Been busy as a briefly unretired science worker (gave a stressful talk at a university last week) and thought maybe a lot of usual drop ins to this site might not anymore. So, in the title for today, am reaching out to a new demographic: persons interested in congealed soil matter. They might later, after stopping by, discover a new interest; that in clouds, pretty ones. Most of the cheap tricks I try like this don’t have any effect, though. Oh, well.
Let us go forward after backing up:
But the Cirrus kept coming and more odd sights were seen:
Heavier Cirrus, increasing and lowering to Altostratus finished off the day as a heavy shield of middle and upper clouds raced toward southern Arizona from the Pacific:
“Due to time constraints, we move ahead in the action…”
Sunday, November 5th:
4:26 PM. Perhaps the brightest example of iridescence I have ever seen! Just spectacular for a few seconds in this patch of Cirrocumulus. Iridescence is caused by diffraction around the tiny of droplets, less than 10 microns in diameter, as are present when a cloud just forms.
As here, just to reinforce that assertion a bit. Its a link to a recent blog by my cloud-obsessed friend and author, Maria Mudd Ruth. I strongly recommend buying a few of her books. Really, I do!
But in viewing our deep blue skies, pocked with little fluffy Cumulus clouds over the past two or three days, you would not need convincing that even tiny clouds are beguiling, a wonderful attribute for a planet to have. Having mountains on a planet is great, too, and watching the interplay of clouds and their shadows on them is a never ending pleasure. We’re pretty lucky when you think about it to be on a planet like this one. Hope you think so, too.
No rain ahead, glumly, though some sprinkles are out there this morning as frontal cloud band passes over. Just a little too high off the ground for real rain. And the cloud tops aren’t quite cold enough to form much ice, too. Those cloud tops get colder going to the NE, and so higher terrain up thataway (e.g., Show Low) are getting some light rain this morning. Right now, there’s a little sprinkle just beyond Romero Canyon, so we got a little ice this morning in them clouds.
What was interesting is that I never saw no ice yesterday, to continue the slang of rock and roll, in another cheap attempt to reach out to another demographic. The clouds were just a bit too warm for ice-formation, tops running in the -4°C to -5°C range according to yesterday afternoon’s Banner University of Arizona’s balloon sounding. Some may have bulged up to nearly -10°C, but still not quite there. I looked constantly for signs of ice and never saw none, and neither did you, of course.
Bases were cool, at about 4°C, at 11, 000 feet above sea level, or 8,000 feet above Catalina. Tops, about 15,000 feet above sea level. So, they were running around 3,000-4,000 feet thick with no ice. This was a situation where dropping dry ice into those clouds would have created snowfall, then sprinkles, that would not have fallen naturally. Doubtful anything would have reached the ground anywhere near our elevation, however, but up at Ms. Mt. Lemmon, something would have likely even measured from doing that far enough upwind.
In summary, yes, there are some fairly rare times you can get some precip out of clouds by seeding them and yesterday was one of them1.
Today the clouds are thicker, drop sizes therefore larger in those tops of a cloud band similar to the one we had yesterday evening. As drop sizes increase, the temperature at which they freeze also increases. Well, at least that’s what we found over and over again at the U of Washington.
The result, some ice has formed even though they’re hardly colder than just -9°C or -10°C (14°F). Check the radar:
Here are some cloud shots from the past couple of days. Should be some more great scenes today:
Due to time constraints, we now move ahead in the action. Well, its not really “action” is it?
Well, not that much, just a day ahead….
Moving ahead to yesterday and the day long cloud band….
Haha, most readers won’t even notice! But maybe some cow-centric, instead of cloud-centric, folks will drop by, raising the worth of this blog to above $35 if sold….that according to a “biz” site.
Had a rainbow yesterday. Hope you noticed. It was pretty early and overhead west. I think the clouds did not have ice in them. The rain echoes were not showing up on the radar, suggesting the beam went over the tops. Sounding suggested tops might have been as cool as -5°C. In any case, the drops were able to tip the bucket a couple of more times, and along with yesterday afternoon’s brief, light rain showers our total has climbed to 0.37 inches for the storm. Not bad, though as in money, you always want more.
