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The Arizona Monsoon


Supacell

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Posted
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire

    Hi

    I have been reading up a bit on the monsoon thunderstorms that affect the SW of the USA - more specifically Arizona, New Mexico & Nevada and then up into Utah and Colorado. Apparently the storms there produce some of the best lightning shows on the planet.

    I need to give more thought to the idea but i'm thinking i may take a trip over there this year. Although i've found plenty of literature on this event i cannot find anything relating to the reliability of storms in this area. This is what i'm hoping some of you can help me with. I am hoping to pick the vast knowledge on this site for any information you may have, or anything you've heard. I would particularly like information from anyone who has experienced the Monsoon storms themselves.

    What i am wondering is are they reliable events, much like the indian monsoons, or are they more like tornado alley where its a bit of a lottery as to whether or not anything will happen whilst you are over there? I'm also interested in details of how you get internet connections in the USA and petrol/food/accomodation costs etc.... this is something you guys who have just been to the US may be able to help me with. :rofl:

    As i said its just a thought at the moment but if i do go i'll be happy to report back with my findings.

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    Posted
  • Location: Leigh On Sea - Essex & Tornado Alley
  • Location: Leigh On Sea - Essex & Tornado Alley

    Can probably Help you out here. The reason the Lightning tends to be amazing is due to the lack of rain on these storms.

    Try this Website from Stormtrack

    http://www.lightninglady.com

    Paul S

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    Posted
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
    Can probably Help you out here. The reason the Lightning tends to be amazing is due to the lack of rain on these storms.

    Try this Website from Stormtrack

    http://www.lightninglady.com

    Paul S

    Thanks for that Paul, she really has taken some fantastic shots! I really would love to see lightning like that which is what is the pull for me to go. Having never been to the USA before though i am just a bit wary of going out there on my own with little knowledge of the place. :rofl:

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    Posted
  • Location: Winchester, Hampshire ~ Southern Central!
  • Location: Winchester, Hampshire ~ Southern Central!

    Oh no!! You've done it now! :( I sooo wanna go bad! :rofl: Count me in. I said no to the tornado chasing due to money but I think i've hit the point where I will never be well off enough to afford extra things. The poor get poorer ... So I think Mr.Credit card will have to be partly used! If I dont do it now (next couple of years or so) before I settle and have kids I can't see me ever doing it. It's one of those now or never times for me. And I don't want to 80 in my wheelchair looking at someone else's snaps. I wanna look back over my own and remember the sights and sounds.

    That all said Daniel is possible out in Arizona on work this summer but this isn't confirmed. So I am somewhat tempted. He went out a couple of years ago and was hoping to see these storms but none happened ... until the 2 days he was shipped out to San Jose to help out and then one of his owrk mates phoned and told him what he missed out on!!! ;)

    We would need to persuade Paul and Nick this was worth it - Drug them to get em' on the plane LOL.

    Did you read all the interesting facts that she wrote alongside the pictures such as the season times and he rain and lightning fact. Very interesting!

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    Posted
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire

    I'm like you - lack of money means i have never yet been able to afford to go out storm chasing. And the companies that offer tours are charging about $1700 cheapest rate for 6 days chasing in tornado alley. Add to this air fares, food, spending money etc and its a 2 grand trip for just 6 days. Imagine the disappointment if you shelled out that much just to find you went in a week where high pressure prevented any storms from occurring!!!

    I did read the text alongside the pics, plus i have read a lot more about the Arizona storms - if anything they interest me more than tornadoes as lightning is my true interest. Of course there is still the possibility of paying money to go there and then see nothing - which is why i was trying to find out if the storms are a little more reliable than in tornado alley (with it being a monsoon). From what you say about your other half it may be that they are not - although it depends what time of the year he was over there.

    So, next stage is how we can administer drugs to Paul or Nick without them noticing! :rofl:

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    Posted
  • Location: Winchester, Hampshire ~ Southern Central!
  • Location: Winchester, Hampshire ~ Southern Central!

    Hahaa!! Yes I agree with all the above. To be honest I was thinking of emailing the lady (bet she gets harrasesd a lot poor woman!) to find out more info about it. Could you post your links that you've read up on? I've never really studied into it until I saw those pictures!!!!!

