Not as good as a rain day with lightning, but yesterday did have its moments in the sky, enough to make the astrologers on Mt. Lemmon jealous with displays of parhelia (“sun dogs”, or “mock suns”), faint haloes, a rare parhelic circle, something you don’t see but once every year or two, and fallstreifen (fall streaks) from Cirrus uncinus clouds going in almost opposite directions, an extremely rare sight.
The rare “parhelic circle” is a local brightening often extending out from a parhelia (sun dog) at a sharp angle, which I just learned about here1. Usually you don’t see a whole circle, just part of one.
These optic displays are caused by ice crystals, of course, ones not too complex, but rather simple ones like prisms, short solid columns, bullets, and hexagonal plates. Some examples of these can be seen here.
The bottom of yesterday’s moist layer was just above 30,000 feet at a temperature of -35° C and extended all the way up to about 40,000 feet above sea level where the temperature were around -65° C.
Some photos documenting the excitement of yesterday
Below, examples of cold Cirrocumulus, ones that quickly transition to Cirrus clouds.
No rain in sight for Catalinans, to get that over with.
However, if you’re bored and are thinking about a quickie storm chasing vacation with the family, monster storms, likely to produce newspaper headlines will be smashing the Pac NW in the next few days. Expect to read about flooding and hurricane to 100 mph winds on the Washington/Oregon coast sometime. Also, Tofino, British Columbia, along the SW coast of Vancouver Island, would be a great place to head for, watching giant waves crash up against the coast and around that lighthouse they have around there, pounding rains…
The long fetch with these storms in the Pacific guarantees some monster waves.
3:49 AM, 14 Oct: Mark “WeatherPal” Albright informed me that a 94 mph wind was observed last evening (the 13th) near Astoria, OR.
The next low, a “regular low” but one energized by leftover moisture from Typhoon Songda, looks to be even stronger than last night’s low. This one comes in moving really rapidly tomorrow evening while deepening (central pressure is dropping further) as it passes over the Washington coast. Looks like that one will be a “blow-down” storm; good-bye timber.
The synoptic pattern (placement of jet streams and lows) is “Freda-esque”, that is, similar to that of October 12, 1962, the infamous Columbus Day storm where a remnant of Typhoon Freda zipped in as a regular low that deepened explosively as it raced up the Pacific NW coast bringing winds of 100-200 mph and blowing down BILLIONS of board feet of timber as well as weather pal, Mark Albright, mentioned above, when he was a kid1.
Well, we sure hope its not THAT similar!
Lots of interesting patterns and complexities in yesterday’s skies. If you didn’t see them, here they are, though its kind of a much ado about nothing, really:
—————————- 1Mark. like most kids who are blown over in a windstorm, wanted to be a meteorologist right after that. Its pretty traumatic and life changing when you’re blown over by wind. CMP’s life was traumatized and changed forever when it snowed a few inches in the San Fernando Valley of southern California when he was six year’s old. Not sure you’ll find this information in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders #5, however, but its a well-known phenomenon in the weather subculture.
0.07 inches here in Sutherland Heights yesterday afternoon. Much more SW-NW of us, as the photos below show.
A predicted super hurricane?
I now direct your attention to the forecast maps below, produced by the WRF-GFS model last evening’s global data, courtesy of IPS MeteoStar, the usual. The aforementioned extremely strong hurricane foretold in the models 24 hours ago, has acheived in this latest run, mythical strength, possibly a Category 6 or 7 (which don’t yet exist).
We presume the model went berserk, so its kind of fun to imagine how intense, how low the pressure in the center of such a goofy predicted hurricane could possibly be in the panels below.
First, the jaw-dropping -to-weather-nerds like the current writer, predicted height of 540 decameters height of the 500 millibar pressure level! For the pressure of 500 millibars in the atmosphere to be reached at a level that LOW in warm tropical air means that the sea level pressure must be astoundingly LOW to begin with. In warm air, the pressure doesn’t change as rapidly going up as it does in dense cold air.
I don’t believe, in viewing many weather maps with hurricanes that a height that low has ever occurred at 500 millibars. Thus, the pressure at sea level, for whatever reason, must be incredible in this predicted hurricane SW of Cabo. Surf will be up!
