March Snow in northern Arizona

Another winter storm moved across northern Arizona on Friday and Saturday dropping several inches of snow. Clouds began to clear Sunday morning just before sunrise setting up the possibility of a great sunrise. Well—it was a great sunrise at my location but a small patch of low clouds blocked the sun from shining on the San Francisco Peaks.

First light illuminates freshly-fallen snow.
First light illuminates freshly-fallen snow.

Time to shoot photos of something else. Here is an image as the first sunlight hits the snow in front of me. The sun angle is so low that the slightest undulations in snow create long shadows.

Tire tracks in the snow.
Tire tracks in the snow.

Tire tracks in snow are interesting, aren’t they? Taken just a few minutes later as a bit of cloudiness moved in front of the sun.

Old ranch buildings near Mormon Lake.
Old ranch buildings near Mormon Lake.

There are a couple of old buildings in the meadow near Mormon Lake and the sun and clouds provide a natural spotlight on the old ranch.

Clouds blow across the top of the San Francisco Peaks in the wake of a departing storm.
Clouds blow across the top of the San Francisco Peaks in the wake of a departing storm.

Here is an image of the San Francisco Peaks with just a bit of light striking the highest clouds.

Finally, a short time lapse video of the peaks and clouds. Note the sinking motion along the eastern edge of the peaks as well as the hydraulic jump farther downstream.

Sunrise on the San Francisco Peaks

It’s always fun to head out at the tail end of a winter storm and capture photographs of the sunrise with the new snow. This winter has had only a few periods with real winter weather—the most notable was the last 10 days of December. Since then storms and snow have been infrequent.

Pre-sunrise sky over the San Francisco Peaks( 0724 MST 23 January 2022).
Pre-sunrise sky over the San Francisco Peaks( 0724 MST 23 January 2022).
First light strikes the San Francisco Peaks (0735 MST 23 January 2022).
First light strikes the San Francisco Peaks (0735 MST 23 January 2022).

Of course I was interested in taking advantage of our latest weather event—even though it was fairly weak and delivered only a skiff of snow. A quick check of satellite imagery before sunrise showed that skies were mostly clear and that there was a cap cloud on top of the San Francisco Peaks.

I arrived a bit before sunrise at the Mormon Lake overlook and started taking both photographs and video. The clouds were already dissipating over the peaks resulting in much less of a cap cloud than I hoped.

No matter—it’s always fun to out there before sunrise shooting photos. Here are a few photos from before sunrise and just after as the sun began to illuminate the peaks.

Below is a time-lapse video showing the movement of the clouds over the summits of the San Francisco Peaks.

Time lapse video (50x) of the sunrise over the San Francisco Peaks.

I was also intrigued by the tire tracks left in the snow of the parking area.

Tire tracks in the new snow at Mormon Lake overlook.
Tire tracks in the new snow at Mormon Lake overlook.

Finally—here is a sunrise photo from New Years Day—the last day in which we had significant snow here.

Sunrise over the San Francisco Peaks on New Years Day.
Sunrise over the San Francisco Peaks on New Years Day.

Morning Fog at Mormon Lake

A few days of tropical moisture—remnants of Tropical Depression Nora—brought widespread rainfall to much of northern Arizona. As the moisture was replaced by drier air in the middle- and upper-levels but was unchanged in the near-surface layer, we were left with a situation in which fog might form in the early morning hours.

 

So, up before dawn to drive out to Mormon Lake and the surrounding basin. And there was fog—at least in one corner of the basin. Here is a 30-minute time lapse compressed down to 17 seconds showing the movement of the fog as it sloshes back and forth.

Sunrise through morning fog.
Sunrise through morning fog.

As this was taking place, the sun rose through a shallow layer of fog.

Sunset at Grand Canyon.
Sunset at Grand Canyon.

Bonus: on the previous evening the sun was setting through layers of smoke from the western wildfires.

Edit: updated image.