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    Posted
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire

    Yes sure - a few here

    http://geography.asu.edu/aztc/monsoon.html (I found this one to be very informative)

    http://phoenix.about.com/cs/weather/a/monsoon01.htm

    http://www.weatherpix.com/Arizona.htm (some good pics on this one)

    http://www.stormchasers.co.uk/ (check out the third article down, i have emailed this guy for more information too)

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Your best bet would be the region of northern Arizona and southern Utah, northwest NM and southwest CO around what is known as the "four corners" but the chances of arriving in a thundery period of weather realistically are probably around one in three. The tendency is for such thundery or disturbed periods to last 4 to 7 days and to occur something like every second or third week. The phenomenon is not daily or totally reliable, but the Grand Canyon north rim is one of the more likely areas to see afternoon lightning displays. What is needed from a weather point of view is for the upper level flow to be more southerly than usual, and for the surface wind directions to be generally SE'ly. I have been in that general area in the summer on three occasions and have seen good lightning displays each time but sometimes the weather in the whole area becomes more settled and very hot and dry. Also, the later in the summer you go, the better are your chances, at least as far as mid to late August, after that the frequency would decrease somewhat.

    If you actually plan to do this, PM me closer to the proposed times and I could give you more specific info. You should be prepared for extreme heat of course, but while southern AZ can easily reach 45 C in the daytime, average highs in the higher plateau country further north are a more tolerable 34 to 37 C (and it's a dry heat, etc).

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    Posted
  • Location: Winchester, Hampshire ~ Southern Central!
  • Location: Winchester, Hampshire ~ Southern Central!
    Yes sure - a few here

    http://geography.asu.edu/aztc/monsoon.html (I found this one to be very informative)

    "In general, for Phoenix, the temperature limits for the production of monsoon thunderstorms are 100° to 108°F with the optimum temperature being about 105°F. Temperatures needed to produce Tucson's thunderstorms are somewhat lower."

    Why does Tucson need a lower temperature? Is that because its more mountinous around this area thus that helps to give the lift?

    Daniel goes out to Tucson which is further down than pesa and ther other places.

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    Posted
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire

    Roger, thanks for that - very informative and helpful. Maybe a case of keeping a look at forecasts then and going last minute when it looks to be likely for storms to occur. If i decide to go i will PM you for any information/forecasts you can help me with before i go. I am hoping storms can be more accurately predicted ahead in the USA as opposed to the UK whereby storms predicted for 2 days ahead end up not materialising.

    The last thing you would want is to go out to be under clear blue skies for the duration!!!

    Beka - i believe you are probably right. I know that the monsoon storms occur as warm humid air from the gulf meets the mountains to the south of Arizona with storms forming here quite early and then moving into the deserts during the afternoon. There may also be less of a CAP around Tucson due to it being closer to this occurrence over the mountains. If the CAP is stronger though then i believe when its broken it will produce storms of greater intensity than if the CAP was weaker and so stronger storms will occur over Phoenix than Tucson. I maybe wrong but i'm sure i heard this when reading up about the CAP and the severity of storms in Australia.

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    Posted
  • Location: Barnet, North London
  • Location: Barnet, North London

    Hi Supacell,

    A few years back, I was touring the SW states and National Parks in September with my brother - we saw loads of storms, including a cracker in Monument Valley. Lightning hitting the buttes...fantastic. I had no knowledge of storm factors back then and must have struck lucky I guess...

    Looking at the prices for storm chasing you quote, I must say that Net-weather's deal of 2 weeks for £1500 + flights and food sounds like a bargain!

    Which is why I've signed up for next year already! See you there!

    smich

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    You would really have the trip of a lifetime if you were able to rent a vehicle and drive around the various national parks in northern Arizona, southern Utah and northwest New Mexico. Not only is the scenery really outstanding (very colourful rocks like you see in my avatar) but there are very interesting ancient cultural sites of the Chaco and Anisazi people who lived in this region at various times from 700 to 1300 AD. They built astronomical monuments somewhat similar to Stonehenge although not with circles of stones but square buildings and lookout points.

    Anyway, I would say this about Phoenix and thunderstorms -- avoid the whole idea, it is just too damned hot in Phoenix in July and August. Tucson is a bit higher above sea level and that's why the lower threshhold temps, it's the same process but Tucson rarely makes it to 43 C in hot weather, it's up around 1,000 feet above sea level.

    If you look at a map of Arizona, you'll see the southwest quadrant is low and desert-like, this region gets very little rain in the summer and should be avoided in general, it's a great place to visit in winter or spring to see the desert vegetation blooming for example. Too hot in mid-summer.

    The southeast quadrant has two ridges or low mountain ranges that run NW-SE, the northern one is the Mogollon Ridge and this is a good focus for convergence and frequent thunderstorms. Southwest NM has another similar feature which is basically the southern extension of the Rockies but quite a bit lower.

    Northwest Arizona is all about the Grand Canyon and the plateau which you may not realize is six to eight thousand feet above sea level, with isolated higher mountains that look like hills because they don't rise that much higher. The Flagstaff area is good for thunderstorm activity, as is the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Northeast Arizona is Navajo country, canyons and dry gulches, thunderstorms would be less frequent here but you might see a very brief severe storm in the right conditions. Same applies to n.w. NM.

