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.
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 snowâ€”which we had to clear from our driveway when we returned.
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!
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 sunâ€”resulting in some interesting lighting and abstract patterns.
Our final morning had some wave clouds forming downwind of the Kaibab Plateau and being lit by the rising sun.
A few days ago we had a widespread rain eventâ€”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.
The fog soon swept across Desert View Overlook. I headed over to Desert View to shoot photos of Desert View Watchtower in the fogâ€”but the fog was so thick I had to get very close to even see it.
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 2â€“3 minute period in which some clouds had a bit of sunlight color. Yesâ€”that’s a pretty long round-trip drive for 2â€“3 minutes of good photography. Nobody ever said it was easy…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The weather across much of the country has been very dramatic the past few days with snow storms, ice storms, strong winds, and brutal cold. Across Arizona we experienced exceptionally cold weather as the Arctic air mass settled in across the area. Strong northeast winds at the surface and aloft helped to drive the cold air across the Rocky Mountain barrier and deep into the southwest.
The northeast winds also created some fantastic wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks, located to the north of Flagstaff. Normally, strong southwest winds roll across the Peaks and the best wave clouds are located to the northeast but this wind reversal resulted in a reversal of the wave clouds as well.
Even more interesting were the clouds that were forming just below the tops of the peaks. Strong winds from the northeast drove cold air into the Inner Basin on the east side then up and over the top of the peaks. As the air ascended thin wispy clouds would form. Just as quicky the air descended on the southwest slopes and the clouds evaporated.
The rapidly changing clouds and detailed structure were fascinating to watch. A time-lapse movie clearly shows this incredible dance of the clouds as it moves across the Peaks.