Category Archives: Wildflowers

On the Catalina trails with lenticularis

First, Cal drought bustin’ rain update:

As much as 1-2 inches as far south as Ventura County so far, 3-4 inches in the coastal mountains of central Cal as of just now (4 AM AST).  Rolling 24 h Cal State archive hereLA area rain here; keep an eye on Opids Camp and Crystal Lake FC.  Totals in NW LA County just now going over an inch.  Following this drought bustin’ sequence, while just a” two shot wonder”, will be like watching….I don’t know..something really exciting, a weather kind of Olympics, where the favored team “drought” is taken down unexpectedly by some upstart storm.  Yes, I will play the Olympics card.

And remember, this is just the lightweight division today; up next, beginning Friday in southern Cal:  “Sumo wrestling”, as a 400-lb storm moves in next to push aside “Team Drought” at least for the moment.  (Is Sumo wrestling an Olympic sport?) Still expecting some jumbo rain totals in the mountains of southern Cal, such as more than 10 inches at places like Opids Camp in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Speaking of jumbo totals, a friend and expert weather forecaster (and big atmos sci faculty member at Colorado State who now lives part time in Catalina), sent a stunning e-mail to me yesterday expressing his opinion that Catalina will get “1.5 to 2 inches of rain” from the second “Sumo” storm, the one that eases into Arizona late Friday and arrives here by dawn on Saturday, and then  continues for around 24 h.  Cloud maven here can’t go that high in his guess, doesn’t have the “testicularis” you might say,  to go that high; 1 inch max is all I can come up with, but would be ecstatic if in error!

Still, this is going to be FANTASTIC!  Saw some perennial wildflower blooms on the trails yesterday (see below), ones in need of a little pick-me-up–actually a big one, and this will be great for them.  Fauna, too, will be happy!  It may be too late for the annuals…not sure.  Poppies are few, and awfully stunted this year, as many of you know.

Don’t forget, too, before our storm; those gorgeous skies!  Have camera and pen ready to document and make notes about them in your weather diaries   Those skies we’ll be fantastic, too, like yesterday, which was a great day to be on a horse, watching the sky.

Even when its raining the skies will be fantastic!

How many of us, even if we’re from Seattle, are STARVED for low gray, dank and dark daytime rainy skies, clouds chopping off the Catalinas a thousand feet above us, listening to rain pounding on our roofs, then running off roof making puddles, those richer shades of desert green after the rain ends, the glistening, water-covered rocks on the Catalinas in the morning sun after the storm?  Its a real treasure when rain falls here.

Yesterday’s clouds

12:23 PM.  You got yer Cis spis (Cirrus spissatus) topping a few Cu fractus and humilis, if I may.
12:23 PM. You got yer Cis spis (Cirrus spissatus) topping a few Cu fractus and humilis, if I may.  It was so great to see those Cumulus clouds, reminding us that July and huge clouds are only about 125 days away!
12:23 PM.  You got yer Cirrus uncinus.  Note fine strands hanging down.  Amazing they can be so perfect, not erratic, when the wind up there is about 100 mph!
12:23 PM. You got yer Cirrus uncinus. Note fine strands hanging down. Amazing they can be so perfect, not erratic (see arrow), when the wind up there is about 100 mph!
3:54 PM.  A great line of a Ac lenticular advanced over Oro Valley.  This shot was about the best Igot and its not that great.
3:54 PM. A great line of a Ac lenticular advanced over Oro Valley. This shot was about the best I got and its not that great.

3:55 PM.  Not all about clouds....  Here, a wild onion bloom maybe.
3:55 PM. Not all about clouds..wanted to show you that I have more than one dimension.   Here, a wild onion bloom maybe, slightly out of focus.  Prickly pear is in focus, though.
3:55 PM.  Very nice Altocumulus lenticularis formed later downwind from the Catalinas.
3:55 PM. Very nice Altocumulus lenticularis formed later in the afternoon downwind from the Catalinas.
6:25 PM.  Another very nice sunset due to some Cirrus spissatus and a few lower Altocumulus clouds.
6:25 PM. Another very nice sunset due to some Cirrus spissatus and a few lower Altocumulus clouds.

On the weather horizon

Mods still have unusually warm weather here in the storm after life, 8-12 days out (cold in the East continues, too). But, then some Catalina rains continue to show up after that hot spell when you think May is already here.

The End.



