FAQ: Chasing the Southwestern Monsoon

I just got back from a week long trip across the SW deserts. I was in Rocky Point, MX from Aug 28th to Aug 31st, and Yuma, AZ from Aug 31st to Sep 3rd. The trip started off extremely hot and dry, with temperatures 115+ on the drive down to Rocky Point. We did not encounter any storm activity while in MX, but did see some amazing sunsets from passing debris clouds. The atmosphere began to juice up a bit while we were in Yuma. We were greeted to a fanastic light show just before sunrise on Sep 1st. Scattered thunderstorms were forming off of a E to W moving outflow boundary. The storms quickly faded at dawn. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to shoot any lightning (which would have been difficult with my point-and-shoot anyway). Isolated storms formed to the north of Yuma on Sep 2nd around sunset, and I took a few shots of those. Will, I was watching that storm near hemet on radar and was drooling. The radar return looked great on it for a while, but yea, it dissapated quick. I was hoping for some similar action on my drive back on the 3rd, but there seemed to be more of a cap in place across the San Diego Mountains.

Anyway, it was a very enjoyable trip. I was thankful to be able to finally see some monsoon action after a pretty quiet season in California. I'm exhausted after 7 days in 110+ degree weather :D

A few opportunistic photos with my point-and-shoot below:

Rocky Point MX Sunset, Aug 29th
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Isolated storm looking for that last bit of daylight, Yuma AZ, Sep 2nd
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Full moon rising over debris clouds at sunset, Yuma AZ, Sep 2nd
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Evening storms, Yuma AZ, Sep 2nd. I could see CG's and CC's shooting out of this storm from where I was.
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This looked like a fire breathing dragon to us. What do you think? 15 miles east of Ocotillo, CA, Sep 3rd
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Southern California Storm Chaser
http://www.geocities.com/altus5/ (being re-built)
altus5@yahoo.com
 

Will Wilkens

Mark, no I don't have an iphone. I took those shots with a Nikon D40. ;)

BTW, my sources tell me that the alleged tornado sighting near Perris on Wed was just a gustnado, so the report was tossed out.
 
Mar 15, 2007
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Nice job Will, a semi in a flash flood! You don't see that every day lol

I'm still getting mine processed and scanned (slide film) and the season is not over yet! Here's one from one of my favorite spots, the Goldfield ghost town.

Susan

Absolutely love the Mining Ghost town picture, was that the place you took us last year to the east of Pheonix, now I know what it would have looked like with a Desert Storm in the background! Loving the pictures on this thread, the purples and reds with the Lightning are stunning blends of colour.

Paul Sherman
 
Hey Paul!
It wasn't on our first shoot, when we went to the town of Picacho/Red Rock, where we shot lightning over the locomotives in the Central Deserts. (remember when that critter was on my head lol) That area is about 1.5 hrs south of Phoenix.

Then the next day we did our little deep strike (Globe, then out past the San Carlos Apache community then on to Safford, Willcox, back through Tucson, up through the Central Deserts and home. Remember the 8 hour jaunt? Just as we started out and headed east on Highway 60 (straight east), before we got to the edges of town I remarked about a mountain called Superstition Mountain, where there is a ghost town at the base, and where people in the old west days have gone into the mountain in search of the Lost Dutchman's gold, and some people never came out. If you remember that (I was on the 2-way) then the ghost town I was referring to is the one in the picture. It is called Goldfield. We didn't go into it though, I just remarked about it as we passed Superstition Mountain.

This is not the same place as about 4 hours later into our trek I had pointed out some haunted mesas near Safford, and someone I think in the Virgin car said that he wanted to film there instead of the lightning lol. That place is way further out than Superstition Mountain. That was right before someone said that she didn't see sunsets like that in London.

Yesterday actually, I just chased back out there to Globe, that crazy windy road, for about 2 hours looking for more funky mining stuff for my storms.

What a kick huh :) That was fun too.

cheers, Susan
 
Mar 15, 2004
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Then the next day we did our little deep strike (Globe, then out past the San Carlos Apache community then on to Safford, Willcox, back through Tucson, up through the Central Deserts and home. Remember the 8 hour jaunt?
cheers, Susan
Yikes! Which cost more, the Starbuck's or the gas? :)


After several weeks of 'not much', we've finally enjoyed some decent action in and around Tucson over the last few days.
 

Will Wilkens

Saturday was quite interesting in the deserts of Southern California. A short-wave passage triggered numerous severe storms in the eastern Mojave Desert from San Bernardino County southward to Imperial County. One very large storm complex on the AZ side between Blythe and Yuma sent an outflow boundary west across Imperial County in the afternoon and triggered an impressive storm in the San Diego County desert that exploded northward towards the Coachella Valley, sloshing up against the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mtn ranges. The storm shot up to 60k feet and went supercell, radar indicated it that it was produceing 2.5" hail, and triggering flash flooding around Borrego Springs and Ocotillo Wells. The sight of the storm from my house was so incredible, it was breathtaking, from 50 miles away! I got out and took these pictures, which in my opinion is some of the most impressive structure I have seen in a long time out here. An intercept was out of the question as the storm reversed direction and headed east toward AZ after bouncing against the mtns. I was certain it would be pushed up and over to my side, but alas, no such luck...









 
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Dennis Dennison

Susan-Your pics are fantastic-Some neat shots by all.

I will add one pic-These were brewing in the distance, and resulted in a dust storm in Phoenix later in the day.
 

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Jan 13, 2008
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Thought I would post five of my photos from a nice storm on the evening of 9/11/09. They were taken from a hill on the east side of the Pinto Valley Mine north of US 60 highway about nine miles west of Superior, Arizona. These, along with a bunch of other good photos made for a very enjoyable evening.
 

