On a clear day you can see Flagstaff

Of course, you can’t see the TOWN of Flagstaff, you silly person, the title was just a hook to get you here to read about clouds!  The earth curves too much for you to see Flagstaff, for Pete’s Sake. How could you even imagine that such a title could be true?

But, you CAN see the tops of Cumulonimbus clouds boiling upward OVER Flagstaff, maybe there is someone you know there and you could call them about it, find out how much it has rained.  Those Cumulonimbus tops stick up above the horizon in that direction about a quarter of an inch if you were to take a ruler out and hold it out in front of you.  Thought you’d like to know this.

Here’s the scene I am describing from yesterday afternoon.  In case you wouldn’t know what to say to your Flagstaff friend, I’ve tried to help you out in the caption for the second photo.  Maybe its your mom you haven’t called in a while….  Who knows who it might be that you know up there?

1:27 PM. The scene. Cumulonimbus tops, likely above 40,000 feet above sea level, lined the higher terrain of the Rim to the NW-NE from Catalina yesterday afternoon.  BTW, I really like Catalina.  Who would have dreamed I would end up HERE coming from Seattle!
1:27 PM. Arrow points to a top right by Flagstaff!  If you have a friend or a relative up there because its too hot here, you could have called from Catalina yesterday and said, “Hi, I see its raining up there.  Are you getting much?  Friend:  “How do you know its raining? Did you look at some radar?”  You reply, “No, I can see the cloud over you from here, I really didn’t need to look at the radar.”

Finishing off today’s lesson: The tops you see are ALMOST always completely composed of ICE crystals and snowflakes because they too damn cold at 40,000 feet or so (temperature less than -40 C, less than -40 F; they are the same numeric at that temperature, yet another piece of knowledge for you) for anything but ice we think.

Some embarrassed people have reported liquid water at temperatures below -50 C such as Robert H. Simpson, former head of the National Hurricane Center and also husband of the late Joanne Simpson, famed Cumulus researcher and FIRST WOMAN TO EVER RECEIVE A PH. D. in meteorology1.  Must’ve have been an especially great marriage because they both loved weather and clouds and hurricanes and probably talked about ’em all day.

Continuing with something relevant, once when Bob (Simpson) was in Seattle giving a talk, after the talk I said to him, smiling, “You must be pretty embarrassed about reporting liquid water at -62 C”, as he did in 1962 in a conference paper, and again in 1963 in the peer-reviewed journal, the Monthly Weather Review.

He smiled and said, “The theoreticians don’t think its there, but its there.”


The weather today and the next few days into August?

Scattered rains, lightning thunder EVERY day into August! I am so happy. More rain is on the doorstep.  Take a look below at what this extra rain we’ve had so far in July has already done to our desert as of three days ago, July 25th.  Its incredible, isn’t it?  I call it, the “re-jungle-ation” of Arizona accompanied by the appearance of new life forms; see last photo.

1Joanne Simpson, after reviewing my grades, advised me to give up meteorology. She was a professor at UCLA then (1963), and I wanted to “walk on” as a met student in their program. In effect, though I didn’t realize it then, she saved me from myself since UCLA was WAY too theoretical for me in the approach to weather. Later I attended San Jose State2, a program much more suited to me with my weak math skills.  (Can you put a footnote in a footnote?)”

2While at SJS in the later 1960s, I was forecasting weather for the college paper, forecasts that devolved into silly, juvenile, lame topical humor, much like the “humor” here.  To drop another name in this blog, I loved what KRLA-AM, a top 40 station in Los Angeles, where I grew up,  was doing in those turbulent days of the late 1960s. They had dared to start a news parody program, recreating news events that they would first report in a serious manner.  It was bold and courageous for a mainstream media station; they dared to offend. I wanted to be a part of it, and went down to apply for summer work there in 1968.

My interviewer?  A young Harry Shearer.  The “Credibility Gap“,  the KRLA news parody team in those days, consisted mainly of Harry, Richard Beebe, and David L. Lander.  An example of their work, “Dawn of New Era for Man”,  KRLA’s 1969 Apollo 11 counter coverage to the major networks; its 8 min long, Arizona’s Papago Indians mentioned.  You can’t find this on the internet!

Back to the interview:  Harry briefly examined my topical forecasts for the SJS paper, ones I presented to him pasted on a blank sheet of paper.  After just a minute or two, he said, “I don’t think they’re that funny.”   It was painful to hear, but upon later reflection, oh, so true!  I left immediately.

I had some low moments in the 1960s, but here I am!



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.