FAQ: Chasing the Southwestern Monsoon

The synoptic monsoon began Sunday in Arizona in the mountains and along the Mexican border. This evening a vigorous haboob rolled about fifty miles in an hour from near Casa Grande up to the northeast Phoenix valley. In Fountain Hills a half hour ago visibilities were less than 1/4 mile with straight-out flag steady winds of 35+ mph. The parent storm remained well south of the metropolitan area -- typical of these early-season storms.
 

Ezra Kamer

I will be looking for good lightning spots 7/28/11 to 7/31/11 in the Tucson area.
 

Ed Boik

EF1
Jul 16, 2004
63
0
6
West Valley, AZ
An impressive lightning display last night across the south-Phoenix metro area. I didn't get a chance to get out and photograph due to other obligations. Tonight could be a rare repeat. My camera is charged and I'm hoping that I can get some shots in.
 

Ed Boik

EF1
Jul 16, 2004
63
0
6
West Valley, AZ
It's been 11 months since the last post here.

GFS has been persistently forecasting a return of monsoon flow the June 23-26 time frame. NWS has picked up on it and is including mention of it in their forecasts and notified spotters of a potentially active weekend. Looks like all of S Central and SE Arizona should see some form of convective action. I'm optimistically waiting for NAM to confirm the forecast.
 

MClarkson

EF5
Sep 2, 2004
891
27
11
Blacksburg, VA
For monsoon lightning chasers:

http://www.atmo.arizona.edu/index.php?section=weather&id=wrf

This is a fairly high resolution (1.8km) set of forecasts covering Arizona. The run initialized at 12z with GFS data is typically the most accurate. WRF at such a high resolution usually does better than the parent NAM or GFS or RUC forecasts, since it handles convection and topography explicitly at higher resolution. It will be interesting to see how it does vs the RR this year.
 

Ed Boik

EF1
Jul 16, 2004
63
0
6
West Valley, AZ
For monsoon lightning chasers:

http://www.atmo.arizona.edu/index.php?section=weather&id=wrf

This is a fairly high resolution (1.8km) set of forecasts covering Arizona. The run initialized at 12z with GFS data is typically the most accurate. WRF at such a high resolution usually does better than the parent NAM or GFS or RUC forecasts, since it handles convection and topography explicitly at higher resolution. It will be interesting to see how it does vs the RR this year.
Sweet. Thanks for the link! I'll be checking it out over the next couple days to see how it performs. Looks like the deep flow is getting pushed into next week (6Z GFS).
 

MClarkson

EF5
Sep 2, 2004
891
27
11
Blacksburg, VA
Our U of A models indicate a decent chance of strong thunderstorm outflow/haboob traveling generally northwest from Tucson towards Phoenix this afternoon.
 

Ed Boik

EF1
Jul 16, 2004
63
0
6
West Valley, AZ
Our U of A models indicate a decent chance of strong thunderstorm outflow/haboob traveling generally northwest from Tucson towards Phoenix this afternoon.
No dust in West Phx Metro--thankfully. Looks like the flow is fairly low-grade and I don't have much hope for any "chase" or photographic opportunities.
 

MClarkson

EF5
Sep 2, 2004
891
27
11
Blacksburg, VA
Ya, our WRF runs didn't do so well on this one, after resolving some of the previous haboobs fairly well. This time storms were triggered in about the right place and about the right time, but they were significantly smaller with weaker downdrafts than forecast. So it wasnt a complete miss... but still not good...
 

Ed Boik

EF1
Jul 16, 2004
63
0
6
West Valley, AZ
Ya, our WRF runs didn't do so well on this one, after resolving some of the previous haboobs fairly well. This time storms were triggered in about the right place and about the right time, but they were significantly smaller with weaker downdrafts than forecast. So it wasnt a complete miss... but still not good...
That said, I love the site and what you are doing with ultra high resolution forecasting. Keep up the good work.
 

Ed Boik

EF1
Jul 16, 2004
63
0
6
West Valley, AZ
GFS and NAM are aligned today for a classic monsoon forecast. Storms should fire on the rim this afternoon and track southwestward into the lower deserts. The UA high resolution model isn't forecasting any dramatic outflow, so the risk for a major haboob is low. This is unfortunate for the Doppler on Wheels which happens to be patrolling the desert this week.

The monsoonal flow is staying strong through Saturday, so hopefully one of these days results in some dramatic desert thunderstorms in my neck of the valley.

One more thing. The GFS is potentially wishcasting and sending a Pacific tropical system into AZ in the July 18-20 time frame. This bears watching and could be a trigger for significant rainfall and storms.
 
