There may have been some sharp eyed folks that saw a great looking Cumulus congestus in the distance off to the NNE of Catalina yesterday. The shots below were just before 7 PM LST. Perhaps there was a shower or thunderstorm on the Mogollon Rim.
Sadly, even I was fooled for a few microseconds until you notice that there is NOTHING even slightly resembling the size of that cloud anywhere in the sky. Then, it dawns on you that it must be a “pyrocumulus”, the kinds of artificial Cumulus clouds that form atop the highest, and hottest portions of fires when there is a bit of humidity in the air. Once the fire dies down some, then all you see is smoke, the last evidence of the trees and the plant life consumed below. Likely was a new fire, too, dammitall. It was probably 50-75 miles away; also just visible in the satellite imagery. The second shot is an attempt at a close up, marred a bit by some kind of large insect that happened to fly by as I was shooting. Just above the horizon of that second photo, you can JUST make out the telltale smoke below the bottom of the pyrocu. The last photo, from Hornepayne, Ontario, Canada, is an example of a pyrocu up close, just as it was forming. This was due to a prescribed burn by the Canadian government. The cloud droplets are white while the smoke is black. The cloud droplets are about 100 to 1000 times larger than the smoke particles, and reflect (have a higher albedo) more of the sun’s light than do the smoke particles.
Rain update: Still looks like a great onset of the rainy season after a little “hip fake” today and tomorrow, that is, a slight insertion of tropical air ahead of an unusually strong, winter-like storm in northern California. That weak insertion of tropical air should lead to a few weak, high-based showers and thunderstorms on the high terrain. And with high bases, there will be the chance of exceptional winds near showers due to the virga and rain falling into otherwise pretty dry air. After this little episode, the normal summertime anticyclone aloft rears up from the Tropics and after a couple of dry days and plants itself to the north of us. This allows more humid tropical air to arrive pretty much on time, around the 3rd and 4th of July. So, get ready! It will be so great to see all the dust washed off the cacti, the stupendous sunsets, the lightning, the rainshafts, the whole works. I’ve waited a year for this season to roll around again! There won’t be a living thing that is not “happy” by the middle of July I would think, unless there has been too much flooding, always a possibility here.