About real clouds, weather, cloud seeding and science autobio life stories by WMO consolation prize-winning meteorologist, Art Rangno
Evening thunderstorms roll across Catalina with apocalyptic cloud scenes
Some apocalyptic cloud scenes can be Cumulus that explode suddenly into Cumulonimbus, and Cumulonimbus clouds with their foreboding (unless you live in a desert) rain shafts, and their predecessor shelf clouds like “swirly dark Stratocumulus”, and arcus clouds, the latter, a lower line of clouds just above and a little behind the wind shift at the ground, usually just ahead of the main rain shaft. While we didn’t get to see an arcus cloud yesterday, we had some dramatic swlrly dark Stratocumulus clouds to scare us. I say “swirly” because if you looked up yesterday evening as they passed over, you would have seen rotation in them.
These can combine, as they did yesterday, to make you think someone might drop out of the clouds and fix the world1. See those scary photos below, way below as it turns out.
This monster collection of Cumulonimbus clouds (“mesoscale convective system” or MCS in weather lingo) with swirly shelf clouds preceding it barged over Catalina later yesterday afternoon after it appeared that not much was going to happen all day. Heck, there wasn’t even a decent Cumulus over the Catalinas until after 2 PM!
The result of this system slamming Catalina was the usual strong preceding winds roaring down from Charouleau Gap way and points north or northeast. The winds were not as damaging as three days earlier.
Then the rain! So nice! Got 0.55 inches of rain here in Sutherland Heights, an inch and half on Samaniego Ridge, and 1.65 inches on Ms. Lemmon.
Worth watching is the U of AZ weather departments time lapse video, especially beginning at 2 min 50 s into it. That’s when the big group of Cbs begins to make its presence known from the east. What is interesting, and what I have not seen before, is that you will see the tops of a thunderhead farther west, that icy part up around 30,000 to 40,000 feet, shoved backwards (back toward the west) by outflow at the tops of the huge incoming system. Very dramatic.
Detour: detecting ice in clouds….some practice shots
As the burgeoning cloud maven junior person you, of course, know how important the appearance of ice in our clouds is. You got ice; you got precipitation, which is snow up there, soft hail, hail, frozen drops.
Only the largest hailstones up there can make it to the ground as such here in Arizona due to our high summertime freezing levels. The rest melt into raindrops, some of which are large enough to reach the ground. Those downpours that suddenly emit from cloud bases were always hail or graupel (soft hail) aloft.
Sometimes in deep stratiform clouds attached to clusters of Cumulonimbus clouds, and with especially moist air from the base of the stratiform layer to the ground, clusters of ice crystals we call snowflakes make it to the ground without evaporating as steady light or very light rain.
Last night as our storm was coming to an end, it is likely that THOSE drops were once snowflakes rather than soft hail or graupel.
The End (finally)
1Huh. Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I am very concerned about microplastics (particles 5 millimeters and smaller) in our oceans, resulting from the breakup of larger plastic items we’ve been throwing in the oceans for decades. Seems those tiny particles are getting into everything, including the fish out there! It would be great if someone could get rid of them.
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.