A very few small, isolated drops fell between 4:50 and 5 PM here in Sutherland Heights from what appeared to be nothing overhead. You’d have to be really good to have not been driving, and to have anticipated the possibility (by recognizing ice in upwind clouds) and then having observed it. You would be recognized, given some extra adulation, at the next cloud maven junior meeting if you did observe it, that’s for sure.
So, a long blog about anticipating and observing a sprinkle of rain (RW—, “RW triple minus” in casual weatherspeak or text).
We start with some nice, but inapplicable to our main story photos from yesterday.
3:14 PM. Another one of those, to me, memorable, dramatic shots just because of cloud shadows on our pretty mountains caused by Cumulus humilis and mediocris clouds; Cirrus uncinus on top.
3:15 PM. Pretty CIrrus uncinus, “Angel’s hair.”
3:15 PM. Looks like a cloud street off the Tucson Mountains, one that streamed toward Catalina. Hope you were “unbusy” enough to notice it. Its a pretty common one here when the lower level winds are out of the SSW, and the clouds shallow.
3:50 PM. Shadow quirk. The cloud shadow follows the terrain line. Wow. Never seen that before, but I suppose if you had an infinite number of monkeys watching, they’d something like this all the time. Maybe they’d type out some Shakespeare as well in time.
3:54 PM. While busy watching the cloud-sahdow dappled mountains, some honest-to-goodness Cumulus congestus arose in a line to the southwest! Not at all expected! Looks like they’re tall enough to form ice, but don’t see any. Will take too many photos to see if any develops though.
3:56 PM. That poor turret that first extruded from this line (center raggedy one) is being ravaged by “entrainment”, that cloud killing process wherein the surrounding dry air gets in and kills off the droplets. Pretty sad when you think about. It also shows you just how friggin’ dry the air was just above the main tops. No ice visible here.
3:56 PM. Let’s zoom in to be sure. Anyone saying they can see some ice in this is either an ice-detecting genius or just plain lying. BTW, that turret on the left, partially visible, is much taller, so its got a good chance to convert to ice.
3:58 PM. Now even little tiny babies can see the ice that formed in that now dessicated turret. This means some rain fell out of it! Wow, did not see that happening today.
3:58 PM. Pulling back to grab the whole scene, those Cumulus congestus clouds converting to small Cumulonimbus clouds that will bring those few tiny drops to Catalina in an hour even as the dry air up there wasted them. Real cloud mavens would be thinking about the possibility of rain here, seeing the ice form in clouds upwind of us, that right at that time! Congratulations!
4:09 PM. Doesn’t look that great now, but areas of ice visible, and its heading this way with a light shower falling out of it! Maybe we’ll pick up another trace! But what cloud name would you put on this scene? Well, its kind of embarrassing to call them “Cumulonimbus”, but we do have a suitable moniker for weakly-producing Cumulus ice clouds with a little precip, Cumulus congestus praecipitatio. Yep, that’s the name I would use here since the rain is reaching the ground (is not just producing virga).
4:30 PM. Code 1 rain shaft, a transparent one. We’re going to a LOT of trouble for a trace of rain here! But, you should have been really excited by this time. The possiblity of rain is just minutes away, but you’ll have to be outside to notice it!
4:40 PM. Drawing back to look at the whole scene, which is not that great. Bottom of sprinkle cloud has evaporated leaving that big patch of ice, left side of photo. Can the sprinkle heading toward us survive? Your heart probably was really pounding at this point since you wanted to see some drops so BAD, report that trace the next day, one that maybe only you would have noticed.
4:47 PM. Three minutes to first drops, though here no drops would be reaching the ground from the condition the cloud is in now, its too high, just really anvil ice, and the ice crystals too small, The drops that are going to be intercepted are surely the last ones reaching the ground, the top of the sprinkle shaft, above which there are no more drops.
4:55 PM. Drops are collecting on the windshield a few hundred yards from the house with almost no cloud aloft at this point! A trace of rain has been logged!
(What about those gorgeous Cumulus congestus and Cumulonimbus calvus clouds over toward and well beyond Charouleau Gap about this time? Maybe later or tomorrow.)