These storm breakup days are always our prettiest, and that’s often what this site is about, being pretty. Yesterday had some fabulous scenes; couldn’t stop shuttering cam. It is a real neurotic compulsive behavior pattern, as afflicts some of us cloud and storm-centric folk. Check Mr. Olbinsky’s work; his work goes beyond phenomenal whether you want a wedding photographer or want to see a storm chasing video. But it takes that kind of eccentric energy to be special, to stand out as he does.
Here, though, we let the storms and cloud scenes, such as they are, hope for the best, and let them come to us…. Kind of a lazy storm chaser’s attitude.
Still cold aloft, so having some nice Cumulus today is in the bag, the early Stratocumulus devolving into Cu, that is.
Honestly, I gave up on the chance of rain overnight into this morning at sunset yesterday due to the absolutely clear skies. And, like you, woke up to not one cloud within a 100 miles! How could this be, given the synoptic situation? Started slicing apples for some humble pie, but then, when looking at a radar and cloud loop (this one from IPS MeteoStar) saw that lower clouds had magically erupted to our west before midnight, and by the time they got here in the early morning hours, had little showers coming out of them!
I did not park my own dusty car out from the carport, either. I thought I would at LEAST see a pile of clouds on Ms. Lemmon, too, this morning! Sure wrong there. Here are a couple of images from what has to be considered a tiny weather miracle:
Chances of rain increasing (imagine!), for just over a week from now as actual model outputs begin reflecting what spaghetti (the many outputs) was indicating, i.e., a big upper trough in the West-Great Basin area. At the time that spaghetti was indicating that, the actual model outputs were not, indicating that they were outliers.
Check this out from last night. Since this model output is more in agreement with that crazy spaghetti plot, it inherently has more credibility, and is likely not an outlier model run. That what the NOAA spaghetti factory is used for, getting a handle on those runs that might be wild, and those that are more likely to verify.
Its valid on the morning of May 8th and shows a trough coming out of the Pacific ahead of the one from the Pac NW, shown at this time over northern Cal. The hope here would be that the one from the SW would have a generous amount of sub-tropical clouds with rain in them.
Cloud shots will be posted later this morning of the next day….. (i didn’t get to is as I had planned)
Yesterday afternoon, the 29th. Here’s what shallow, icy clouds look like, reflecting the unusually cold air above us.
PS: Chance of rain still holding for the 8th. See below for new depiction of big “cutoff” vortex over AZ from last evening’s model run:
Doesn’t look promising for much rain here in Catalina in March, however. No rain in sight through the next 10 days at least.
Let’s check our 7 inches with what’s happening upwind, say, in CALIFORNIA, and see if there’s been any drought relief there, through February, via the CNRFC:
As you are likely to know from many media stories last year, Cal was in a drought siege of five straight years, with but got a little relief last year in the northern part thanks to help from the giant Niño, one of the strongest ever.
Alas, it was one that failed to deliver as the big rain producer for the south half of Cal and the SW in general as was expected.
In case you’ve forgotten how bad things were in Cal, let us look back at what was being said, those horrific appearing drought maps, and also how hopeful were were at the time that the Big Niño would take a bit bite out of drought. This is a really good article:
Then, when the Big Niño faded away like maple syrup on a stack of buckwheat pancakes last spring and summer, we were surely doomed for more dry years. And, for a time, the dreaded cold tongue of water in the eastern equatorial region, the so-called, La Niña, started to develop, which would be no help at all for a good rain season like a Big Niño is, usually.
The Niña faded away, too, to nothing as the winter went on, so we really didn’t have much going on in the tropical Pacific to help us figure out what kind of winter rainfall regime we were going to have om 2016-17. Not having anything going on meant winter rainfall could go either way, a difficult to figure out situation for season forecasters.
In retrospect it is pretty astounding how big a signal must have been out there SOMEWHERE that this winter was going to be one for the history books on the West Coast in general, and in particular, for Californians. Californians saw their drought chewed up and spit out in a single winter, including snow packs so high the height of some mountain peaks have been revised. (I’m kidding.)
No one saw such an astounding winter coming.