Mar 15, 2004
1,042
50
11
Tucson, Aridzona
www.flickr.com
LOL, you're right Ed. The GFS has gone hurricane happy, predicting about one TS spinup per week in the Eastern Pacific.
While Aridzona often benefits from remnant moisture, we haven't enjoyed a formal Tropical Storm since Nora in the mid 90s (I think).
I'd be thrilled if we got a proper 'hurricane' this year! :)
 
7/11/12 was a big night around Scottsdale. Lots of lightning, rain. How is everyone's Monsoon going so far?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFaXhd74WUk&sns=em

Here is one I enjoyed shooting in 2010...for train+monsoon lovers only.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpvqOgj_ajU&sns=em
Vail, AZ is a town east of Tucson with great Monsoon flow and multiple freight train tracks. The trains go fast, blowing their horns. The storms are much more reliable than Phoenix (except the last few days, great action in Phoenix!)
 
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We had some nice, strong convection develop over Flagstaff yesterday (July 24, 2012). Instability was approaching 1000 j/kg and maybe a measly 15 kt of shear at best. Still, as I was heading back into the office after grabbing some lunch a little before noon, I noticed one of the developing cells was sporting a pretty sturdy lowering. I dropped lunch off at my desk and checked FGZ radar. The cell actually appeared to have a weak and probably very transient couplet associated with it. So I grabbed my camera and went out to get some photos.

For a pop-up monsoon storm, it was actually a real beauty. The lowering I saw earlier was still in place, and based on its position in the rain free base and relative to the precipitation core, I'd hazard to call it a brief wall cloud (non-supercellular). Further up along the back of the rain free base, an inflow tail was pressed up against the core.

Panorama taken facing southwest from Flagstaff--storm motion is to the east. Large image


As it moved eastward, it started to gust out and the inflow lowering mushed out and became shelfy--and probably looked pretty menacing to anyone closer to the base.

Low hanging shelf cloud develops. Large Image


Yesterday's midday storms caused some localized flooding in town, and generated a few funnel cloud reports. I can imagine the raggy shelf on this storm being the source of some of those reports.

This link will take you to a 1.6 Mb animated GIF image of the storm
 
Monsoon season, June 15 - Sept 30, officially starts today in Arizona. In Phoenix, realistically it is more like early July through Sept 10 or so. The start and end of the "realistic" season for Phoenix is usually the most dramatic. If you want an earlier season, you have to start with southeast Arizona or the eastern mountains. Crazy lightning is the main chase attraction. Sandstorms, flash floods, and the color of the stormy skies can be dramatic too. A major plus is interesting foregrounds with your storm. Arizona is full of mountains, deserts, forests, canyons, lakes, and many choices of terrain. Night chasing gives relief from the heat, and forested mountains offer cooler temps. Do not cross immigration or drug smuggling corridors. Be careful too in the borderlands, although the activity is not just limited to the border. Be careful of mine shafts. Distances are vast between services, best to keep tanks full, lots of water, and I like mineral packets too from the vitamin store. AZ is 116,000 sq mi. The eastern and southeastern part of the state becomes active first, moving westward as the season goes on.

I don't drive across flooded roads either, they are full of sand, cactus, and logs. Maybe the pavement is missing too. We also have a law where if you get stuck, you have to pay your rescue bill too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn83iFfCdDE&sns=em
 
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Will Wilkens

Susan, signs of monsoon season appear to be underway, almost on queue of the June 15 start. Good southerly flow in eastern/southeastern AZ underway with moisture in place in the Sierra Madres and plateau region of nw Mexico. Hoping this verifies! I am really looking forward to a great season this year.
 
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Mar 15, 2004
1,042
50
11
Tucson, Aridzona
www.flickr.com
The Sierra Vista area got plastered Friday, with a few scattered evening storms over the Tucson area later that night. First lightning photo (a decidedly underwhelming effort!) of the year recorded in a small storm hovering over Reddington Pass. Saturday afternoon brought 0.33' of rain and the welcome sound of thunder. The next week or so looks rather dry. :p
 
The 2013 Southwest Monsoon season still has some time to go. Before it moves into the interesting transition period later this month, I wanted to post some highlight photos. Except for the lightning shots, the rest of the shots were taken with an iPhone. It has drawbacks with noise, especially in low light areas, but it's so handy, and always with me that I'm getting shots that I otherwise might not be prepared for. (Which means I need to make an effort to keep my camera with me more often.)

Click the images for larger versions.


