Time lapse of thunderstorms developing near Wupatki National Monument.
Once again I traveled to Wupatki National Monument to photograph thunderstorms and lightning–and even the Moon.
Thunderstorms had generated several outflow boundaries and two of these boundaries converged and produced new thunderstorms to the southeast of Wupatki NM. The top image and time-lapse video shows the developing thunderstorms along with an appearance of the waxing Moon.
Thunderstorms had also formed on the mesas and plateaus of northeast Arizona earlier in the afternoon and were moving to the west and southwest. These storms would likely arrive in the vicinity of Wupatki NM by late afternoon and early evening. Of note, the high-resolution weather forecast models indicated that the storms would dissipate as they moved across the lower elevations of the Little Colorado River valley. I was more optimistic based on the afternoon radar and satellite data.
These storms continued to move westward and generated a weak haboob–the second in two days in this area. The thunderstorms also generated plenty of lightning as they moved across the San Francisco volcanic fields.
After a few days of little or no thunderstorm activity things picked up a bit on Tuesday. Moisture pushed just a bit farther west than the past couple of days allowing storms to form near and north of Flagstaff.
Late in the afternoon I was in Wupatki National Monument and shooting storms to the west and southwest over the San Francisco Volcanic Field. The storms had been fairly weak during much of the afternoon but became more electrically active just before and after sunset.
And now the forecast models show another down period of at least a few days. Glad I was able to get some nice photos today.
The North American Monsoon is in full swing and is producing daily thunderstorms and heavy rains across the southwest. Lightning is always a favorite subject for me this time of year and I have tried a few times to get interesting photos. Today was a good day.
I stopped briefly at Wupatki National Monument and photographed an interesting rain shaft over the grasslands of the park — but no lightning.
I moved on towards Grand Canyon but made a stop at one of the Little Colorado River overlooks along the way and was able to get a few good bolts.
I arrived in time to watch new thunderstorms develop south of the canyon and then move across the canyon to the North Rim. Capturing bolts landing below the rim is always interesting and I managed to get a few. But the best and closest lightning bolts occurred while it was raining and I was safely watching from the inside of my vehicle.
A few days earlier I was able to catch this bolt of lighting at the Two Guns ruins near I-40. And a few days before that I caught this great sunset from Mormon Lake.
Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) is currently visible in the southwest evening sky for a short period after sunset. Evening twilight makes it difficult to see the comet with the unaided eye. Even in binoculars it is a faint object. On the other hand, a short exposure on a camera will reveal the comet and its tail.
Finally, here is a time-lapse of the comet on 17 December 2021 from 18:16:48–18:21:08 MST. It moves quite a bit in just a few minutes.
Time lapse of the comet.
The comet will reach its highest elevation above the horizon this week and then begin to slowly drop towards the horizon again.
It was only a few days ago that I photographed an evening barrage of lightning over the San Francisco Peaks and the Cinder Hills. Those photographs were taken from Wupatki National Monument—right at the entrance pullout off of Highway 89. And, now I found myself in this same location shooting lighting from an early afternoon series of thunderstorms—except looking in the other direction across vast grasslands.
The most amazing lightning strike of the day occurred before I had set up the gear. The bolt landed miles away from the storm in a sunny area. This was a classic “bolt from the blue” and would have surprised anyone in that location. The radar image below shows the bolt landing a fair distance from the storm.
Lightning continued in this direction for more than an hour. As the storms would move to the northeast newer storms would develop north of the San Francisco Peaks and move over Wupatki National Monument.
After shooting at this location for awhile I decided to reposition to Wukoki Pueblo with hopes that lightning to the north would continue and I could get photographs with lightning and the pueblo. I was not disappointed.
Again, storms would move to the northeast and then be replaced by new storms from the southwest. This went on for several hours. The lightning plot above shows how many lightning strikes there were in this region during the afternoon.
I had hoped that thunderstorms and lightning would continue through sunset and twilight but it was not to be. Eventually, newer storms stopped developing and the other storms moved far to the northeast.