    As for southern Utah, this is all highly scenic country which is about half wilderness and half national parks and monuments, the topography is rolling and dissected by dry gulches that mainly run north-south, so you get natural thermal environments where thunderstorms develop in unstable conditions along ridges that separate these gulches. The south end of Bryce Canyon National Park looks off towards a very good area for summer thunderstorms, that's one place I'm planning to visit in my own summer trip. Further north into Utah, and also western CO and southwest Wyoming, thunderstorms are fairly frequent, for one thing the weak Pacific fronts that come inland make it about this far before dying off, and these trigger some heavy storms.

    In general, these southwest US thunderstorms are not entirely dry, but can contain some locally heavy rains that fall over the higher elevations and fill up the gullies (known as washes) with torrents of floodwater at times, then this rushes out into the lower areas where it hasn't rained and sometimes catches people by surprise.

    Personally, I don't think you could pick a time within a few days and get on a flight, the flights tend to book up fairly solid in the high summer months, but your chances of seeing active weather are pretty good if you come in August as opposed to July.

    If there is going to be a week or two of dry sunny and scorching weather, that usually comes in early July, it seems. The heat sink moves north later in the summer towards Idaho and eastern Washington, interior BC, so the desert southwest gets into this monsoonal SE flow more often while it is baking hot up there (here almost).

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    Posted
  • Location: The Deben Valley, Suffolk
  • Weather Preferences: Snow, Thunderstorms, very cold (inc. anticyclonic) weather
  • Location: The Deben Valley, Suffolk

    An Autie of mine lives in Phoenix. I've been there many times, usuall in Summer and have never seen a thunderstorm there yet. She tells me that there is little warning to when these arew going to occur, but it usually follows a few cooler days (around 106F instead of the usual 118F seen most days). My Uncle tells me that it varies alot each year. One year they can be plagued by constant duststorms and thunderstorms, and other years only the odd small storm. I was amazed to hear though that sometimes these thunderstorms can last all afternoon, and right into the evening, although little rain is seen.

    It's a great place to visit though, eating out is cheap and you get great service. Renting a car is the best way, although driving can get very boring when travelling lond distances. 200miles without a bend in the road get very tiresome!

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    Posted
  • Location: ipswich <east near the a14> east weather watch
  • Location: ipswich <east near the a14> east weather watch

    just something posted on our local uk radar reg the usa

    Iowa flooded after heavy rain

    26 May 2007

    The US state of Iowa has experienced flooding after it was hit by thunderstorms, reports the Des Moines Register on May 21st.

    According to the newspaper, western and central parts of the state were affected by strong winds, thunder and hailstones.

    Local authorities issued a hazardous weather warning for the region, as accidents such as a truck being overturned had taken place.

    Carroll County was also issued with a flash flood warning after persistent and heavy rain in the area.

    The National Weather Service stated that the stormy weather was likely to continue until the end of the week at least.

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    • 1 month later...
    • 2 weeks later...
    Posted
  • Location: Sutton Coldfield
  • Location: Sutton Coldfield

    I'm currently in Phoenix, Az undergoing flight training and today is the first day of widespread thunderstorms.

    It appears at the moment that the first wave are hitting Mesa right now, with the KIWA and KPHX METARs reporting Blowing Dust and CBs respectively. KCGZ (Casa Grande Airport) is reporting lightning in the distance too.

    The cloud formations are quite interesting too, very high bases and it looks like any rain that is falling is almost evaporating before it hits the ground.

    I'll keep you guys informed on the storms out here until my return from here next month!

    I just hope that we get to see some storm action today!!! :good:

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    Posted
  • Location: Reading/New York/Chicago
  • Location: Reading/New York/Chicago
    I'm currently in Phoenix, Az undergoing flight training and today is the first day of widespread thunderstorms.

    It appears at the moment that the first wave are hitting Mesa right now, with the KIWA and KPHX METARs reporting Blowing Dust and CBs respectively. KCGZ (Casa Grande Airport) is reporting lightning in the distance too.

    The cloud formations are quite interesting too, very high bases and it looks like any rain that is falling is almost evaporating before it hits the ground.

    I'll keep you guys informed on the storms out here until my return from here next month!

    I just hope that we get to see some storm action today!!! :good:

    Pretty hot out there the last few days as well I bet!

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    Posted
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
    I'm currently in Phoenix, Az undergoing flight training and today is the first day of widespread thunderstorms.

    It appears at the moment that the first wave are hitting Mesa right now, with the KIWA and KPHX METARs reporting Blowing Dust and CBs respectively. KCGZ (Casa Grande Airport) is reporting lightning in the distance too.

    The cloud formations are quite interesting too, very high bases and it looks like any rain that is falling is almost evaporating before it hits the ground.