The record measured low pressure at sea level is 870 mb in one of the super typhoons (Typhoon Tip) in the Pacific some years ago where winds were estimated at about 200 mph. It is thought that recent devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan, 2013, had a lower pressure, 858 mb, or the equivalent of the density of air at 5,000 feet elevation was thought to have occurred at sea level!
OK, enough fun with a crazy model prediction, though this hurricane will be extremely strong, and the models are still bringing its pathetic, but wet, remnant into California a couple of days later. Many July rain records, though they are not much to begin with, will be broken if this remnant does make it to Cal.
What we really hope for is some aircraft reconnaissance reports during the life of this strong hurricane instead of satellite-derived estimates of strength (though the latter are quite good).
First, you should always begin your day, not with the breakfast of champions, but by reviewing the prior day’s clouds in the University of Arizona time lapse movie. Here’s what you will see:
Lots of Cirrus, varies species, Altocumulus, Cirrocumulus, a high temperature contrail go through some Cirrocumulus just after 4 PM, and flocks of medium-sized Cumulus clouds emitting ice.
First, one interesting, but inexplicable Cirrus scene. I know you were likely going to ask Mr. Cloud Maven Person, “Hey, what gives here?” I get a lot of calls like that1.
“I don’t know how that happened; let look at a flower instead”:
In the meantime, after being flustered over a cloud in the early afternoon, those Cumulus clouds aroiund, only two or three thousand feet thick were beginning to snow away, first way off to the south of us, then downstream of the Cat2 Mountains.
Here is the rest of your interesting and learningful cloud day yesterday:
There’s still water in the Sutherland Wash. Its been running now since the end of January! Amazing.
1FYI, this is a lie.
2I suppose someone could posit that “Dark Magic”, oops, “Dark Energy” may have caused those trails to “come together over me” , by Lennon and McCartney. “Dark Magic”, OOPs. “Dark Energy”, dammitall, is invoked to explain a lot of impossible things, like how the Universe blew up from something smaller than the head of a pin (!) and was 200 million light YEARS across in the tiniest fraction of a ONE second. Clearly impossible without magic, oops, Dark Energy. This impossibility was deduced on cosmic microwave radiation measurements at the farthest edges of the Universe as we know it.
However, instead of checking their measurements, cosmos (not Cosmos Topper of early movie fame with Carey Grant, but cosmos scientists that study the cosmos invented Dark Magic, oops, Dark Energy, dammitall again, to explain how something that’s impossible happened.
Recently, cosmos scientists retracted that finding and said their measurements in retrospect were likely compromised by cosmos dust. How funny izzat? Sure, I am a weather man and make a LOT of errors myself, but that cosmos one is pretty big.
Just kidding, cosmos guys, the cosmos is tough. Science mag reported that only 4 % of the visible Univserse is made up of known stuff, 96% (gasp) is made up of Dark Matter (23%), and 73%, of “Dark Magic”, oops again, “Dark Energy”, that stuff that is still thought to be behind the increasingly rapid expansion of the Universe3. That is, 96% of the Universe is composed of stuff we’re clueless about.
3It was originally posited that the expansion of the Universe should be slowing down until around the 1990s, when measurements indicated it was speeding up. Hmmmmm. Will there be a retraction of that claim, too, in our future? Stand by for more measurements. Just kidding, cosmos guys. Try being a weatherman….
The clouds were somewhat of a disappointment yesterday, not the stupendous photogenic day CM was expecting.
Maybe CM is total fraud, gets Big Oil funding and should be investigated by Rep. Grijalva as other weather folk are, like the great Prof. and National Academy of Sciences Fellow, Dr. Judy Curry, a friend, and about whom I say on a link to her blog here, and from this blog’s very beginning, “The only link you will need.” I said that because Judy2 is a top scientist, and is eminently fair in this polarized issue.
I am in real trouble! Will remove that link immediately1 before our very own “climate thought enforcer”, Demo Rep. Grijalva, AZ, finds it using a spy bot! No telling how far down the influence chain it will go, maybe all the way down to here, where there is virtually no influence!
Back to clouds…….
Only late in the day did the delicate patterns expected to happen ALL DAY appear, again, with iridescence, always nice to see.
The media, Bob, and our good NWS, of course, are all over the incoming rain in great detail. In fact, it will take you half a day to read all the warnings on this storm issued by our Tucson NWS.
