And so the last day of our Monsoon Season was here and we were going for an unprecedented 12 chase days from 12 for Storms trying to Outdo the 2011 Season. After scrutinising the Models for hours it was becoming clear that only Spotty Storm would happen during the day so I told our crew that we would not be heading out until 530pm today and it was a day at Leisure. NAM was the most Bullish along with the UOA WRF with HRRR being very meagre with storms tonight. I went with a blend of the 3 Models and chose South Mountain as the target with the Option to get off there and move North or South if needs be. We had to be through the gate by 7pm or you miss the boat, the Rangers have relaxed the getting off the Mountain as well so if we struck it lucky like 2011 down near Mount Lemmon it could be an amazing Send Off.
We got to the Gila Valley Lookout which affords North, East and South views before Sunset and waited, 4G Signal up there is Superb being so close to the Antennas so we waited and waited and waited, we had taken some food and drink up there so we watched the sunset and started to see the first meaningful blips start to appear on radar and the first distant Cg was seen around 745pm at a range of 78 miles to the East. The Storms were sliding SSW so we needed the Outflow from these initial storms to kick things off further North and North West which they duly did.
The First Storm to Impact the Eastern Valley within 10 miles of us started to put out some really nice Bolts ahead of the rain and the first 2 were captured by Stuart Wilson Below. Highway 60 is seen heading straight East which was a good guide for Direction.
This Storm started to move more to the WSW and actually got to within 3 miles of us literally we had ringside seats and the Cg’s were still raining down. These again from guest Stuart Wilson looking ESE just South of Tempe and moving into the Maricopa Valley near Queen Creek.
And one of the Best Shots of the Night and Trip below from Stuart
All while this was going on the Storm that was to our North East had gained a Severe Warning and thi was was barreling straight at us so we only had a limited time left on the Top of a Mountain overlooking Phoenix, 2 reasons we needed to get down were dangerous Lightning and also we started to spot Power Flashes and a really Strong Haboob heading straight for us which looked like it was over the Scottsdale Direction. I managed to get some really nice shots of Lightning in front of the Haboob as well.
As you can see above the Haboob was racing towards us and not wanting to be on a steep mountain road with drop offs in zero visibility we made our way down and headed NE punching through the Storm, blinding Cg lightning crashing around the car and flooded roads greeted us back on the Desert Floor. After heading back to Mcdowell Road I headed to a favoured viewpoint looking West towards the Buildings of Downtown Phoenix and seeing as we were on the back end of the Storm the Rain was light enough for us to shoot in the dry with some amazing Anvil Crawler Cg Bolts raining down the west side of the storm which was now to our East. I am very happy with the way these came out as well below.
And Finally the last shot of the 2018 Monsoon Season was just to my North, I had noticed a few Tower Lightning shots occuring where the Lightning starts from a Radio Mast and then crawls upwards and across the Sky, whilst I never got 1 of those this one was really nice and a fitting end to our trip.
Thank you for Following and we really look forward to bringing you more Monsoon Action in 2019. This Season ranks as number 1 on my list from the 7 Times I have been chasing in Arizona.
Slight Risk, yep only the 2nd of the Summer Monsoon season here in Arizona, it is pretty much the equivalent of a Moderate in Tornado Alley so usually with such an uptick the risk will under perform. Flagstaff was the first town to be hit with sporadic Golfball Hail which is almost unheard of in Arizona. We pretty much followed out path from the previous day, chasing around the Wickenburg area and watching storms go severe from the outflow to the North, only this time these storms did not seem to want to put of any Cg Lightning with mostly Intercloud Lightning. It was really frustrating, the only lightning producers seemed to be storms that initiated really quickly off outflow and you had to be in the right place at the right time for those. We did manage some pictures today but none I would class as that good. After watching the Storm North of Phoenix drift towards us for half an hour we wondered if the lightning was on the other side of the storm so core punched it along the Carefree Highway. Wrong lol. Did get some nice structure before we core punched though with a field of Cactus in front of us.
We headed south and west towards Buckeye where another new cell had formed and was spitting out visible Cgs, today was not for the want of trying as it was getting really late now. We did manage some cg’s with this storm before it went Inter Cloud again. And some of these were very atmospheric with a dust storm in shot and boiling updraughts as well.
And Stuart managed to pull off a lovely shot shown below
After this another round of Storm kicked off in the East Valley of Phoenix pretty much over our Hotel so we ventured back for around Midnight and watched this roll through, once again loads of wind and Intercloud Lightning and quite a few power flashes but no visible Cg’s.