Light rain to fall in Catalina tonight

Don’t take my word for it; take this, from the University of Arizona’s Beowulf Cluster (BC) mass of computations:ann cum precip 2-8-14 0001tA

Total precipitation predicted for Catalina (0.01 to 0.10 inches) ending at 5 AM tomorrow morning. Some to the north fell yesterday afternoon, but it wasn’t that much.  Sure, its yesterday’s model crunch based on data that’s almost 24 h old, but its got some rain in it, and glimpsing the incoming cloud mass, now located in western AZ and southern Cal, this looks a little reasonable to even a little low now.  thinking now that it will be more than 0.10 inches; might get 0.11 inches here in Catalina.  Have dip stick (rain gauge one) ready.  A new set of computations is not yet ready, but by the time you crawl out of bed and while I’ve been working, the link above will have new information that might be a little different than what I am looking at here at 4:10 AM AST.  But I have to move on now!

So, look for lots of middle clouds (Altocumulus/Altostratus) again today, but likely bases lowering during the day and looking pretty threatening by evening. Check this sounding sequence from the BC and how the dewpoint and temperature lines come together at lower heights during the day today.  So lots of clouds to write about in your weather diary today, pretty much like yesterday1.

No rain and lots of warming ahead after this.

Yesterday’s clouds

Perhaps first, before moving on to something as ephemeral as clouds, we should start with something contemplative; an aphorism written by a man who compared humans and their lives to the activities of arachnids.  Pretty effective I thought.

Chief Seattle, too, by his very namesake, reminds us of the recent big Superbowl victory, after which 700,000 Chief Seattleites gathered in the streets yesterday to see the parade of players and other festivities, weaving their own distinctive strands of life.

Sanctuary Cove Park, Marana, maybe. Then again, it might be in Tucson. Nobody really knows where these towns start and end.

Day started with an overcast of Altostratus with mammatus/testicularis (which I showed yesterday) that devolved into an Altocumulus overcast most of the rest of the day, example below:

12:45 PM.
12:45 PM. Altocumulus opacus.  No virga evident.


2:52 PM.  VIrga and light snow top Mt. Lemmon.  Hope you logged it.  I did and I was about 15 friggin' miles away.
2:52 PM. Thin wisp of vIrga and light snow top Mt. Lemmon (center peak). Hope you logged it. I did and I was about 15 friggin’ miles away.  But don’t feel bad.  I sometimes miss things myself.  You just have to bear down, as we say around here,  and be fanatical about it.  That’s the strand I want you to weave in this life.
3:46 PM. Altocumulus lenticulars form under an Altocumulus perlucidus layer. View from Sanctuary Cove Park, very nice little loop walk there.


4:14 PM. More isolated examples of Altocumulus lenticularis near the Tucson Mountains.



Inappropriately blooming wildflower.  Global warming hitting hard in AZ this winter so far.
Seen in Sanctuary Cover Park,  inappropriately blooming wildflowers.   This MIGHT be a purple “brown-plumed wire lettuce”, best match I could find in Wildflowers of Arizona by Rick and Nora Bowers. Message sent:  global warming hitting hard in AZ this winter so far.

























































On the other hand, to be fair to the earth, global warming’s on the run in the Great Lakes area. Check this “find” out, courtesy of that big troublemaker and former WA State Climatologist, Mark Albright who enjoys finding discrepancies in fashionable postulations, causing people to think, maybe explain things they weren’t expecting:


The green line is the median ice coverage for the Great Lakes. Good grief, has it been cold around there or what? I guess it all evens out, and for some folks, that’s a problem these days.



The End.


1I did notice that the big clearing didn’t get here yesterday as early as was thought, that clearing between yesterday’s trough and clouds those in this incoming one today and thought I would hide the discussion of that forecasting error in a footnote.   But, maybe the whole point of life is learning from your mistakes, taking them head on.  Then at the end, when you’ve finally think you’ve got it all right, you die.  Doesn’t seem right.


















































































































































































































Find the ice; view the flowers

Today’s cloud lesson is in a quiz format. Find the ice in the photos below. As you know, ice in clouds is nearly always required before rain can fall out of clouds here in, well, all of Arizona, not just here in Catalinaland. Can you see some in the photos of of moderate Cumulus clouds below?
If nothing else, these shots show the kind of pretty skies we have now days. A few isolated Cumulonimbus clouds remain on the far horizon, NW to NE, as our summer rain season goes on, but barely. You can see those in the photos, below, if you have some binoculars.


3:20 PM.



Also 3:20 PM, but over this way some more.