So why duplicate existing information that might be only slightly different than the prevailing general consensus on the storm amounts, and then maybe be investigated for going against a consensus? No, not worth it. Best to be safe, not say things against The Machine. (OK, maybe overdoing it here.)
In the meantime, the upper low off southern Cal and Baja has fomented an extremely strong band of rain, now lying across SE Cal and the Colorado River Valley where dry locations like Blythe are getting more than an inch over the past 24 h. Same for northern Baja where some places are approaching 2-3 inches, great for them. You can see how the rain is piling up in those locations here. In sum, this is a fabulous storm for northern Mexico and the SW US, whether WE get our 0.915 inches, as foretold here, or not! Rejoice in the joy of others. Looking for an arcus cloud fronting the main rainband, too, that low hanging cloud in a line that tells you a windshift is coming. Still expecting, hoping, for thunder today to add to the wind and rain drama.
Also, the present cloud cover, as the trough ejects toward us, will deepen up and rain will form upwind and around here as that happens, so it won’t JUST be the eastward movement of the existing band. This means you might be surprised by rain if you’re outside hiking and think the band itself is hours away. Expecting rain to be in the area by mid-morning, certainly not later than noon, with the main blast (fronted by something akin to an arcus cloud) later in the day. OK, just checked the U of AZ mod run from 11 PM AST, and that is what it is saying as well! Wow.
Finally, if you care, yesterday’s clouds:
Below, just some pretty patterns observed later in the day. Click to see larger versions.
Whew, the end.
1Not!!!!!! I thought this was a good read about this deplorable new stage of “climate thought enforcement” now in progress. It was brought to my attention by climate folk hero, friend, and big troublemaker, Mark Albright. Wow, maybe Mark will be investigated, too! Maybe I should excise his name….
2I remember, too, how cute she was when she worked my lab/office at the University of Washington in the mid-1980s, and thought about asking her out, to detract from a serious commentary here. She was a Penn State grad student, not a U of WA employee; still, to ask her out would have been untoward. A human commentary like this, one about feelings and things, help boost blog attendance.
If you thought those high clouds were moving faster than usual, you were right. The winds were about 120 mph at that level, about 28,000 feet above sea level, and just over 150 mph a few thousand feet above that level.
You may have noticed two things, if you are good, that there were repeated formations of delicate Cirrocumulus clouds, likely starting as liquid drops, but quickly transitioned into Cirrus. Sometimes, it was just flocculent Cirrus the whole way to us from the west.
The second thing that you may have noticed was that there was always an upwind clearing zone that remained stationary until late afternoon when it finally passed overhead. Yesterday’s high clouds formed at that back edge.
How can you tell that the upwind edge of that sheet of clouds was initially composed of liquid droplets, but then froze naturally within a minute or three as it jetted downstream?
Perform an experiment to demonstrate the two phases.
In this case we will have an ice producing aircraft fly through both regions, the droplet region, and also the region where no droplets exist because they have frozen and are growing larger and larger as ice crystals.
What will be the predictable result of two ice-producing aircraft flying through these two different phases?
In the liquid cloud region, an ice canal will develop as the appearance of ice in a droplet cloud results in the evaporation of liquid droplets, the molecules of vapor from the evaporating droplets provide “food” for fattening ice crystals, where “deposition” takes place. Under a microscope you would see the crystals getting larger, growing extensions; you would not be able to see the molecules producing that, of course.
The result of our experiment, something you likely will never see again in my lifetime:
Was holding breath, thinking about that CV enhancement, waiting for the TUS sounding, which was already in the air when these last few photos were taken, and, more importantly, it was going up near where the clouds were forming, so the moist level intercepted and its temperature would be pretty accurate for this shots. Now, if its -40 C, oh man, we got a pub! -36 C, maybe. Temperature greater than about -35 C? No pub, well, except here, which is something. That’s because liquid drops at temperatures between -30 and -35 C have been reported by remote sensing and aircraft repeatedly. Nature abhors forming an ice crystal in clouds without going through the liquid phase first.
Within a couple of hours the TUS sounding was in, and here it is:
I wasn’t going to get a journal pub. I thought about that guy that thought he was going to win the Nobel Prize…..and I know now how he felt.