Last day coming up on Friday but what a Fantastic Trip it has been
Today would see the start of the ramp up in Monsoon Activity due to Hurricane John 600 miles off the Baja Peninsula and the High Pressure Ridge being perfectly placed allowing for 15-25kt ENE Flow bringing in much better dynamic for stronger storms. Todays Risk was areawide over most of Arizona so I opted for a change from the Tucson to Wilcox area and went North and West of Phoenix. We had lunch in Wickenburg and watched towers exploding to our North and North East. We ventured up Highway 89 through Peeples Valley to a favoured viewing spot overlooking the Prescott Valley and watched an area of strong storms advancing towards us. Stuart pulled off some really nice daytime shots seen below
The structure was pretty decent as well for Arizona with a Whales Mouth visible.
We relocated once the storm pushed an Outflow South West and settled on just West of Wickenburg towards the Town of Aguila and tucked in behind storms initiating to our South East, South and West. Some stunning colours from the setting sun firstly and then the Lightning started to really crank up.
I then managed to pull off this shot, A 1 second Exposure at F22 and ISO 100
And more Lightning below
We then had more cells going up even closer and shot some Lightning at much closer range
And the closest of the Night below
We finished quite early and had dinner back in Phoenix by 1030pm. A really enjoyable chase day and tomorrow looks even better for a Severe Risk with the SPC going for a Slight Risk.
Last day of starting in Benson before we returned to Phoenix for the last 3 days of the Tour, had a leisurely day awaiting Storms to mature around the Tucson area around 4pm onwards. The first strong storm was hard to get too as it was stuck on top of Mount Lemmon and most of the Lightning was around the North East side where there are limited road options.
We could also see a strong storm to our South near Corona Du Tucson so went to a favoured viewpoint which looks South and East namely A Mountain. The Storm once again was having a hard time putting out bolts but looked nice in the valley to the South. Stuart Wilson grabbed a great Daytime Cg Shot though Below with his Lightning Trigger
As this was occuring a Convergence Zone was sitting pretty much above us and the one mistake I made yesterday was to not follow this west towards 3 Points, the storm took off and some amazing Lightning Opportunities were missed with this storm. We now had a decision to make to go South East towards Vail or North towards an area of storms east of Casa Grande. Lazyness probably got the better of me as the storms closer to Phoenix were on our way home so we set off northbound. It soon became apparant that blowing dust was going to be a massive problem with these storms. This was turning out to be a frustrating chase day. But we endured and kept plugging away, carrying on North towards Phoenix where more storms were initiating along Outflow Boundaries. We still could not see the bolts though as they were buried in the dust, until we crucially got North of the Storm near Fountain Hills and had a view from the side that did not contain dust. The next set of pictures are from Fountain Hills looking South towards Apache Junction.
We finally headed back to literally 1 mile from our Hotel with a great view South towards South Mountain and the University and picked off the last bolts of the Day.
Below : Great Shot From Stuart Wilson looking South
9 Days now on the trot of active weather in this Monsoon Season and hopefully 3 more to come.
After relocating we started today from Benson and visited Tombstone for lunch and also went on a scouting mission for more amazing viewpoints. We watched some convection forming but it was quite weak with only a few bolts of Lightning seen. We then made our way up towards Wilcox and a line of strong storms moving into Arizona from New Mexico. Around Sunset these storms started to die out but as is usual with these types of storms their outflow and dust pushed an Outflow Boundary further West so we waited and it wasnt long before storms formed around the Dragoon Mountains. I positioned us so we were literally surrounded by storms from all sides.
The western most storm had the sun setting underneath it creating an amazing sunset over the Dragoons.
We then headed further west to get into position as the Cg’s were on the Increase and stopped near St John to look back east, some really nice Lightning was pinging all around us in all directions.
Rain then hit our location so we headed further South towards Tombstone and more Lightning this time from a location we found earlier in the day.
It was hard to keep dry this evening with lots of strong outflows pushing rain every direction, we then headed back North to our Base in Benson to grab some food but I noticed more storms forming and more great lightning occuring over the Dragoons to the East again so we went back for round 3 around 1030pm.
And Finally this one that came out of the Anvil and landed a few miles from the car shot by Nicholas Lee below
All in all another truly amazing days Monsoon chasing and I really cant think of a more active year. Our last 4 days look really good still.
Groundhog day and another risk South and East of Tucson. Got down to the Wilcox are for sunset and a line of storms to our west over Safford and St John and watched some nice structure with Mammatus in the setting sun.