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Mar 15, 2004
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With the season, such as it was, winding down, it may be time to post some of the year's "catches."

These were all taken from the same overlook in the eastern section of Saguaro N.P. just a few miles down the road from my house. (I was taking care of my terminally ill mom this summer, so long chases were not generally possible.) Camera is an old drebel XT, lenses are Zuiko 28 and 50mm Olympus OM series optics. Pics were all taken during early twilight, when short exposures make digital 'machine gunning' the only practical way to shoot. The colors are not enhanced - I even slightly de-saturated one or two. Mild contrast curve tweaking to emphasize mid-tone separation.

The short chases and bright sky didn't allow much film camera action. I ran only a few rolls through my Bronica and 35mm bodies.


Reddington Pass.


Looking west, across the Twin Hills area.





Looking NW, with the Catalina Mountains in the background.
 
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Will and Susan,
Thanks for the kind words as I was particularly proud of these. With the small size that I posted here, you are missing out on a lot of the 'little fingers' of lightning as they were very prolific that evening. My camera is a Rebel XT and most of these were taken using a Canon 70-300mm lens because of the distance across the valley. I didn't edit or enhance them a bit. This would have been a good evening for one of you folks that still use film as you could have had some splendid colors to work with.

Greg,
Congrats! Looks like you had some very good success also with some great shots. I went to the Saguaro N.P. twice this season and managed to chase away the clouds on both occasions.
 

Will Wilkens

Greg, fantastic shots as well! Wow! I am so jealous, as my trip to AZ in July was for the sole purpose to chase and catch lightning like you all did, but we chased away all clouds wnen nighfall approached! It was so ironic, since the week leading up to the day I left for AZ had nocturnal storms nightly... but not during the two nights I was there. :(

The camera I used for my shot is a Nikon D40 with a Nikkor 28-135mm DX lens. I was disappointed that I was not able to (yet) get as many fantastic shots this year. The storms I have been on this year were of the HP variety so much of the lightning was embedded and washed out by the rain curtains.
 
Mar 15, 2004
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Richard, Will, nice pictures! (Any pictures of this year's season are good reason to celebrate! :rolleyes: ) And "curse you!" ;) You've both confessed to scaring off the clouds, storms, and lightning. Bah!!

Susan, have you processed and scanned this year's film? Please post when you can! :)



(If any ST members need weather related slides or negatives scanned, I'd be more than willing to process a dozen or so. Beyond that, time starts to become a factor, and I'd ask for some beer money. I've got a Canon FS4000, a capable dedicated film/negative scanner. It utilizes infrared dust removal and produces 140 MB, 48 bit TIFF files. I recently built a fairly accurate color profile, so the scanner's out-of-box +magenta, -green bias has been largely eradicated.)
 
Jan 13, 2008
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Greg,

I can’t speak for Will, but I must confess that our profound shortage of monsoon this year left me with a lot of time to dabble in the black arts. You are correct in recognizing that I am one of the ‘chosen few’ who have the capability to cause storm clouds to quiver in fear and eventually just cower away.

In addition to our local storms, I have been working on obtaining advanced skills with my talent and may chose to do this sort of thing professionally before long. This would be sort of a reverse of the old rainmaker concept. As a preview of my skills, I offer the following: My wife is leaving in about three weeks for a thirty day cruise through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. What is the hurricane count so far this year? Pretty good, huh?

Instead of starting a storm chasing tour company, I intend to offer my services to the city with the highest bid along the gulf next year.

TANK
 

Will Wilkens

Richard,

Too funny! But a good chance for you to get some extra $$ for new camera goodies. :)
 
I want to post the link that Phillip Aubin found about the August 14, 1996 severe weather outbreak in southcentral Arizona. (It is re-posted from the "How did you get started" thread in Weather and Chasing).

The monsoon storm of '96 packed 115mph winds and caused the governor to declare northwest Phoenix a disaster area. For those interested in Southwestern Monsoon, here is something worth a read because this was a significant storm in Arizona weather history.
http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/wrh/96TAs/TA9627/ta96-27.html
 
After attempting to chase monsoon thunderstorms in 2001 and being in the area during a long down time, I have made plans to try again this year. I will be based in the Tuscon area from Aug 30th to Sept 3rd. Lets hope my luck is better this time around. Some changes from last time... I now shoot with a digital SLR as opposed to film in 2001, and I will have live radar to help out with finding the best storms.

Doug Raflik
 
Mar 15, 2004
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After attempting to chase monsoon thunderstorms in 2001 and being in the area during a long down time, I have made plans to try again this year. I will be based in the Tuscon area from Aug 30th to Sept 3rd. Lets hope my luck is better this time around. Some changes from last time... I now shoot with a digital SLR as opposed to film in 2001, and I will have live radar to help out with finding the best storms.

Doug Raflik
Doug, if you need a place in Tucson to crash, just holler.

-Greg
 
NWS Tucson Monsoon Forecast

NWS Tucson has come out with their monsoon forecast. It is basically the usual...complete uncertainty. But, there are some interesting things in there...such as the recent wetness in the plains affecting the placement of the high...or a possible rapid flip to La Nina this summer.

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/images/twc/ArticulatePresentations/MonsoonFcstMay20/player.html

Anyway...hoping for a good year as usual...as this is the first year that I have a DSLR. It is also nice to be finally feeling a little bit of heat here in SoCal. It has been a long, cool spring until now.
 
Hi all,
It's almost here...and just prior to the calendar date (6/15) saying that it is, NWS has declared Monsoon Awareness Week, with various topics including flash floods, dust storms, heat, wind, and lightning.
http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/psr/general/safety/monsoon-awareness-week.php

I won't expect desert storms until July, but mountain storms are forecasted. And that always means lightning :)

Cheers...