4:43 PM. Anything of interest over there by Prescott?



6:32 PM. Seems to be getting darker earlier.



6:33 PM. The moon.

BTW, I would suggest a hike/horseback ride into the Catalina foothills because there is currently an amazing profusion of morning glories in their full glory.  Here are a couple of examples of what was seen last Saturday in a hike up the “Middle Gate” up into the foothills.  It was STUNNING!  They were not just along the trail, but extended into the brush like poppies do in the spring.  So pretty.  Took too many photos, was it 200? (202).   But every few yards up there on the east side of the Sutherland Wash was so seductive. DSCN5729DSCN5687DSCN5683


Big thunderblast down Oracle, Pusch Ridge way; a personal report

Couldn’t be on “the perch” for that rain here in SH-Catalina late yesterday afternoon (0.14 inches) due to a social engagement, but, serendipitously drove under the 1-2 inch blast of rain, lightning, and 60 mph winds that deluged Oracle Road at Magee and points south.   1.7 inches was measured in 37 minutes at the Ina Road and CDO Wash!  You can find more regional totals here. Arrived in that zone  just as the bottom unloaded, the most exciting place you can be, as you and storm chasers know, of course.  Restaurant, at Ina and Oracle, took quite a bit of water, too

4:43 PM. Updraft holding the flood aloft giving out, first in that brighter spot in the center. In only a few minutes, everything was “fogged out” in torrential , sideways-blowing rain, and vicious cloud-to-ground strikes, as I knew it would be, and you, too,  within minutes looking at this cloud base.  This is the kind of storm we get here that gets your attention, gets you off the couch and over to the window, if it hasn’t blown in yet.
4:50 PM. Not even sure this was the worst of it, but it was reel bad here on Oracle near Magee. Wasn’t very imaginative, just repeating over and over, “This is amazing!”


4:37 PM.  Gorgeous shafts of rain obscure the Catalina Mountains by Catalina State Park, Romero Falls.
4:37 PM. Gorgeous shafts of rain obscure parts of the Catalina Mountains next to Catalina State Park, Romero Falls area.  Had to pull off and get SOMETHING of this sight.  Didn’t see a flow in the CDO later though1. (Mini-harangue down below, way down, about walls.

You can see this stupendous sequence, too, from the U of AZ campus here.





































A U of AZ mod from 11 PM last night foretells another active rain day today.  This is great.  Weeds getting crispy, as seen on yesterday’s horseback ride.    Maybe some will get rejuvenated. Expert takes on mods will come out later by Bob and Mike, of course.  The scene at White Dog Ranch, by the CDO wash and Lago del Oro as of yesterday:DSCN5341

But also saw some wildlfower stragglers

7:58 AM.  Still some of these around, as well as some kind of yellow flowers, too, hangers on through the recent dry conditions.
7:58 AM. Still some of these around, as well as some kind of yellow flowers, too;  hangers on through the recent dry conditions.

And, to finish off here, the early signs of a likely good day ahead, Cu sprouting above Ms. Lemmon by mid morning, tops reaching “glaciation temperatures” not much later, and, of course, “thunder on the Lemmon before 1 PM.” Like all “signs”, there are exceptions but they usually work out, like yesterday’s downpours.

10:27 AM. A good sign for an active day, Cumulus beginning to form by mid-morning. Means the amount of moisture is pretty good, the shallow thermals rising off the mountains don’t have to go very far. Also, whitish haze implies high humidity (not pretty, though) because aerosols usually contain particles that respond to humidity and swell up (deliquesce), causing the sun’s light to be more scattered than small, dry particles would do. Big problem back East where sometimes there is no blue sky on the most humid days, just this white murk. Just awful because you can’t even see the clouds around you.
11:12 AM. At left, a not very tall turret has left an icy residue, the whitish blur. You would have been getting happier seeing this happen, since things will only get bigger and better as the day wears on. Also, was musing about, “Could this be more ‘ice multiplication'”?, that phenomenon we who study clouds call those that have “too many” crystals for the temperature at the top. Recall that back in the 1950s and 1960s for the most part, scientists thought it took a cloud top temperature lower than -20 C (-4 F) (!) to produce many ice crystals due to cloud chamber measurements on the ground in which there were no, or very few crystals that formed at those cloud chamber temperatures. But, voila, when scientists flew airplanes into clouds looking for ice, they found Ma Nature forming a lot of ice at cloud top temperatures higher than -10 C (14 F) in many cases! This “discrepancy” has not been completely explained even today, and is STILL the focus of airborne research.  Amazing.
12:49 PM. First thunder on the Lemmon was about now. Excellent!




