    I'll keep you guys informed on the storms out here until my return from here next month!

    I just hope that we get to see some storm action today!!! :good:

    You lucky thing - looking forward to your reports. ;)

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    Posted
  • Location: Sutton Coldfield
  • Location: Sutton Coldfield

    It's been an exceptionally hot few days now - most unlike the UK! Although I've almost forgotten what rain and grass look like!

    The storms last night did not hit, but seemed to run into the valley around Phoenix before dying out. In the end, we just got lumped with a "haboob" dust storm and nothing more than that sadly. Although when the dust storm had cleared, we were left with a very nice view out in the direction of Scottsdale, where there was still a small amount of CG Lightning.

    Today has proved to be a bit of a disappointment too - the storm clouds went up earlier on, but it was too late in the day for much to happen and soon the clouds died down. Although there were some great views of mature CBs.

    At the moment, it would appear that the majority of storms are over the mountains, helped by the immense updraughts which are experienced there. However, as the weather reporters here keep on saying, "The Monsoon is coming very soon". Talk about more CBs and storms tomorrow. I'll keep my camera handy.

    Just to prove that it isn't all bad around here - NOAA issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Pima County, citing lightning, large hail and damaging winds. If Pima County wasn't 100+ miles from here, and if I had a car, I'd have gone and watched it. :(

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    Posted
  • Location: Co Dublin, Ireland
  • Location: Co Dublin, Ireland

    Ive been up and down Arizona and its an amazing place of varying weather conditions. From Alpine to Desert its all there. An amazing place and was lucky to get a thunderstorm near Pheonix. It was amazing to watch.

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    • 2 weeks later...
    Posted
  • Location: Sutton Coldfield
  • Location: Sutton Coldfield

    It's been an exciting week out here.

    Yesterday we had what could only be described as a "supercell" outbreak, where numerous HP and LP storms moving their way across the state. Numerous Tail clouds, wall clouds, scud and possibly even a funnel were seen during the course of the afternoon. Sadly, I wasn't able to get my camera - I was sitting at the end of a runway, ready to head off when the first one hit!

    However, earlier this week, an intense band of thunderstorms started somewhere in the region of Gila Bend and made their way up into the valley around Phoenix, generating vast amounts of Lightning. I've got some photos of varying quality with regards to these storms and I'll make them available ASAP. Yet again, I believe one of them shows what could be a Tail cloud.

    I've also got some photos of a dust storm that swept through the area ahead of the storm. Very impressive though to see.

    Storms are now happening everyday, and we're being treated to some beautiful lightning shows. I just wish that I had a way of capturing them. I'll be attempting to take a video later, as the weather for today predicts yet more storms later on!

    Cheers for now

    Chris

    PS. To the mods, shall I make a new thread in the Worldwide Extreme Weather forum? As this doesn't really count as the USA storm chase 2007?

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    Hello,

    I have lived in Arizona for 6 years now.. for the last 4 I've lived in a remote area in the Southeast corner of the state. It's been my experience that monsoon conditions are quite reliable, although you may or may not experience rainfall. If you come between the middle of July to the end of August any year I can guarantee that you will at least experience wind and numerous lightning shows, usually in the late afternoon/early evening, sometimes extending through the night. This week alone there were only 2 days where the monsoon conditions did not develop, although I think only 3 had rain right here. Sometimes you can see a rainstorm over the desert a few miles away.

    The storm areas are very isolated - it can be raining right over my house and not at my neighbors just a half mile away. If you travel during a monsoon you will likely travel in and out of several storm areas on some days. Tornados are very rare in Arizona, although dust devils are not. I've read that when tornados do occur they are weak and dissipate rapidly, and are nothing like what might be experienced in tornado alley.

    I've learned to unplug all my appliances when the first signs of thunder or lightning are present, since I have lost numerous electonic devices since moving to Arizona due to lightning (even with surge supressors). I lost a modem and a trackball the first year. Last year a satellite receiver was lost - I was present when I heard an audible pop from lightning running through the cable line and that was it for the box! A friend of mine lost 2 notebook computers before becoming wise enough to unplug.

    The downpours can be torrential for a short period of time, although that happens much less frequently than does the lightning. One year I believe we got very little rain but we were treated to a lightshow on a frequent basis during the season.

    If you come out here and decide to go hiking, just watch where you step! Where I live, rattlesnakes are not uncommon, nor are scorpions or tarantulas. Frankly, the Arizona desert is a pretty hostile place during the summer.

    Hope this helps.

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    • 4 weeks later...
    Posted
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms
  • Location: Belper, Derbyshire

    Thank you very much for the information AZresident. I am thinking seriously about going out there for a week during the 2008 monsoon season, although it depends on my finances (flights to the US aren't cheap :doh: )

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