This winter sure makes one think of the QBO (Quasi-biennenial Oscillation, one up there in the Stratosphere where there’s almost no air (haha, well, practically none)… Did the QBO have a role in this astounding winter; was there a delay in the effects of the Big Niño even without a bunch of convection in the eastern Pac tropics? Doesn’t seem that could be right…
But, William “Bill” Lau, U of Maryland scientist, reported some statistical evidence of such a lag way back in ’88 due to a QBO connection of some kind and ENSO, no physical cause could be discerned, however, not yet, anyway. Lau, 1988, is reprised below for readers who want to go deep:
Light rain showers overnight, just before midnight, and again just after 1 AM AST, raised our Sutherland Heights storm total to 0.33 inches, decent but disappointing in view of model and personal expectations (0.60 inches).
What was especially interesting is that those nighttime light showers didn’t show up on the TUS radar, suggesting very shallow tops, perhaps a “warm rain” event, one not having ice, or an “ice multiplication” event with tops warmer than -10° C, about where the tops were on the 5 PM AST TUS sounding.
By this morning, the tops were barely below freezing (about -3° C). Don’t expect to see ice today, except at Cirrus levels!
Last of the Cal rain blasters is making its way across the State today, with another 5-10 inches expected in favored Sierra and coastal ranges in the next 24-36 h. Numerous sites north of SFO have now logged over 100 inches since October 1st! Imagine. Great to see that Cal drought vanquished in a single year, so unexpected. Let’s hope the Oroville Dam, N of Sacto, holds.
PS: Using point and shoot cam now with “real” camera in the shop for awhile.
That’s why you come here, to answer important questions like that. After all, those precipitating clouds could have been Nimbostratus, Stratocumulus opacus praecipitatio, Cumulonimbus capillatus incus flammagenitus, or even just “plain” Cumulonimbus capillatus (no anvil), and possibly, Stratus opacus nebulosos praecipitatio.
Of course, with no large fires around, we can at once rule out Cumulonimbus capillatus incus flammagenitus….(the new name for clouds on top of fires, formerly referred to by the more accessible terms, “pyrocumulus” or “pyrocumulonimbus.”
For the curious, and since I broke my camera and don’t have the dozens upon dozens of photos to regale or bore you with, I will reach into the archives for a shot of “flammagenitus” and show you one from the pyromaniacs’ paradise, Brazil!:
Now, on to more recently viewed clouds, like yesterday’s:
Later these scenes were overtaken by a slab of Nimbostratus and steady light rain for a few hours.
A note on the recent southern Cal rain blast
As you know, up ten inches fell in some mountain locations in southern California as a monster low pressure system smashed into the coast near San Francisco1. You might recall, too, that the shift of the jet stream (and thus storm track) into the southern portions of California was well predicted two weeks in advance in those crazy spaghetti plots. You can’t always get much out of those plots except maybe the degree of uncertainty in weather patterns a couple of weeks out, but that was a rare case in which the signal far upstream for something strong barging into southern Cal also strong. And, of course, we are experiencing the residual of that storm, also as was indicated in those plots (“…the weather change around the 18th.”
Presently, a another sequence of extremely heavy rain is in the pipeline for central and northern California starting today, which will take a few days for it to come to an end.
Following a break, what was intriguing in the model outputs, and a little scary was that it appeared that yet another scoop of tropical air was going to jet across the Pacific under another blocking high in the Arctic and Gulf of Alaska into California. Take a look at this prog:
Here’s where spaghetti can shed some real light:
So while it is still possible that some model runs will indicate a blast from the sub-tropics affecting Cal, they can be pretty much waived off as outliers (not impossible “solutions” but rather unlikely ones. Breath easier Califs! At least after the current onslaught ends.
BTW, can you see what kind of weather is indicated in this plot for the SW and old Arizony?
Cold; temperatures below normal, precip likely at times.
——————————– 1The low pressure center that passed over San Francisco yesterday was not as deep (988 millibars) as the notorious “Frankenstormmaggedon” of 2010 which barged into Frisco with a 979 millibar center. You may recall, too, that spaghetti had strongly suggested a “Frankenstormaggedon”, as it was later called, also more than ten days in advance. Recall, too, if you can recall, that 2009-10 was an El Niño winter with this kind of thing pretty much anticipated.
For history buffs, I reprise that January 2010 storm as seen on our national weather map. You may recall that, if there’s anything left in that noggin up there, that Catalina experience no less than THREE inches of rain as this system went by, taking a couple of days:
I guess “billows” (“undulatus” in cloudspeak) two days ago in the late afternoon wasn’t enough of a sign that the weather was changing. Yesterday we had fast moving Cirrocumulus with rainbows in it, and as the sun was setting, “jet streak Cirrus”, a line of Cirrus clouds often seen in the very core of high altitude, powerful jet streams passed overhead.