The End.






1The CDO wash is no longer visible at Oracle on the east side, thanks to an unnecessary, unbelievable 400 feet of sound wall monstrosity,  extended past the neighborhood (Ramsfield Pass) it was supposed to shelter from a few extra decibels.  One Catalina neighbor described it as only slightly better looking than the Berlin Wall.  Our tax dollars at work, I guess, in some bizarre way.  The wash did NOT need to be protected from a few decibals, and I miss seeing in as we used to!

April as seen in rain day frequencies; some wildflowers seen

update April
Captions included in diagram!



Guest Statement/retrospective on March 2013 for Tucson by Mr. Mark Albright, a mostly temperature-centric climatologist specialist from the University of Washington:

“March 2013 was the 2nd warmest March in the past 65 years (1949-2013) at the Tucson Airport (KTUS) with an average temperature of 65.7 F which was +5.6 F above the 1981-2010 normal of 60.1 F. The only warmer March was 9 years ago in 2004 with a mean temperature of 66.6 F. By contrast, the coldest March occurred in 1973 with a mean temperature of only 51.6 F.

March 2013 precipitation totaled 0.01 inches at the Tucson Airport, the driest March since 1999 when ZERO precipitation was recorded in March. In the past 65 years ZERO precipitation has been observed in March 5 times: 1956, 1959, 1971, 1984, and 1999. March normal precipitation for the Tucson Airport is 0.73 inches.”

Mark may contribute more material in the future in the form of guest blogs when CM’s brain is fried.


How about them Altocumulus castellanus/floccus virgae clouds yesterday?

8:54 AM.  Altocumulus floccus virgae (with snow falling out) above a housing castellanus.
8:54 AM. Altocumulus floccus virgae (with snow falling out) above a housing castellanus.


9:07 AM.  Long trails of snow made these clouds exceptional.  In the foreground, riding pal, Nora B, who talks mainly about birds and wildflowers (she and hubby have a book out on the latter) while I talk mainly about clouds and snow aloft on the rides.
9:07 AM. Long trails of snow made these Altocumulus floccus clouds exceptional yesterday.   In the foreground, riding pal, Nora B, who talks mainly about birds and wildflowers (she and hubby have a book out on the latter, Wildflowers of Arizony) while I talk mainly about clouds and snow aloft on the rides, so there’s no real communication on the rides  (hahaha).   I thought you would want to know that.

The wildflowers were better than expected along the trail, considering our once a month storm frequency for the past three months. Here are some for you.  Can you name them?




Dry, windy, dusty blast coming on Monday, followed by air that’s too cold for April later that day into the middle of the week, but you knew that already. More on weather tomorrow.

The End.

Cirrus altocumulus castellano-floccogenitus

We had a rare form of Cirrus yesterday, whose name I have made up in the title as a hint of where they came from, due to the very high altitude and low temperatures of some Altocumulus yesterday.   Those Ac morphed to Cirrus, hence the strange, unpronounceable  title.

Reminder,  weatherscience mavens, its more proper to say “low” temperatures; not “COLD” temperatures, FYI, though you constantly hear it.  (“Things”, like coffee, air, chairs in the sun, etc., are hot, warm, cool,  tepid, and cold; temperature is not a physical thing, and is high. moderate, or low, etc.))

Still bristling over some unexpected clouds yesterday, so I wanted to complain about something minor, bring some discipline to the field.

Mr. Cloud-maven person was not paying attention, asleep at the wheel, etc., when some Altocumulus castellanus and Cirrus castellanus came a truckin’ over the horizon and floated over Catalina after dawn yesterday, but had not been mentioned in this blog in advance.   I am sure, since they had not mentioned  from this keyboard, you may have been in some distress yesterday when they showed up and you weren’t sure what was happening.  My apologies.  It will almost never happen again.

Here are some photos of the interesting clouds that passed overhead yesterday.  I was quite excited to see them partly because I had not prepared myself mentally for them.  Now, there is something strange in the first caption.   But I wrote it that way on purpose because I REALLY want to know if YOU know WHERE the HELL you are, and where the mountains are around here.  Next, after that outrage,  some interesting banded Cirrus. Then a hint at where those Cirrus came from in the background of the 3rd shot.

