and is quite dramatic with mammatus clouds visible from the anvil region of the storm.

If only everyday was as photogenic as these two.