How hard was the wind blowing up there in that Cirrus last evening? Oh, our Tuscon balloon sounding, lifting off around 3:30 PM, going up about a 1000 feet a minute to, indicates that the max wind up there at Cirrus level was 146 knots (just under 170 mph)! Yikes. Poor balloon. Must be in France by now.
The storm has been a bit of a disappointment in rain production. We’ve only logged 0.22 inches1. Not as much as foretold here, 0.33 inches, but that forecast was a better prediction than by “Weather Underground Robotics” (0.58 inches). Its great to beat a robot!
We had another sign yesterday in the fastest moving Cirrocumulus clouds I think you’ll ever see around here (about 100 mph), ones at just 18,000 feet above sea level, 15 kft above Catalina: rainbows of color near the sun called iridescence (also called “irisation”). Here, as is the norm here, are a few too many shots of the same thing2.
The colors themselves, of course, don’t warn of something about to happen, but the fast movement from the southwest did; a powerful jet stream is over you. That strong stream, the result of temperature gradients in the atmosphere, is dividing deep warm air from deep cold air, and steers the alternations of high and low pressure centers, and with those alternations of lows and highs along the jet stream, air is drawn from different latitude zones and the boundaries where those different masses of air meet at the surface, is called fronts. Here, such as last night, its nearly always cold ones.
The rest of the day was pretty exciting, the wind arising suddenly yesterday morning, along with our usual great visibility, and darker blue wintertime skies, made the clouds stand out more.
The sky at last, considering the power of the trough approaching, FINALLY began to fill in. Started looking around for the first sign of ice having formed in these clouds as the air aloft became cooler. Along with this filling in by Cumulus and Stratocumulus clouds, some sun highlights began to appear on our mountains, contrasted by the darkening skies above.
Eventually our jet streak Cirrus provided the background for another great sunset scene:
Today’s clouds and weather
From that map above, you’ll see that there’s a “tail-dragger” trough still to the west of us and about over Sandy Ego (haha). That’s going to keep the air over us extremely cold, and with some sun, the Cumulus clouds that arrive are expected to have tops colder than -15 to -20° C, plenty cold enough for the formation of ice.
Ice means precip, snow up there, rain down here in spots. So, we could still pick up a few more hundredths if a shower happens to drop by. The chance of isolated very light showers in the area is 100%, but no one can tell you if one will actually land on us. You’ll have to be watching, mostly after 12 noon. Look to the west toward the Tortolita Mountains, terrain that ought to spawn one or two of those.
Looks like a longer dry spell ahead; several days to a week, maybe more.
1CoCoRahs gauge, btw. NWS-style gauge had only 0.20 inches, likely due to enhanced wind loss associated with my collapsing prickly pear protector. 2 I was driving and had to park and jump out of car to get these. You only have seconds or maybe a minute or three to capture stuff like this.
In case you don’t believe me that over an inch fell, this digital record from Sutherland Heights with writing on it:
Probably a little more to come, too. Got some blow damage, I’m sure. Will be looking for roof shingles around the yard today.
And, as everyone knows from their favorite TEEVEE weatherperson, “New Storm to Pound SE Arizonans!” Begins Monday night, Tuesday AM. May have snow in it as it ends.
Your know, its no fun telling people what they already know, so lets look ahead beyond the normal forecast period of great accuracy, beyond not seven days, not eight, but beyond TEN days!
First, we set the stage with a ten day look ahead (from last evening) in a NOAA spaghetti factory plot:
This plot indicates that the pattern of a towering, storm-blocking ridge is certain along the West Coast by ten days–will be developing for a day or three before this, That ridge represents an extrusion of warm air aloft over the entire West Coast extending all the way into Alaska. The couple of red lines in and south of AZ are due to the change of a minor, likely dry, cutoff low in our area about this time (plus or minus a day).
In other words, this plot suggests a warmer, dry period develops over AZ, and storms are shunted from the Pacific Ocean, located west of the West Coast, all the way to Anchorage and vicinity, They will be welcoming a warm up in weather up thataway at some point in this pattern.
