In a previous post I wrote how the North American Monsoon (NAM) was very late getting started in July. Fortunately, once started, it resulted in normal precipitation amounts for the month of August. Here are photographs and discussion of some of the events during the month.
The North American Monsoon (NAM) has been slow to get started this year. A general rule of thumb is it gets going around the 4th of July and is considered late (but still normal) by mid-July. Likewise an early start can occur as early as mid June–as it did last year.
During the month of July the GFS weather forecast model consistently showed the NAM getting started “Real Soon Now.” But the target was always several days away. Finally, late in the month the rains arrived as an inverted trough (IVT; def. 2) moved across Arizona.
There have been some photogenic storms. A little over a week ago I traveled to the South Rim of Grand Canyon hoping to get some lightning. Although there were some flashes they were far away. On the other hand, the sunset was pretty good. A band of clouds just above the horizon effectively blocked the Sun at my location while beams of light were getting under the clouds and into the canyon farther to the west. The alternating beams of light and shadow were pretty nice.
The following day I went to Wupatki National Monument in hopes of lightning and rainbows. There was a late afternoon storm that moved towards the Monument and produced a lot of lightning. As it got closer it weakened but was still dropping rain and a short time later a beautiful, full double rainbow appeared. All I needed to do was position myself so that I could get the rainbow arch to frame Wukoki Pueblo.
Time lapse of convection developing over the San Francisco Peaks with Marshall Lake in the foreground.
A new storm formed to my southeast as twilight came on and began to produce a lot of lightning. This was the 3rd act of the day and it was a good one.
Later in the week I took a short drive to Marshall Lake near Flagstaff to time lapse the early stages of convection over the San Francisco Peaks–and with some reflections in the waters of the lake. A few lightning bolts landed near the peaks adding to the show.
A few more trips to Grand Canyon rounded out the month.
And, now, the monsoon is on hiatus again.
This Winter has been relentless with snowfall now at about 200% of normal for Flagstaff. Many of these storms have made it difficult to get to various locations for shooting photos of the weather. Fortunately, the last few storms have allowed me to do some pre-dawn travel to favorite locations.
The first two photos are from the morning of 16 March 2023 when I thought there was a good chance of low clouds and fog in Grand Canyon. In fact, there was too much fog and I was only able to briefly see into the canyon while at Lipan Point. I finally moved westward to Moran Point where there was a larger break in the fog allowing sunlight to illuminate the canyon.
A week later we had a snow-turning-to-rain event that left the roads relatively easy to travel and I ventured out to Mormon Lake on the morning of 23 March 2023. The abundance of moisture over the previous few days resulted in lots of fog in low-lying basins including Lake Mary and Mormon Lake. Clear skies to the east allowed the rising sun to illuminate the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.
I was also interested in capturing images with a Glory/Brocken Spectre and fogbows. Both were faintly visible in some of the photos where I was above the fog. A better fogbow photo was shot when I was in the fog.
And here is a time-lapse video of the swirling fog in the Mormon Lake basin.
Time-lapse video of fog swirling in Mormon Lake basin.
The medium-range forecasts indicate that Winter is not yet done.
There was a full Moon this past weekend (05 February 2023) and we decided it would be fun to spend a few days at Grand Canyon and do some photography and hiking.
We arrived in the early afternoon at the East Entrance to avoid the possible long lines at the more popular South Entrance. Our first stop was at Desert View because I wanted to take some updated photos of the interior of the Desert View Watchtower. First attempts were with a 24mm wide angle but it was not wide enough. So, back to the car to get the 17–35mm ultra-wide lens.
For the Moonrise we went to the Visitors Center parking area and walked along the Rim Trail to capture the nearly-full Moon rising over the North Rim. Unfortunately, distant high clouds prevented seeing the Moon until it was well above the horizon. No matter, it was still very nice. While waiting for the Moon, I shot photos of hikers ascending the South Kaibab Trail near the Ooh-Aah Viewpoint with the late afternoon sun illuminating the rock faces.
The following day also included a photoshoot of the rising Moon but we had plenty of time before that and found ourselves hiking down Bright Angel Trail. The trail was covered in packed snow and foot traction was helpful. We opted to only hike down as far as 1½ Mile Rest House before returning. I didn’t time the descent but the return ascent was 57 minutes. Not too bad for 1.5 miles and 1120′ vertical gain.
The Moonrise photography went well with the Moon rising in the notch between Cape Royal on the North Rim and Wotans Throne in the Canyon.
The following morning we arose early to see the sunrise from Hopi Point. With the passage of a weak cold front during the night I was hoping for some dramatic clouds. Nope. Nothing. Clear skies but there was the setting Moon in the west. As a consolation I got early morning light on the Tower of Set and Horus Temple.
A low-end winter storm moved across Arizona a few days ago and brought some snow to the higher terrain. Flagstaff only received a trace of snow while locations to the west and northwest received more. With that in mind, we headed to Grand Canyon National Park for some afternoon and sunset photography.
We went to Lipan Point where about 2-3 inches of snow had fallen. The clouds were already clearing and that was a bit disappointing as we had hoped to see the clouds lifting out of the depths of the canyon. There were still plenty of clouds above the canyon rim and the lowering sun resulting in very nice sunset colors on both the clouds and the walls of the canyon.
We left only moments after sunset since the parking lot and road out of the park were already turning into black ice. Moments later we had dropped enough in elevation that we had dry roads for the drive back home.