First, this sunrise over the Tortolita Mountains with Cirrostratus nebulosus (vellum-like cloud) and a hint of Cirrocumulus (tiny, brighter, flocculent specs).
This banded Cirrus gave some hint as to its origin. Might be termed, Cirrus uncinus, or floccus, or fibratus, its a pretty complicated set.


Caption function not working now for this third shot in WP, so here it is:
3) A nice example of Cirrus uncinus in the foreground, tufted or hooked ice clouds trailing tiny ice crystals.  In the background, a clue to the origin of the patchy, banded Cirrus.
4) Another shot of the approaching Altocumulus castellanus (Ac cas) and (Ac floc) floccus clouds as they arrived overhead, some of which have morphed completely into ice (Cirrus) clouds, such as that larger element over the house in the foreground!  In the upper left quadrant of this shot are Ac clouds that, to this eyeball, are still liquid.
Droplet clouds have more sharply defined edges because droplet clouds have MUCH higher concentrations of particles in them than ice crystal clouds (which tend to make them “fuzzy”, ghost-like, striated, fibrous, etc.
Why this visual difference, which I want you to learn, to see for yourself and impress your friends?
There are more cloud droplet condensation nuclei than there are ice crystal nuclei.   For example, liquid Altocumulus clouds might have 100,000 to 500,ooo drops per liter in them, while ice crystal clouds may have only tens to a few thousand per liter  (and then only in newly formed elements) of ice crystals.  In general, there are more cloud condensation nuclei than ice nuclei, too.


While “Joe” is spinning up into his little hurricane-like self in some kind of weather tantrum off the California coast today before heading to Oregon, our skies over Catalina will be marked by various forms of Cirrus clouds, ice clouds well above 25,000 feet above the ground, and not much else.  BTW, you can follow Joe’s progress here from the U of WA, if interested.

If you’re interested, instead, of following our Cirrus clouds as they approach and go overhead today, go here, also from the U of WA.  You see the Cirrus clouds pealing off the main frontal band in the Pac NW and then fading as they head this way.  (I would increase the speed of the loop for maxium excitement.)

The End.


Epilogue to historic storm; your broken records

Here, thanks to weather pal and researcher, Mark Albright, at the University of Washington, the low temperature and precip records set during our recent historic storm.



Unfortunately, the next few weeks, it appears, will be characterized by only chances of clouds, not rain, and mostly high ones at that.   Middle clouds like Altocumulus and Altostratus,  MIGHT appear on the 24th.  (Pitiful.)

Today it looks like a couple of  Cirrus clouds are heading our way from the northwest.  Of course, the temperature will be ratcheting upward now, too.

Sad to see that the poppies were mostly gone around this Catalina neighborhood yesterday.


Glumly, The End.

The Great Divide…

in models.   Could be called,  “delta models.”  Below, nice pleasant weather, nothing much going on or threatening or an imminent storm, whichever you like from last night’s crunching of global data from two great computer models.  The first from our own US output , and the second from  Canada for the same time and day, this coming Sunday afternoon at 5PM AST, February 26th!

Trough along the West Coast(1)?  Or not (2)  Look at the giant trough protruding southward in that Canadian model!  I really don’t know which one will verify, and so I think I will go look at some flowers until this goes conundrum goes away.

As we all know, “the truth is out there.”  But where?  Fingers crossed for Canadian “solution.”

The End

In case you missed it…yesterday morning’s sunrise

A belated post, to be sure

Yesterday morning’s sounding when the Altocumulus clouds were overhead.  Bases about -18 C, tops -27 C.  Lots of ice visible along with widespread virga.  Whenever you see this much ice in small Altocumulus clouds like these, you should automatically assume that the temperature at the top is less than -20 C.

Usefulness of this information in everyday conversation, a module I call,  “Conversational Meteorology.”

The scene:  you’re walking/hiking with a friend on a warm morning when sunrise occurs.  You see these clouds.  The conversation has died off since you’ve been walking for several hours. You’re looking for something to say to re-energize the conversation.  Suddenly, you look up and see this scene below and blurt out, “Man, those clouds are cold!”  The volume of your blurtation has surprised even you, and startles your friend who was thinking about that tortoise on the trail ahead of you.  You rattle on about how cold the clouds with a followup, “Man, they must be at least colder than -20 C!”  Your friend seems puzzled at your excitement, but listens politely’ after all he is your friend.  You quickly add, “Almost every cloud has some snow coming out of it, no matter how small it is! Wow!”  Your friend, now saturated with your exuberances, asks if you saw the last episode of NCIS last night?

The end.