Monsoon Convection at Wupatki National Monument

Thunderstorms develop in the late afternoon near Wupatki National Monument.
Thunderstorms develop in the late afternoon near Wupatki National Monument.

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.

Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

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.

Sunset colors over the Coconino Plateau.
Sunset colors over the Coconino Plateau.

And there was a nice sunset, too.

Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field

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.

Lightning after sunset over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning after sunset over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

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.

Thunderstorms with crepuscular rays.
Thunderstorms with crepuscular rays.
Thunderstorms with crepuscular rays.
Thunderstorms with crepuscular rays.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Lightning over the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
More lightning.
More lightning.
LIghtning from anvil to ground.
LIghtning from anvil to ground.
Lightning over -- time to capture moonlit storms with stars above.
Lightning over — time to capture moonlit storms with stars above.

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.

Lightning at Grand Canyon

Lightning at Grand Canyon.
Lightning at Grand Canyon.

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.

Rain falling at Wupatki National Monument.
Rain falling at Wupatki National Monument.

I stopped briefly at Wupatki National Monument and photographed an interesting rain shaft over the grasslands of the park — but no lightning.

Lightning near the Little Colorado River canyon.
Lightning near the Little Colorado River canyon.

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.

Lightning at Grand Canyon.
Lightning at Grand Canyon.
Rain falling into Grand Canyon.
Rain falling into Grand Canyon.

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.

Lightning behind the ruins at Two Guns, Arizona.
Lightning behind the ruins at Two Guns, Arizona.
Solstice sunset.
Solstice sunset.

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)—II

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.

A nearly-full Moon illuminates the snow-covered San Francisco Peaks as the comet sets in the evening twilight.
A nearly-full Moon illuminates the snow-covered San Francisco Peaks as the comet sets in the evening twilight.
Telephoto view of the comet and tail. (Stack of 13x15seconds, 300 mm, f/8, ISO 400.)
Telephoto view of the comet and tail. (Stack of 13x15seconds, 300 mm, f/8, ISO 400.)
Comet peaking out between the clouds.
Comet peaking out between the clouds.

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.

Lightning over Wupatki National Monument

Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.

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.

Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.

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.

Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Storms move to the distant northeast at sunset.
Storms move to the distant northeast at sunset.

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.

24-hour lightning plot ending 1000 MST 12 September 2021.
24-hour lightning plot ending 1000 MST 12 September 2021.
Radar with lightning overlay for 1304 MST 11 September 2021.
Radar with lightning overlay for 1304 MST 11 September 2021.

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.