July 2, 2013

Panorama of a storm developing south of Flagstaff as seen near I-40 and 4th Street at 2:18 PM.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130702_IMG_0748-Edit_md.jpg[/url]

New development overhead a few minutes later was drawing in a bit of vorticity and sculpting a small, brief cinnamon bun into the cloud base.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130702_IMG_0751-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


July 3, 2013

The base of a dying updraft over east Flagstaff tapers to a point.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130703_IMG_0771-Edit_md.jpg[/url]

The dwindling remnants of the eroding storm base reveals a slowly rotating spindle--not rapid enough to even be a shear funnel.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130703_IMG_0772-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


July 4, 2013

An active storm north of Mt. Elden puts on a beautiful show of ongoing anvil crawlers.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130704_IMG_9528-Edit_md.jpg[/url]

[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130704_IMG_9535-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


July 11, 2013

Pop-up convection develops west of Flagstaff as seen from Rt. 66 in east Flagstaff.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130711_IMG_0785-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


July 20, 2013

Lightning flickers behind a weak gust front east of Flagstaff as seen from Rt. 66.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130720_IMG_9598-Edit-Edit_md.jpg[/url]

[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130720_IMG_9602-Edit-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


July 23, 2013

Inflow, chilled by heavy precipitation, creates a rugged lowering in the rain free base of this storm over Schultz Pass. As seen from 4th Street in central Flagstaff
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130723_IMG_0827-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


August 23, 2013

Dry outflow pushes a growing wall of dust northward from Tucson, as Picacho Peak rises above the dust and desert floor. The photo was taken by my wife as we drove north on I-10 toward Phoenix.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130823_IMG_1052-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


August 26, 2013

An ominous haboob blew into Phoenix, featuring a laminar updraft, intermittent shelf cloud and spectacular lightning after the gust front passed. This view is facing southeast as seen from near central Phoenix.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130826_IMG_1080-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


September 2, 2013

A beautifully lit and structured thunderstorm brews over the San Francisco Peaks as seen from Highway 89 in northeast Flagstaff.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130902_IMG_1135-Edit-Edit_md.jpg[/url]

[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130902_IMG_1136-Edit_md.jpg[/url]

[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130902_IMG_1157-Edit_md.jpg[/url]


September 7, 2013

Looking south as a clump of northbound thunderstorms pushes a ragged shelf cloud into east Flagstaff.
[Broken External Image]:[URL]http://www.perezmedia.net/ceruleanarc/images/2013/img20130907_ShelfCloud_20130907_md.jpg[/url]

I wish Susan Strom were still with us to post her captures and perspectives of the 2013 season. She will be missed.
 
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Reactions: Troy Q Nelson
Sep 7, 2013
567
396
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Strasburg, CO
Anyone getting ready for 2015 season part 2?

Love when monsoon starts here in Colorado. Means near nightly lightning opportunities for a month or so.

Hasn't been great for me for the last couple years, but hoping to get back into form this season.
 
@Marc R. O'Leary
Hey Marc, definitely getting ready and already getting into it in Arizona. We had a couple days of 25-35 kt bulk shear running around the southern side of the upper level high this week. Really interesting. Supercells in southern Arizona Tuesday and then northern Arizona had its turn yesterday. Lots of great shots and experiences coming out of those. I hope the summer bonus round is good to you this year.

Probably wouldn't hurt to fire up a 2015 Monsoon thread in the advanced forum.
 
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Reactions: Kevin Rimcoski
Jan 18, 2015
232
60
11
Tucson, AZ
I've got a few (amatuer) photos of those supercells from Tuesday. Managed to get on the storm that rolled off Mt. Lemmon heading SW dropping slightly bigger than golf ball sized hail. Damaged the car nicely. Even Sierra Vista was tornad warned, and got my first lightning bolt which I don't think camr out too bad considering I didn't use a tripod. Need to get better with camera lighting but this was my first time ever using a DSLR as well.

Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
 

Troy Q Nelson

Enthusiast
Feb 6, 2018
3
6
0
Janesville, WI
Fantastic thread, Susan! Such great information from all! I too feel.in love with the Monsoon, I had the pleasure of chasing it in 2016. One of the greatest experiences of my life and I will go back again. Thought I would share some of my favorite photos from the trip.FB_IMG_1516232573132.jpg FB_IMG_1516232573132.jpg FB_IMG_1516380087418.jpg FB_IMG_1516232573132.jpg FB_IMG_1516380087418.jpg FB_IMG_1516380096756.jpg FB_IMG_1516232573132.jpg FB_IMG_1516380087418.jpg FB_IMG_1516380096756.jpg FB_IMG_1516380081720.jpg FB_IMG_1516232573132.jpg FB_IMG_1516380087418.jpg FB_IMG_1516380096756.jpg FB_IMG_1516380081720.jpg FB_IMG_1517516495649.jpg FB_IMG_1516379909036.jpg
 
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