As darkness fell it was time for some Cg shots before it got totally dark and we got quite a few.
My attention was now drawn to a North East to South West line further south over towards Douglass and we headed south from Benson to a favoured high point and watched about an hour of clear air Cg’s over the Mountains. All the following shots were taken by Stuart Wilson and show the frequency of the Lightning this evening.
Another productive day for the Monsoon Workshop and more to come this week. It has been a great Monsoon season so far
Today would see the Monsoon really go down a notch due to unfavourable westerly winds and High Pressure Placement pretty much overhead. The only chances of storms would be over the Mountains south and east of Tucson and even then the storms would be very patchy and not last long. We ambled down to get South of Tucson for around 6pm and watched very shallow cumulus and looking at the radar data not a single Lightning Strike in the state of Arizona. Would we break our 5/5 days of Lightning and Storms today. I pushed us further South to Sonoita and could see some lightning activity picking up into Mexico about 50 miles to our south and also some nice developments near Tombstone. We headed west to Whetstone and a very small monsoon storm erupted about 10 miles from us just as Sunset had begun.
As we found a vantage point and with a dirty red rainbow hanging out the side of the storm it puts out a triple strike Cg before we could even get our tripods set-up – Aaaaaaaaagh
The Storm was only about 10 minutes into its lifespan so I knew it should put out a few more bolts and sure enough I managed to capture one before the storm died out as darkness fell.
After this we headed back west and shot the Milky Way for a bit before all storm action died off.
Today would be the start of a downward trend in Thunderstorm Chances as the Monsoon goes into a Break Mode, but if you are willing to travel you can still find Storms over the Mountains. We took the scenic route east from Phoenix towards Globe and then Safford and arrived down near Benson around 7pm. A few non severe storms were in the process of giving their last gasps of breath but one South of Benson had enough cores to sustain itself when it was just East of Whetstone. I got us to a nice viewing area with the Storm to our South East and we captured around 45 minutes of really nice Cg bolts as the storm meandered towards the Border. Another really good chase day with some great photography once again.
Pictures below from Stuart Wilson (Guest on the Tour)
Today looked really good with PW Values upto around 1.82 Inches and a Gravity Wave heading North from Sonora. High Res Convective Models were all showing the same thing impacting the Phoenix Metro area from 5-10pm so today would be a very local chase. After a nice lunch in Tempe we headed to South Mountain for some views of the Desert Floor and to kill some time. We then headed down towards Maricopa where just south of there a Severe Thunderstorm had been ongoing for about an hour. As we neared Interstate 8 warnings started coming though about a massive Haboob heading North and East and we could see the tell tale signs in front of the Storm. I opted to ride this one out and not travel back to Phoenix mainly due to safety issues as it was pretty much following Interstate 10 and there were some nice storms on the back side of the system which would be good for Sunset/Storm chances. As the Haboob approached Sacaton the scenes were apocolyptic.
A 5,000ft High 70 mile wide wall of Dust racing North at 40-50mph which contained 60mph winds inside it. A truly spectacular sight and when it hit us we had zero visibility. Reports of accidents on the Interstate made me head east on small roads and wait for the dust to clear North. We were rewarded with a nice clear view of a storm which initiated on the outflow of the previous storm and gave us some lovely sunset storm shots to end the day.
As it got darker Stuart got some nice pictures over the Mountains near the Maricopa Valley – Pics Below
Another really Solid Monsoon Chase Day for Weather Holidays
Today was looking much better on the models with areawide convection over Arizona. The only real choice was wether to head North from Phoenix over the Mogollan Ridge or South again towards the Tucson area. I decided the better moisture and parameters were south and so we once again set off for the Tucson area. After lunch we headed a little bit further east towards Benson and watched a few weak showers, our attention was drawn back towards Tucson though with a Boundary or TCU fighting a pretty decent Cap.
Picture Below from Stuart Wilson showing an Iredescent Pilleus Cap
As darkness was beginning to fall a group of 3 strong storms gained Severe T-Storm warnings over the Tucson Valley area, shooting lightning from the east of these was proving hard with lots of dust making the pictures very orange looking so we busted through the storms through flash flooding near the Oro Valley and stopped about 5 miles North of the Storm Complex near Pinal Air Park with a stunning location overlooking the Picture Rocks mountain range. Here we watched for an hour stunning Cg lightning over the mountains. All pictures from Stuart Wilson below.
A really great first days Haboob chasing for Weather Holidays