Rural Colorado Lightning

I love the monsoon season, because 30% chance of thunderstorms means there will be one within 30 minutes of where I live; it is the way living atop the Palmer Divide usually works!  I drove about 10 minutes south of home and was able to capture these tonight.  Not as close as yesterday’s lightning by any means, but still pretty cool.  Again, cell phone and daytime pictures so quality is appropriate, daytime lightning is much harder to photograph, especially getting the stepped leaders!  What will tomorrow bring?Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning

 

Castle Pines Lightning

The monsoon is in effect here in Colorado, like it always is in late-July and/or early-August (which I love) as I can capture some great lightning photos. Nice thundershowers each afternoon cool it down and make just fantastic evening/night conditions (and also keep the landscape green, which is a challenge here this time of year)! I was driving home from work which is normally 45 minutes but yesterday ended up being over 2 hours. As I was in the stop-go routine, an oncoming storm with very frequent cloud-to-ground lightning was encroaching. Luckily, the traffic ended up thinning out just in time to miss the core of the precipitation which would have made the drive even longer, ugh!

I travelled to the next exit and got off to take some pretty close, daytime lightning photos. This is with my cell phone, but surprising got some really nice shots! All of these bolts were between a mile and two away.

Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning

Castle Pines Lightning

This one is interesting I feel because it shows the end of the initial discharge and the start of the second return stroke.

2015 Perseids Meteorite Shower

Excited for the 2015 Perseids meteorite shower.  This one is special because of the new moon.  Expecting to see some fantastic shooting stars!

It has been pretty rainy with the monsoonal flow in full effect lately, and my worry is about clouds.  Two nights before the peak it was cloudy all night and I was not able to witness anything.  One night before peak it was partially cloudy with a little haze, but I was able to see several shooters.  3 Perseid fireballs (2 were slow without much of a tail, one with a tail), 6 nice shooters and the remainder were small or really fast ones without tails.  I saw 15 from 1:30am to 2:30am.  I woke up a couple more times but there were a lot of clouds so I didn’t stay out that long, caught a couple small ones during this time.

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

There are many reasons I head out the day before/after the peak.  One is the peak could be off, but the other is clouds.  The peak morning was cloudy and there was very limited visibility to the sky (maybe 10-15% viewable for 20-30 minutes at a time).  I was able to watch for about 60 minutes where there was viewable area, and I saw 55 shooters.  That is awesome, too bad I couldn’t watch more of the show.  We’ll see what tomorrow morning has in store…

Perseids Peak with clouds Perseids Peak with clouds Perseids Peak with clouds Perseids Peak with clouds

August 11 2015 Aurora Funnel Cloud

For some reason early this morning I felt I had to take my camera to work. I wasn’t sure why I felt that way, but I didn’t deny my intuition and I put it in the car with me. I figured I’d see a wild animal or something on the way in.

So, I’m working and end up having meetings solid all afternoon. Ending time has come and gone and I’m officially working late again. Then all of a sudden every phone in cube-land went off at the same time. Tornado warning. Managers yelling at folks to get in the stairwell and inner conference rooms. Of course, I’m looking out the window and checking my resources on the phone trying to determine where the threat is. No velocity couplet on radar, probably a landspout as this area of Colorado is notorious for non-supercell tornadoes. Some random manager (not sure whom) grabs me and tells me I’m in danger and I have to get into the shelter. So I dart away, down the stairs past a ton of folks, and onto the top of the parking garage, on my way grabbing the camera from the car.

Tornado warning states that it was a “Public spotted tornado” which typically means pretty much anything; I understand the concern because clouds can look really angry! (many “public” reports are incorrect). But social media shows some nice funnel cloud pictures. Cool! The subsequent warning states that Weather Spotters see a funnel cloud.

The rain stops falling (mostly) and the lightning moves away, so I venture out on the top floor of the parking garage and then I see the funnel, just northeast of work. My co-worker texts me asking me where the heck I was at, I told him on the top of the parking garage and to come join me. He ended up being just in time to see his first funnel cloud of his life! I vividly still remember that day for me, I was 6, changed my life.

Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud

2015 Perseids is Coming

Are you ready for the Perseids? They peak on Thursday AM but the show can be at its best within a couple days of the peak. Several years ago two mornings before was the best…it all just depends on when we pass through the cosmic comet debris from Swift-Tuttle. This year will be extra special because of the new moon, making watching extra bright!