Now about those pretty patterns, by Simon and Garfunkel. Enjoy.
Jet core at 18,000 feet now passing overhead and DRIZZLE or very light rain from warm processes now (4:15 AM) evident on the Catalina Mountains. The passage of that jet core at that level (500 millibars) seems to be an almost black-white measurable rain or no rain discriminator in the Southwest US, so as that happens right now, chances of some measurable rain are good. Still not expected to be more than 0.25 inches, but will now at least be 0.01!
The low clouds are pretty shallow now, and, if they rain, shallow clouds with tops warmer than -5 C (23 F) have to be pretty clean for that to happen. Clean clouds is got bigger droplets, ones that reach the Hocking-Jonas threshold of between 30-40 microns in size and can collide and stick together forming still much larger drops that collect more and more tiny cloud droplets, kind of a chain reaction, as Nobel Laureate in chemistry Irving Langmuir described it back in 1948 after he got interested in clouds and rainmaking.
However, the “collision with coalescence process will be short-lived as cloud tops go up to well below freezing level this morning, and real rain falls (as is happening now (7:18 AM) down in TUS and to our NW.
Measurable rain should be just on the doorstep, and it will have to develop in upwind clouds as they approach us and the air begins to rise as it goes uphill from the lower deserts and encounters the Catalinas’ there isn’t much in the way of radar echoes upwind of us now.
The development of rain in clouds as they approach us in marginal rain situations like this one is not terribly unusual. Sometimes, as a friend pointed out, new echoes in deepening clouds can appear over and over again near where I-10 runs to the SW and W of us in a purely orographic situation.
This is what CMP is hoping for, and the result of that might be a tenth of an inch or more.
1While several inches of model2 rain has occurred in Catalina and in the nearby mountains this month, most of which cloud-maven person has festooned his blog with model panels of, there really hasn’t been any ACTUAL rain.
But having said that, there is even MORE model rain ahead, some beginning tomorrow in these parts. Tomorrow’s rain comes from a sub-tropical minor wave ejecting from the sub-tropics. You know, as a CMJ, a wave from that zone means a ton of high and middle clouds, i.e., likely DENSE Altostratus with virga, something that was seen yesterday off to the SW of us. This time, though, some rain should fall from these thick clouds, though almost certainly will be in the trace to a tenth of an inch range between tomorrow and Monday morning.
Model rain from 11 PM AST global data then falls in Catalina on:
with the model total rain in these periods likely surpassing an inch or more! What a model rain winter season this has been! Astounding. The model washes have been running full since late December, too!
BTW, that last model rain period is really a great one, a major rain for ALL of Arizona!
Some recent clouds I have known and a couple of wildflowers
The End. Hope you enjoy the copious model rains ahead!
Actually, there are no thoughts about the Super Bowl here. The title was just another cheap attempt to attract a reader that might be both cloud-centric AND a football fan, creating a moneyful increase in web traffic for this blog.
First you had your Cirrus, the highest of all clouds except for stratospheric nacreous clouds which kind of mess things up up there by eating ozone. We will not display n-clouds.
Cirrus, as you know, ALMOST always precedes lower clouds since they’re moving so much faster than the lower ones. So we get a sequence of clouds before it starts to rain that generally is the same, over and over again as in that movie about weather, Ground Hog Day. But let us ramble on…
First, patchy Cirrus, then maybe a sheet of Cirrostratus, then the lower stuff as Cirrostratus thickens downward to become that gray sheet called Altostratus. Throw in a few Altocumulus clouds that become a sheet underneath, and voila, your in Seattle, with rain on the doorstep. Yep, that’s the Seattle, and well, the Middle Latitude Pre-Storm Cloud Sequence (MLPSCS)2.
The weather just ahead
Of course, everyone, including media weathercasters, are all over the incoming stupendous storm event. For a more technical discussion, here’s one by Mike L., U of AZ forecasting expert, who got excited enough about our storm to come to send out a global e-mail. I think you should read it, though I left out all the graphics. I’ve already been too graphic today.
———–Special Statement by Mike L———————————-
“A very unusual heavy precipitation event is forecast for the next few days across Arizona and New Mexico as extremely moist air interacts with multiple short waves. As seen in the below data from the NWS, the maximum monthly IPW for Jan is about 28-29mm. If the various WRF forecasts verify, the upcoming storm will set new a new January IPW record.
