It has been an absolutely pathetic monsoon in SoCal so far this year...1 day of convection in all of July.
Most of Southern Arizona, including the Tucson area, saw very little precip in the lowlands until the last couple days in July.
I was in the Tucson area July 29-Aug 1st. Lots of convection, but very little lightning. Just too damn tropical.
I was literally driving into town just as storms were developing late Thursday night (29th)...all wet with no spark. Spent the night at Organ Pipe Cactus Nat'l Monument, woke up the next morning (Fri 30th) to overcast (debris-covered) skies. Was able to get a good hike in even during the mid-Morning, and eat outside at Ajo at Midday. Noticed a strong Gulf Surge on the 30th that was 5-6K ft deep according to the Yuma VWP. Stiff SSE winds with distinct non-diurnal pressure jumps at Puerto Penasco, Yuma, and Wellton, but little increase in sfc dewpoints except at low-lying Yuma. GPS PWV didn't seem to react either -- though it was very high to begin with. Was hoping this would lead to increased CAPE and subsequent convection South and West of the I-8/I-10/I-19 corridor, but no dice. Very weak flow aloft and warming temperatures despite having a dying upper low/inverted trough over the area. Headed back towards Tucson, stopped at Three Points and briefly considered heading down to Sasabe, figuring I could drive the Arivaca road back to I-19 (an unexplored area for me) as a consolation prize should storms fall flat. Fresh towers over the Rincons and Catalinas drew me into Tucson instead.
Sort of glad they did. Watched storms develop over the southern Rincons that afternoon, and caught a brilliant sunset from Redington Pass while more storms developed over the Rincons. Again...plenty of rain, not much cloud-to-ground lightning.
Spent Friday night with family in Casa Grande. Saw very little lightning in my rear-view mirror heading out of a rain-soaked Tucson. Rain found its way into Pinal County by morning, and I was mildly amused by localized flooding and full arroyos early Saturday. Convection chances for Saturday looked bleak. MCV was centered along the border west of Tucson with clearing skies west of north of there by early afternoon... and the high elevations around Globe showed promise...but steering flow was almost NIL. Stuck around Casa G hoping I could find a reason to head back towards Sells/Ajo/Organ Pipe but reality soon caught up with me. Headed to Florence Junction and Queen Valley hoping to catch some running arroyos at sunset. Caught a nice sunset with light rain and saw Queen Creek running relatively high. Went back to Casa G, avoiding weekend camping crowds I presumed would be infesting the mountains up north.
The next few days would bring drier air to the lowlands and shift activity into the higher terrain way up north. Headed up through Salt River Canyon, and took a side trip on a dirt road which follows the river. This turned out to be the highlight of the day. The Salt was running really nicely! Some medicore storms north of Show Low teased me at sunset... but fell flat. Again, very little lightning. Drove all the way to Canyon de Chelly in a chilly rain.
Enjoyed Canyon de Chelly Monday and took a circuitous route back towards Holbrook, AZ in the afternoon, shooting some daylight lightning along the way. Figured the area between Zuni Pueblo and Grants would be a good candidate for evening storms given trends. Photographed some nice storms with a lot of CG lightning (finally!) atop the mesas west of Zuni Pueblo before sunset, and out by El Morro National Monument after sunset. Camped out at El Morro.
Tuesday looked to be another highly suppressed day, but needed to head home. Did a morning hike at El Malapais Nat'l Monument, grabbed lunch at Grants, did a midday hike at La Ventana Arch... and spent the remainder of the day winding through Cibola National Forest, through the Gila, and made it to Silver City by Sunset, home a couple hours later.
Still waiting for good lightning photo opportunities in *southern* AZ, but with my schedule, it doesn't look good. The upside was there was good sleeping weather for camping!