“Curve ball” of a Cumulonimbus strikes out Catalina again

It looked like it was coming straight down the middle. I didn’t see any rotation on it.   It was coming toward ME… and to Catalina.  We were going to get “shafted”, rain shafted that is, at last!

I started taking video, shooting numerous still shots of the mammoth-behemoth, churning, tropical-like, boiling-roiling Cumulonimbus cloud rolling in from the southwest toward Catalina, lightning sparking every minute or two at one point.  Pileus veils appeared and disappeared as the tops shot upward through moist layers.  What is a pileus?  Hint:  Its not Latin for somebody who flies an airplane.  But, continuing about airplanes….

If only I had a plane, I dreamed, to go inside them, fully explore and experience them in a quantitative way, those voluptuous turrets!  To penetrate their depths with instrumentation like we would used to do in the olden days at the University of Washington, recording the hail/graupel bursts on the pilot’s window, ones where it was like someone had thrown rice at the window, the huge amounts of supercooled liquid water piling up on the airframe, the plane trembling, rocking in turbulence, turbulence whose effects could only be mitigated by Marezine, the lightning strikes on the fuselage, the white knuckled, almost euphoric, glad-to-be-alive feeling afterward.

Yes, those were the good old days.

While our dogs were cowering, made restless by the approaching thunder,  I dusted off my rain gage collector, looked inside it, as you all should do, for telltale signs of recent bird visitations, droppings that might hinder the rush of water into the inner collector, or even block it all together.   Once having cleaned it off, I sprayed the outer collector with WD-40 so that the drops would roll quickly into the inner collector without the least resisitance, allowing the tipping bucket of the Davis Vantage Pro II Extra Deluxe Mark IV rain gage and weather station system to report rain as rapidly as possible.

This was going to be a great rain, it would make up for the prior two day’s of disappointments and sadness, really. BTW, its quite normal for meteorologists to feel like they live in a “hole” where the best rains hardly ever hit.

In case you didn’t call in sick yesterday as was suggested here so that you could see the those majestic Cumulonimbus clouds roll in, and in paritcular, missed this one below that literally rumbled toward Catalina from the direction of Twin Peaks, here is a sequence of shots taken at 12:53 PM, 1 PM, 1:07 PM, and 1:28 PM.  Rain seemed imminent.
Of course, it fizzled out.  Three strikes!  Three days in a row of near misses!
This one got SO CLOSE!  And as you see below, there were flanking bases even as it neared, absolutely necessary for continued life of the storm.  Without those flanking clouds, a Cumulonimbus can have a shockingly short life span, maybe 20-30 minutes of rain to the ground.
As you can see below, those dark bases sans rain shafts (flanking dark cloud bases) were a good sign that the approaching storm was going to continue propagating into Catalina with gusto, and gusts as well, as the flanking clouds piled up into new Cumulonimbus clouds, riding on top of the outflow winds of the rainshaft.

But no, the flanking clouds disappeared in minutes, leaving only the sad stratiform remains of that once proud Cumulonimbus.  Below, 2:57 PM, one of the saddest cloud sights of all, Altostratus cumulonimbogenitus, orphaned from their parent Cumulonimbus cloud, set adrift, and adrift, without being fed from below, well, they die.  Light, ever so light, rain was falling when this photos was taken.
Eventually the steady, very light rain added it up to 0.02 inches.  I felt like I was back in Seattle because the way that rain was falling yesterday afternoon, was EXACTLY like the rain that Mr. Cloud-maven person experienced year in and year out in Seattle, Washington.  Yep, that’s how it rains in SEA most of the time and you experienced that right here in Catalina yesterday afternoon.
The day ended with a remarkable clearing of all the low clouds, not a Cumulus could be seen from horizon to horizon.  But we did have “pretty Cirrus” (spissatus) clouds, also orphaned from Cumulonimbus, to make a nice sunset.
Today, after the early morning rainbow, one that I didn’t get a photo of?
Gee, the dewpoints are still high, we have a surprising amount of mid-level clouds this morning, some with turrets and showers, yet the U of A weather model suggests no rain later today based on what it sees.   Hmmmm.  Its usually correct in these matters, though I hope some surprise is waiting for us late this afternoon anyway.
The End.
Kind of upset I missed getting a shot of that unusual morning rainbow because the camera had no SD card again, so I think instead, out of spite, I will put in a recent photo of some kind of beetle.

By Art Rangno

Retiree from a group specializing in airborne measurements of clouds and aerosols at the University of Washington (Cloud and Aerosol Research Group). The projects in which I participated were in many countries; from the Arctic to Brazil, from the Marshall Islands to South Africa.