Here are some of the shooters I caught from years past! Can’t wait to hear your experience with the cosmic light show!

FYI, best time is after midnight to dawn; if you’ve never witnessed a show; get a nice lounge chair and just look up, and let your eyes scan into infinity…when one shoots, your eyes will automatically focus on it. If you are a counter like me (it keeps me awake), use your fingers or you’ll likely lose count; or there are cell phone apps for that!

If you are going to take pictures, get a tripod and a shutter remote, switch over to manual exposure mode, set to lowest f-stop/aperture setting, iso needs to be fairly low or it will get noisy, exposure for up to 8 seconds (if you go over 8 the stars will be blurry, my rule of thumb). Zoom out as far as you can go, turn off auto-focus and image stabilization (it moves the mirror and eats battery), and lock on the shutter remote! Oh, and focus, that is the hard part, you can try auto-focus but you should turn it off after you get a good focus, which will likely require some experimentation. Have fun! :star2:

2012 Perseids Shooter

2012 Perseids Shooter

2013 Perseids

2013 Perseids Shooter

2012 Perseids Shooter

2012 Perseids Shooter

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Monsoon Lightning Begins

The monsoon is picking up, several weeks later than normal, but it is here. Woke up to some thunder so I checked out the radar and sky and decided to take a small drive. Ended up a few blocks away from the house and was able to capture some nice lightning. The storm down SE of us was going bonkers with lightning, strobe light style, so I ended up driving south a ways to an overlook and watched. There were no bolts visible from my vantage point (the storm was 40 miles away) so I just sat in awe for a while and then headed home. Tomorrow night should be another good night, and we have the Perseids upcoming too, so probably will be lacking a bit on sleep this week!

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June 6 Chase :: Severe Storms over Eastern Colorado

For the forth day in row the atmosphere was primed for severe storms over eastern Colorado.  I got an early start and did the standard thing it seems…catch the first storm that popped up on the Palmer Divide.  That was a storm that went just north of Elizabeth following the same patterns as many previous days.  This storm would prove to be the storm of the day, tornado warned, and surrounded by chasers all the way into Kansas.

SW Bennett storm

SW of Bennett as this storm was getting organized

The temps were in the low 60s and the clouds were pretty high based.  Looking at the surface map further out on the plains was 75/55 and in some places 80/55, so I opted to split the difference between Last Chance and Brush to hit whatever storms seems to be using the more unstable air.

Baby Elephant cloud.

My mind always plays tricks on me. This looked like a baby elephant cloud.

The southern storm just didn’t look good to me, and it was forming in the cooler air, so I opted to head to the cell popping up SW of Fort Morgan.  As I arrived it was tornado warned, of course about 10 minutes after the southern storm was also TVS warned.  The Fort Morgan storm was very high based and appeared to line out rather quickly.  I left it and tried to catch up with the southern storm that was along I-70 approaching Seibert.

Fort Morgan Tornado Warned Storm

Tornado Warned storm over Fort Morgan. Trained Spotters saw a funnel.

The southern cell appeared to be hitting the cap and was dissipating quickly, and the convection looked like mush which I’ve never had much luck with approaching Kansas (I like to see rock-hard popcorn type convection in the towers).  I still had a ways to catch up to it so I opted to head for the new storm that was forming SE of Limon.

Genoa storm forming

This storm was heading east of Limon when the larger cell started to loose its convection.

I headed south out of Cope and nearing Seibert I pulled over to check out some of the structure of the approaching storm.  The radar showed this complex as a line of storms so I knew it probably wasn’t going to do anything severe (perhaps hail or wind), so I just decided to absorb the structure as it approached.

Genoa Colorado cell

Looking SW from near Cope, Colorado.

Arcus Roll cloud

This storm was lined out making an Arcus roll cloud

Some nice striations in the clouds

Some nice striations in the clouds

Just north of Seibert I stopped to check out this arcus roll cloud which was really neat.  These clouds are similar to shelf clouds but are detached from the cloud base.

Arcus Roll Cloud

Arcus Roll Cloud

Heading back home I got to see some neat rainbows and dying cell structure while passing the Limon wind farm, which I always love to drive past/through.  All-in-all a fun chase day!

Limon Rainbow

Bright double rainbow in Limon

Limon storm at sunset

Limon storm at sunset

Seibert Roll cloud

Arcus Roll cloud north of Seibert.