The 12z WRFGFS indicates very high moisture levels being advected towards Arizona due to a low latitude low located west of the Baja spur. While IPW has slowly decreased from the previous storm over much of the area, La Paz is seeing a upturn in observed IPW.
As seen below, at 5pm today, some convection is forecast near to the low. Lightning data has indicated there has been some strong convection during the day today. Model initializations are normally suspect so far from any upper air stations, but it seems that both the NAM and GFS seem to have the intensity and location initialized well. One item of note is that during the past few days, the models have had a trend of moving the heaviest precipitation back to the west. Initially, the heaviest band was well in to NM whereas you’ll see later, it is now over much of eastern/central Arizona.
By late tomorrow afternoon, the low has only moved eastward slightly, but IPW continues to increase over NW Mexico and into Arizona. Precipitation begins mainly over the higher terrain of eastern Arizona.
By Wednesday morning, the mid level low has intensified as a strong short wave dives down behind the mean trough along with CAA into the back side.
Significant synoptic scale lift is present over southern Arizona and into northern Mexico by this time.
Extreme IPW is forecast to be present during the morning hours on Friday and combined with the favorable dynamics, widespread moderate to heavy rain is predicted. As the low becomes cut off, there will be an extended period for precipitation.
Precipitation rates are forecast to be above .25″/hour in some locations during the morning hours.
Partial clearing is forecast by Friday afternoon which allows some heating. Combined with cooler air aloft and high IPW, moderate amounts of CAPE are present during the afternoon.
By later in the afternoon, as Bob Maddox pointed out, convection forms and results in some locally heavy precipitation.
Tucson’s vertical profile is quite impressive with 700 J/Kg of CAPE and some vertical shear to support organized convection. Hail is also a threat.
Convection continues into the evening over southern Arizona with a continued threat of hail and some lightning.
The 3 day QPF is very impressive with widespread 1 inch amounts with some areas receiving over 3 inches. Some of these areas are associated with the strong convection present on Friday afternoon/evening. Confidence is low to medium due to the lack of upper air data and lack of run to run consistency as discussed previously. Also, the output in this discussion was solely from the 12z WRFGFS. The WRFNAM from last night had the heaviest precipitation somewhat to the east. It will be informative to see the next suite of model runs overnight to see if this westward trend ceases. There is a chance that it could continue and the heaviest precipitation is actually farther west than depicted below.
Very little of this precipitation falls as snow except at the very highest elevations, above 9k feet due to the sub tropical air-mass and lack of cold air.
Note that this discussion will only be available for organizations who are (or have) supported the Arizona Regional Modeling Program. This change will take effect before next monsoon season. Private individuals not associated with commercial/governmental agencies will continue to receive the discussions. If your agency would like to support the Program, please email me for details. “
————–End of special statement by Mike L—————————
1Let us not forget Simon and Garfunkel’s telling descriptions of Patterns of life; they repeat in clouds, too. (Pretty funny lead in commercial where Bryant Gumbel is asking, “What is the internet?”)
2Back in the old days when cloud forms were used to tell weather, Cirrostratus sheets, those high thin sheets, often with a halo, foretold rain 70% of the time here in the US (see Compendium of Meteorology, 1951). Deserts don’t much see this sequence. Cirrus are mostly meaningless in them, just indicating some withering tail of a system with rain that’s far away most of the time.
Great news! Another decent rain assured now sa the models have converged on rain here on the 12th during a nice, and very sharp cold front passage, those in which the temperature can fall from a toasty 60s to 43 F over an hour along with a withshift to the NW from gusty SW winds. So we have quite a dramatic weather event coming up. Here’s what the Canadians have to say about it:
But what does it all mean, all the models predicting rain for Catalina on the 13th? Here’s what it means:
The chance of measurable rain here on Saturday, the 13th is now more than 100 %; its in the bag. Count on it. This is weather forecasting at its best. The rain may start in the early morning hours of the 13th.
The models have varied drastically on the amounts of rain, and so there’s quite a range that could occur. From this keyboard:
Minimum amount is 0.15 inches (10% chance of less than that)
Maximum amount, 0.80 inches (10% chance of more than that)1
Since the average of those two theoretical “extremes” dreamed up for this situation by yours truly is 0.425 inches, that’s my personal prediction for my house. It helps, too, that I am the same person who will also measure the rain as well.
