AZ winter storms...

Jun 19, 2005
New Mexico
Last winter I remember that when I traveled to phoenix the day I arrived a storm got torn. warned. Well it ends up I'm going to be in the AZ area for winter break and I wondered if this is a normal happening during the winter months? I looked around on the forums and noticed a few warnings in PHX area in the winter time frame. So I was wondering also what some of the AZ storm chaser thought of the prospects for Arizona during winter. I know it's probably not likely your gonna get as good of structure like out on the plains. Still none the less I'm still curious if any people attempt to chase them? Also, I've been in AZ during monsoon season, how do the storms compare from those in that time frame?
The best setups are around the equinoxes, i.e. Sept-Oct and Feb-Mar. Winter events are pretty much limited to cold air, shear funnels. Last winter's January event was pretty exceptional, I think.

I chased after a fall tornado-warned supercell one afternoon a few years back. As usual it was screaming across town toward the mountains at 30kts or so. By the time I caught up it was a dump of marble hail with a vestigal meso. Got one pretty nice picture of the flanking updraft tower (1/2 size Arizona-scale) as the storm turned tail into the uplands. That's winter storm chasing in Arizona....

The monsoon storms are almost always full-size pulse storms without much directional shear. I've seen them produce landspouts now and then and once (on the east side of Tucson) a NWS-confirmed nighttime tornado that I saw backlit by lightning.
We got some amazing Pacific lows last winter which powered a higher than usual number of high shear, low CAPE events. Jan/Feb were also much wetter than normal. I really hope we get a repeat, but as David sez, January is not our normal time for the Pacific lows to come in.
I'm with you on the equinoxes, David. I have seen good severe weather February and March. February is a good winter month.

Last Feb, 2/22/05, I caught a meso that was warned on as tornadic; it was NE of Phoenix out in the desert. The meso was decent enough to be aired on Ch3. They got a kick out of it. However, these storms are often fast movers, trucking along 50mph. Plus, conditions change in an instant.

In March there were two big nights I recall with fantastic electrical storms in Scottsdale. SIGH. I remember those distinctly because I couldn't chase them :/ due to volunteering at the police dept's crime prevention classes. I love doing the volunteering but it was SO hard to hear the thunder rumbling outside and when we staged a fake car-jacking scene outdoors for the students, these huge beautiful CGs were hitting all around. It was SO hard to miss those because I knew Monsoon was a ways off.

My very first ever stormchase years ago took place in the month of January. I went for staccato lightning from a winter storm in the Tonto Natl Forest. Don't be deceived by the word "forest". In many places, the Tonto Natl Forest = yucca, saguaro, prickly pear and low chaparral. Visibility is exceptional in the area, which is the size of Connecticut.

What's funny is that the Phoenix Open occurs in Jan/Feb, and whenever the golf tournament comes, the storms come with it. :)

If I had to pick a winter month of preference...I'd choose February.