June 5th Chase

Today was the third day in a row that the Colorado Front Range had a tornado watch issued.  I left a little late due to a work meeting (who schedules meetings in the afternoons during storm season, how rude! 🙂 ) and headed up to follow the second cell that was tornado warned near Parker.  Caught some great storm structure and had a fun time with this storm as it went in and out of tornado warned status.  Once again, more Palmer Divide magic!

double tail clouds

Double tail clouds!

Tail Cloud

Cell east of Byers as it got going again. Awesome watching the tail clouds form and pass overhead!

Tornado warned at this time.

Tornado warned at this time.

outflow structure from the storm

This was cool as the outflow was getting sucked up into the cloud.

On the way home I caught the cells that were forming off of the Rampart Range west of Castle Rock to get some lightning shots.  Unfortunately it was raining anywhere near the storm, so I shot some distant photos near Castlewood Canyon, still caught some great lightning.  It produces much better photos closer to the strikes, however; but there are still months of storms to catch great lightning shots.

Possible shear funnel

This appears to be a small shear funnel on the right side of this storm looking north from Castle Rock

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Been a fun June chasing so far!  Look forward to more days this spring!

June 4 Tornadic Supercells

Today had another round of severe weather for the Colorado Front Range including Tornadic Supercells.  I left work a bit late today due to a pending deadline so I was behind the 8-ball all day, but still was able to see some really neat storm structure.

Storms had already gone severe warned by the time I left work so I had a good idea which one to jump on.  I was targeting the storm just west of Limon as I was heading east on I-70 and then the cell near Leader was just too impressive and I had to check it out.  This is common with me when chasing as my favorite part is the storm structure and not strictly tornadoes which is the focus for many chasers.

Leader Supercell

Here is the supercell as I was passing it on the interstate as it was near Leader

Leader Tornado Warned Supercell

Awesome storm structure as this cell was tornado warned.

As I approached this storm is was obvious it was getting smaller, both on radar and visibly to my eye.  It didn’t matter though, the inflow band and what I could see of the updraft were spectacular!  Within 30 minutes this storm went from Tornado warned to non-existent!

Dying storm near Hoyt

Awesome structure just east of Byers, however the storm is dying

Hoyt supercell dead

Watching this supercell dwindle into nothing in less than 30 minutes!

So back onto my originally targeted strom.  I made a few tactical mistakes that cost some time today–miss my chase partner Adam who was excellent at it–and ended up taking a few roads I have not done before.  Due to the amount of rain the dirt roads were mud and somewhat slick so it was slow going.  Sometime the shortest route is not the best route! 🙂  Meanwhile this supercell was putting down beautiful tornadoes with amazing structure.  Here is what it looked like from the back (north) side (it was moving south) which is a typical view as you are approaching a storm from this perspective!

Simla Supercell

Getting back onto my primary target, it has been producing tornadoes by this time.

But perseverance pays off!  I finally got on this storm a little before sunset.  It had already stopped producing tornadoes although I thought there was one more left in it…but it didn’t have quite enough energy even though the mesocyclone was spinning like a top!  The structure was jaw dropping, with a visibly rotating barberpole updraft.  And there were no other chasers in this location when I arrived (a treat from days like yesterday where there were 100’s of chasers converged in the same area).  Ended up being 4 chaser teams in my area, and we all got an amazing display from mother nature!!!

Kutch supercell

Finally caught up with this supercell. Amazing structure near Kutch.

Kutch supercell

Lucky daytime lightning caught.

Barberpole structure

As the sun started to set, the energy dwindled and the inflow started to fizzle out.  The tail cloud that formed made me thing it was going to produce another tornado in front of me, but it was just a little too late for that to happen.

Helix barberpole inflow

Nice helix barberpole inflow just before its death.

Colorado sunset

Amazing, colorful sunset

Mammatus Sunset

Nice display of Mammatus Clouds at sunset

On the way home Denver had a large severe warned cell stalled over it.  On the radio they were talking about the mass amounts of hail and continuous lightning.  The storm stretched the entire metro area so I jumped up to a spot I’ve been wanting to photograph lightning from near Parker and took a few shots.  The lightning was incredible but it was 98% cloud-cloud and only small spikes were coming out of the cloud in this one location.  Great to watch for about 20 minutes before I ended up heading home.

All-in-all, an amazing chase day, the structure of the Kutch supercell is one I will never forget!

SW Denver lightning, continuous lightning!!

SW Denver lightning, continuous lightning!!

Denver Lightning

Awesome lightning display over Denver