Will look, too, for a little ice in the rain toward the end of it as the temperature plummets after the cold front goes by.
So, what’s yours? (Everyone should have a personal prediction.)
Not much going on, mostly Cirrus, then Altostratus in the afternoon, that gray icy sheet that dimmed the sun so well. However, there were a few flakes of Cirrocumulus.
Enough fun for today….
1Reluctantly, I remind the reader that the maximum rain amount seen for the last storm, 0.40 inches (10% chance of a greater amount), was laughable; 1.16 inches fell in Catalina/Sutherland Heights. However, in formulating an excuse, CM would point out that the models didn’t see it coming either.
Started out clear yesterday. Below, an example of that completely clear sky in case you missed it.
I think it is interesting that Mark would chose to live as a snowbird in a smog plume rather than here in Catalina where that Tucson smog plume rarely strikes. Its pretty regular down there because the normal morning wind in Tucson is from the southeast and that wind shoves the urban smog over to Mark’s house on many cold mornings. Pretty funny, really.
And, in those leading Cirrus clouds were some spectacular, stupefying really, complex patterns of cloud formation and and holes in them, ones like CM had never seen before except maybe that one time in Durango back in the 1970s. Here are some examples of those odd that were up there:
Started to breath a sigh of relief when this melange of complexity moved off rapidly worrying that someone might call and ask me to explain it. So, when some Cirrus uncinus and/or the rarely seen Cirrus castellanus came by I started to relax, feel confident again. Here are some of those pretty shots of little, icy clouds trailing light snow showers, likely, to repeat again, crystals called bullet rosettes. The ones in the part of the cloud from which they spew are likely tiny prisms, side planes, and tiny solid columns, thick, but tiny hexagonal plates with little fall speed, so those hang up there, while the favored ones in the best tiny updrafts in these clouds that resemble tiny glacial Cumulus clouds grow from those kind germ crystals into bullet rosettes, complicated crystals with multiple tiny columns sticking out of them. If you would like to read all about the crystals that form in high icy clouds like these you should spend some time browsing this paper, co-authored by the great John Hallett1 I really like footnotes–yes, of the Hallett and Mossop riming and splintering mechanism, discovered by them in 1974. Helped explain why there was a LOT of extra ice in clouds that shouldn’t have it.
Here’s one more weird scene in Cirrus before moving on to something explicable:
Thankfully, here’s what transpired next at Cirrus levels:
Of course, with all the patchy Cirrus around we were guaranteed a nice sunset and it did not disappoint:
Heavy ice clouds, several kilometers thick at times. We call that kind of fray, often full sky-covering layer, Altostratus. Likely some Altocu around, too. Will look now and see if I see any of those latter ones. Oops, too dark.
With clouds kilometers thick, tops at Cirrus levels, you can expect to see virga, and the chance of a few “sprinkles-its-not-drizzle” later in the day. The whole progression of clouds can be seen from the U of AZ model output from last night in these forecast soundings for Tucson. As per usual, the bottoms get lower and lower as the day goes by, but are still up around 13, 000 feet above Catalina by around sunset. So, will be tough to get a drop to the ground before then. U of AZ mod thinks all measurable rain will be to the south of us. Oh, me.
BTW, and this is an embarrassment, it was asserted by this keyboard that rain would fall in November at the outset of the month. This is the last chance for that! Egad. But forgetting that possible gaffe, moving ahead anyway to what’s going to happen in December (of this year).
The storms way ahead, that is, ones in early December.
Those early December storms for us are coming and going in the WRF-GFS runs. But I am counting on rain here in early December myself due to an interpretation of those weird in so many ways, “spaghetti plots.” I think they’re showing, and continue to do so, significant troughs coming through the Southwest in early December.
1Later after the referenced paper above, and this is quite interesting, the great Hallett was to claim that me and Pete Hobbs had embarrassed2 the entire field of airborne researchers due to a paper published by us way back in 1983 (J. Hallett, 2008, communicated by him during his presentation at the Pete Hobbs Symposium Day of the American Meteorological Society, New Orleans.
2But it was a good embarrassment, not a bad one due to incompetence, I think.