Some Interesting Wave Clouds

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.

Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.

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.

Observed sounding from KFGZ at 1200 UTC 02 July 2020
Observed sounding from KFGZ at 1200 UTC 02 July 2020
24-hour forecast sounding for KFLG for 1200 UTC 02 July 2020
24-hour forecast sounding for KFLG for 1200 UTC 02 July 2020

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?

HYSPLIT backward trajectories.
HYSPLIT backward trajectories.

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.

Water vapor satellite image from 1200 UTC 29 June 2020.
Water vapor satellite image from 1200 UTC 29 June 2020.

The moist layer had its origins along the Mexico coast. The water vapor image shows substantial moisture associated with Tropical Depression FOUR-E.

Tropical depression FOUR-E.
Tropical depression FOUR-E.

So the shallow mid-level moist layer had its origins in the remnants of a tropical disturbance. Very interesting!

Wave Clouds over the San Francisco Peaks

New Year’s Day brought some interesting wave clouds to the San Francisco Peaks. I headed west to Brannigan Park to get both good views of the clouds and sunset colors on the peaks. In addition, I shot time-lapse video that shows the amazing motion of the wave cloud above the peaks and the cap cloud that obscures the summit.

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

Time-lapse video of wave clouds and cap clouds.

And then there were these thin, wispy clouds catching the light of the setting sun.
And then there were these thin, wispy clouds catching the light of the setting sun.

 

Bright Objects in the Night Sky: Venus, Mercury, and the Moon

A bit over a week ago (18 March 2018), we had a triple conjunction in the sky. Venus and Mercury had been in the evening sky for a few weeks—and now a crescent Moon was going to join them in the evening. Weather permitting, I was interested in capturing images of this event. I headed out towards the Mormon Lake Overlook which would give me a good view of the western sky as well as the possibility of reflections of these sky objects in the shallow waters of the lake.

While waiting for the sky to darken, I was treated to a few minutes of sunset colors on some interesting wave clouds. More on that below.

Conjuction of Mercury, Venus, and the Moon.
Conjuction of Mercury, Venus, and the Moon.

The Moon and Venus are easily visible in this image taken at 7:20 P.M. MST while Mercury is a bit harder to see to the right and above Venus. A second image taken at 7:29 P.M. shows all three bodies quite clearly. And, as I had hoped, there were reflections in the water.

Conjuction of Mercury, Venus, and the Moon.
Conjuction of Mercury, Venus, and the Moon.

This is how Venus and Mercury looked earlier in the month.

Venus and Mercury in the evening sky.
Venus and Mercury in the evening sky.

Now, back to the wave clouds.

Long and thin wave clouds in the evening sky.
Long and thin wave clouds in the evening sky.

Although they look like jet contrails, these were actually long and thin wave clouds. As the sun began to set, the colors were briefly quite amazing.

Sunset colors on wave clouds.
Sunset colors on wave clouds.
Sunset colors on wave clouds.
Sunset colors on wave clouds.

It was an fun evening: Interesting clouds and a triple conjunction.

It was also cold…

Grand Canyon Clouds, Fog, and a Moonrise

I have traveled up to the South Rim of Grand Canyon several times in the past few weeks to get interesting weather and cloud photographs.

Fog begins to spill over the rim of Grand Canyon.
Fog begins to spill over the rim of Grand Canyon.

Two weeks ago, we spent two nights at the South Rim waiting for a winter storm to arrive and drop some snow on the higher elevations of the canyon. The storm went too far south and Grand Canyon got nothing but some clouds and a bit of fog. Flagstaff, on the other hand, got about 8″ on snow—which we had to clear from our driveway when we returned.

A thin layer of fog on the South Rim of Grand Canyon.
A thin layer of fog on the South Rim of Grand Canyon.
A zoomed-in view of the fog on the canyon rim.
A zoomed-in view of the fog on the canyon rim.
As the sun rose higher it illuminated the canyon below Hopi Point.
As the sun rose higher it illuminated the canyon below Hopi Point.

The other goal on that trip was to catch the rising nearly-full moon as it climbed above Cape Royal on the North Rim. That worked out well as the clouds had dissipated by late afternoon. This image was shot as a 12-frame panorama (6 across, 2 rows) resulting in an image of ~200 megapixels. There is a lot of detail in the full-resolution image!

Moonrise above Cape Royal, Grand Canyon National Park.
Moonrise above Cape Royal, Grand Canyon National Park.

As the sun fell lower in the sky, shadows raced across the canyon bottom while some of the higher towers and buttes remained in the sun—resulting in some interesting lighting and abstract patterns.

Late afternoon sun in Grand Canyon.
Late afternoon sun in Grand Canyon.
Light and shadow create abstract forms on Cape Royal.
Light and shadow create abstract forms on Cape Royal.

Our final morning had some wave clouds forming downwind of the Kaibab Plateau and being lit by the rising sun.

Wave clouds illuminated by the rising sun.
Wave clouds illuminated by the rising sun.

A few days ago we had a widespread rain event—even though rainfall amounts were not particularly large. Most importantly, measurable rain fell in Winslow. This meant that there was a possibility of fog forming in the Little Colorado River (LCR) Valley and drifting into the eastern reaches of Grand Canyon. I arrived at Lipan Point on the South Rim before sunrise and could see some low-lying fog in the LCR well east of the canyon. As the sun rose and the land began to warm, the fog began to lift and move towards the canyon. Eventually, it reached the Palisades north and east of Desert View Overlook. And, then, it began to spill over the sides evaporating only a short distance below the rim.

A shallow fog layer lies to the east of Grand Canyon at sunrise.
A shallow fog layer lies to the east of Grand Canyon at sunrise.
Fog spills over the rim into Grand Canyon.
Fog spills over the rim into Grand Canyon.

The fog soon swept across Desert View Overlook. I headed over to Desert View to shoot photos of Desert View Watchtower in the fog—but the fog was so thick I had to get very close to even see it.

Fog swirls around Desert Watchtower.
Fog swirls around Desert Watchtower.
And—for just a moment—there was great color in the sky behind Desert Watchtower.
And—for just a moment—there was great color in the sky behind Desert Watchtower.

I went back to Grand Canyon again the next morning but there were clouds along with some drizzle and light rain. However, there was a 2–3 minute period in which some clouds had a bit of sunlight color. Yes—that’s a pretty long round-trip drive for 2–3 minutes of good photography. Nobody ever said it was easy…

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.