Is that it, then, for the AZ winter precip? It could happen. Just one more storm after the current one fades away today?
Hint: Sometimes anticyclone ridges like the one in the plot above get too big for their britches, and fall away, or, break off like a balloon from a tether, and a warm blob of air aloft sits at higher latitudes, often floating off to the northwest.
The exciting ramification of this latter scenario is that in the “soft underbelly” of the “blocking anticyclone” (as in American football), the jet stream throws something of a screen pass, goes underneath the belly of the blocking high, and races in toward the West Coast at lower latitudes. Having done so, such a break through pattern (“Break on through to the Other Side”) results in heavy rains in Cal and the Southwest.
Izzat what’s going to happen?
Let us look farther ahead, unprofessionally, really, and see if there is evidence in spaghetti for such a development and you already know that there must be because it would explain why I am writing so much here. Below, the EXCITING spaghetti plot strongly indicating break through flow breaking on through to the other side, i.e., the West Coast, from the lower latitudes of the Pacific:
Well, we’ll see in a coupla weeks if CMP knows what he is talking about.. I think this is going to happen, resembles what’s happening now, and weather patterns like to repeat, more so within the same winter. However, how much precip comes with this pattern will be determined by how much flow breaks on through to the other side….
Let us begin our look at yesterday’s clouds by looking back three days ago before the Big Storm. We had a nice sunrise. Here it is in case you missed it:
Moving forward to only two days ago, the day preceding the nighttime blast: a cold, windy day with low overcast skies all day, shallow, drizzle-producing clouds, something we don’t see a lot of here in Arizona.
By the end of the day, the clouds had lowered again, and we were about to have a very interesting night!
———————- 1Remember how great we hippie relics thought that first Doors album was? Later, the Doors, and that era were to be made fun of by 80s punk and humor group, The Dead Milkman in “Bitchin’ Comaro.” (Its worth a listen.)
Catalinans experienced a FOURTH cloudy day in a row, and, over the past few days, including yesterday’s few drops that fell at 4:24 PM, have experienced over an inch of rain!
Some grumbling has started concerning muddy, pot-holed and puddled up dirt roads, about the washes running across roads lately, water and mud splashing on the car day after day, and brutally low temperatures dipping to well below 50° degrees in the morning now for several days in a row. Its 40° F here as I write this.
While a brief respite is in progress now, Catalinans were discouraged to learn that more strong storms are due in this weekend, bringing possibly damaging winds and heavy rains that will augment the poor road conditions.
How much rain?
Let us look below and see how much has been calculated by our best model at the University of Arizona’s Wildcat Hydro and Atmos Sci Dept (I am so glad they provide this service; I donate to the Dept, as we all should!):
Hah! We can’t complain too much about inclement weather compared to California’s pluvialities. Here is a table and map of precip amounts for that State through just the first 14 days. Prepare to gasp:
The remarkable aspect of this rainfall anomaly on the West Coast and in the Southwest, which is also quite wet, is that it could not be seen in climate forecasts days to a couple of weeks in advance. Its not that the folks at the Climate Prediction Center aren’t the best that we can get, its just a statement about how hard it is to get a longer term forecast right. Many are right, but lately, recalling the “Big Niño Bust of 2015-16” where the forecasts of a wet Southwest and central and southern California went terribly awry, those forecasts have taken a beating. Here’s what was expected this winter by the CPC, first, for January, a forecast made on the last day of December. when the forecast models we use day to day would have had some influence:
As can be seen, the extreme rains that hit California, and our own well above normal precip, though on the doorstep on December 31st, were unforeseen. That’s how tough it is.
Below, the forecast for January through March, also going astray, though a recovery could be had by a very dry Feb and March in Cal and the Southwest, something not likely to happen now.
Glad I’m not forecasting for a month or three months! Gads, yesterday we had ice galore here and there, and I had predicted that morning that it was doubtful that ice could form in our clouds yeserday and how about that rainbow yesterday afternoon, to change the subject quickly, but smoothly; hardly a ripple, something gleaned from the election debates:
Some additional views, including a horse, which should increase web traffic:
OK, now for the rest of the day, your daily cloud diary:
But, then there were some great sun and lighting scenes in those showers, not to mention the brilliant rainbow that was to come: