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.

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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.

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.

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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

June 3, 2015. Douglas / Elbert County Colorado Supercells

Today the National Weather Service issued an enhanced risk of severe storms for Central and Northern Colorado, likely having Colorado Supercells on the menu!  My original thought was to wait near Prospect Valley and either hit the storms coming off of the Palmer Divide, or head into Northeast Colorado if the cells fired there.  A tried and tested strategy, and it worked once again today.

Larkspur supercell

Larkspur supercell as seen north of Kiowa.

Castle Rock and Franktown supercell

Larkspur supercell as it went through Castle Rock and Franktown.

I was in Bennett at about 2:30pm when the first cell fired up.  Because I was nowhere near home, the cell was over Larkspur put down quarter sized hail.  But this storm was the only play thus far in a good atmospheric environment and given the cap was strong I decided to head south towards Elizabeth and cut off this slow moving storm.  I ended up finding a nice location a couple miles south of Elizabeth and set up the camera for a time lapse.  The Larkspur storm slowly moved NE but it wasn’t tightening up and was obvious that it probably would only produce hail. It ended up completely vanishing within about 30 minutes near Kiowa.

Elizabeth supercell

Elizabeth supercell showing some interesting formations

Elizabeth supercell

Second supercell as it entered Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, the cells behind this supercell merged and took a right turn.  This was an amazing looking cell and I watched it from Elizabeth, then Kiowa.  But like its earlier friend it couldn’t withstand the cap and environment east of Kiowa and quickly died.  The good news is that for my second chase of the season I was home by 9pm, a rare occasion on chase day!

Kiowa supercell

Kiowa supercell as seen east of town.

Kiowa supercell

Kiowa supercell showing some interesting scud formations

Aurora supercell as seen from Hwy 86 near Elizabeth as I was heading home.

Aurora supercell as seen from Hwy 86 near Elizabeth as I was heading home.

Castle Rock clouds

Castle Rock clouds as seen from Hwy 86 near Elizabeth as I was heading home.

Early Season Palmer Divide Lightning

Was sitting down at the computer after the kids were tucked in expecting to do some armchair chasing action with the upper air trough and severe weather digging into the plains states tonight, and started hearing some pellets hit the windows of the house–it was graupel coming down. Graupel is pellets of snow/ice that is much smaller than hail which is not unusual for this time of year. About ten minutes later the first bolt of lightning lit up the house!

Larkspur Colorado Lightning

One of the first bolts I caught, only about 8 or so bolts left in the storm before it was over…

I wasn’t prepared for this like I usually am during the monsoonal flow in late July/early August, so I jumped into high gear and grabbed the tripod and camera and got everything ready. Focus is always a problem with the DSLR but I pointed it at a neighbor’s houselight (I usually curse this light because it is on all night, every night of the year, and makes watching meteorite showers frustrating) but tonight it seemed to have a purpose to get me a good focus as I changed the lens to manual focus mode. As you may know focusing lightning can be very difficult!

I then jumped out on the porch hoping for some visible bolts not obstructed by the clouds and immediately the bolts were flying over head. Being on a porch with lightning this close is extremely dangerous (by definition overhead is very close) so I quickly put the camera on autopilot and headed back to the safety inside.

Larkspur Colorado Lightning

Mother Nature’s show lasted no more than 15 minutes and was very localized; as luck would have it many of the bolts were in the least obstructed view from my porch! Nice! Captured several good shots making me even more excited for this upcoming chase season!

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Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum

It has been a while now that I have wanted to visit the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum in Golden, Colorado. I’ve read articles about it, heard it was awesome, and still never have ventured to the far west side of the Metro to pay a visit. Well, the time had come; my daughter had a Girl Scout event at the School of Mines earlier this year and while waiting for her event to finish the rest of the family went to the museum…and we’re glad we did! It did not disappoint; the local Colorado collections they had were outstanding!

What I liked most was the fact that they had similar specimens from popular Colorado localities that I have collected. In most all cases their examples of the mineral(s) were much better than I have, but in a few examples I have found similar quality specimens from the same localities. Because I have been to the same location as these were unearthed from; I also was able to definitively identify several specimens that I was only partially sure about!

There were also several specimens that I really like that I have not found that mineral anywhere yet; but they were so cool that I had to take a photo of it anyway. The museum is full of wonderful specimens — these pictures don’t do it justice; you have to *BE* there to truly grasp the magnitude of the beauty of these specimens, but hopefully the pictures get you itching to visit Golden on your next trip to the metro area!

Calcite and Pyrite

A person at the colosseum show a couple years ago had several of these for sale for cheap. I bought one in the same league than this!

Fluorite

Oklahoma Galena

Oklahoma Galena, this is an awesome specimen!  As a storm chaser I remember when Picher was partially destroyed by a tornado in 2008…what I didn’t realize is that it was a Superfund site and is one of the most toxic places in the US.  Picher is a modern day ghost town for a good reason!

Rhodochrosite Stalagmites

Rhodochrosite Stalagmites

NTM Zoelites

North Table Mountain Zoelites

Back in 2010 I was able to visit North Table Mountain on a field trip with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society club.  This is on Jefferson County Open Space and there is no collecting usually allowed per their website; but the club had a permit which allowed us to collect.  We did find some great crystals as you will see in that blog post. Below are the fantastic zeolite crystal specimens they had in the museum.

NTM Thompsonite

North Table Mountain Thomsonite

North Table Mountain Chabazite

North Table Mountain Chabazite – We found an awesome vug lined with Chabazite during a NTM club fieldtrip!

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Quartz after Halite

This Quartz after Halite specimen is awesome!

Goethite after Pyrite

I love Goethite and Pyrite; this is the best of both!

Quartz after Fluorite

This Quartz after Fluorite is just amazing!

Fluorite

Fluorite. I found a similar piece at the Smoky Hawk mine during one of the club field trips.

Here is the similar (not as big but just as gemmy) fluorite I found at the Smoky Hawk mine.

Crystal Hill Amethyst

Crystal Hill Amethyst Cluster – I have yet to find Amethyst at this locality.

Bone

Petrified Spruce

Petrified Spruce

Petrified Wood

One of the various Petrified wood slabs they had on exhibit — Joshua Tree.

Petrified Wood

One of the various Petrified wood slabs they had on exhibit

 

Larkspur alluvial smoky quartz

Over the last 15 or so years I have collected alluvial smoky quartz crystals along the roads in our neighborhood while out and about.  Others in my neighborhood have also shown me crystals they have found.  I have seen some Native American points found in the area made out of smoky quartz too that are quite amazing.

These quartz crystals are alluvial and are obviously a ways from where they started.  I am assuming these originated in the Devils Head area and were ground down as they were transported by glaciers.  Many of these are very gemmy inside and could be used for cutters.

At the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society rock show many years ago I visited a club booth where one of the members found a huge alluvial smoky crystal along Fountain Creek that was on display.  This particular stone was a large gem (perhaps eight inches in diameter) and they had another similar size quartz they found faceted; both came from the creek bed.  That is when I decided that the larger stones don’t facet well (at least to my eye) — although the faceter did an excellent job it just didn’t sparkle like the smaller cuts.

Alluvial Smoky Quartz

My small collection of Smoky Quartz found along the roads near Larkspur Colorado.

Larkspur Smoky Quartz

This one came from a rut at the side of a road under some pine needles

Larkspur Smoky Quartz

This I found just a couple of weeks ago while walking the dog. Very gemmy inside.

Just goes to show that prospecting can be easy and very close to home; just need to keep a trained eye on the ground!