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Silas_Sancona

The Season of Fire and Rain. Southwest Monsoon Season, 2020

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Silas_Sancona

With a new week comes the start of the most important "season" across the U.S. Southwest, the North American Monsoon ( NAM ), and the "official" start of Astronomical Summer in the Northern Hemisphere ( on Saturday ) While essentially quiet across most of the state atm, it hopefully won't be too long before our  bone dry scorching heat gives way to daily or weekly rounds of rain and raised humidity.  As mentioned in earlier threads here in the WX section, already been a few flirty teases across the state in regards to what may lie ahead for the season itself.  At the same time, still trying to get the 4 corners High set up over the Great Basin/ Inter-mountain West, and dealing with some lingering, late spring troughiness over the Pac. Northwest that has brought us many hot breezy afternoons, a few surprise cooler days, and some on-going wildfire issues in parts of the state.. a few sparked by lightning from a round of high-based, mountain storms that occurred recently. Something that is typical ( the storms ) as the region gears up for the real show.

To keep this shorter, i'll refer anyone interested to threads posted in prior years where i have discussed the basic "hows" and "whys" regarding a broader discussion of all that is involved in bringing together the ingredients that bring summer rainfall to the Southwest, ..and parts of California, every so many years.. One thing that is very true -every year-.. typically, no two seasons are alike, and, unlike Monsoon cycles in other parts of the world, the NAM is unpredictable, and hard to forecast. An early and strong start doesn't always lead to a good season..

Reflecting back on last year for a moment, our dramatic " bust" of a season, in most of the state, can directly be tied to the waning phase of El Nino, and the consistent troughing across the west which kept most surges of moisture moving north out of Mexico from reaching the area..  One could tell the season might start later than normal when our typical, early season heat hadn't settled in until about the 2nd week in June. This year has been pretty much the opposite, with early heatwaves.. and those brief, quick surges of moisture and storms.. That said, neither promise this will be a good year rain-wise.. but, it's a start in the right direction..

With whats looking like a building La Nina, we may not see as much of an influence from Tropical Storms that form in the Eastern Pacific later this summer. Then again, with a more active Hurricane season currently being suggested for the Atlantic/ Gulf Of Mexico for the summer,  many of the moisture surges that bring rainfall across the southwest/ Great Basin/ and or CA may start out as easterly waves that race across the Gulf of Mexico, and get pushed into/ across Mexico, then turn north or northwest.. That is if the right pattern sets up..   Regardless, still no solid indications in the NWS's summer forecast regarding how the season may go..  Lots of "equal chances" painted across the precip. maps for the July-September/ start of October season.  That said, the 8 Wx models used by the CPC ( NMME specifically ) are split about evenly.. Some drier, some wet. We'll see what the July update suggests when that is issued at the start of next month.

Two or three things that may play to our advantage this year: 

** Sea Surface Temperature differences in the Gulf of CA/ Sea of Cortez.. a stronger gradient between temps in the northern and southern end can strongly influence Gulf surge activity.. With the help of a Thermal Low that typically sets up over the CA/ AZ border during the summer, the temperature difference in the gulf and surrounding land mass helps move low level moisture north into AZ, and Southeastern CA. While still a little below what is considered the "critical" temp. to get gulf surges going (approx 30c/ 86F ), the north end of the Gulf is running a few deg. above average, while SST's at the mouth of the Gulf / right around the tip of Baja are running a few deg. below average.. While there are no guarantees, research has suggested this to be an ideal set up vs. if the entire gulf/ surrounding area of the East Pac. is abnormally warm ( can occur during El Nino ) or quite cool ( lots of cool fronts that bring northerly winds over the gulf, helping to move cooler water up to the surface ).

** Building La Nina, or at least the cooler side of ENSO Neutral:  Simply put, this may reduce influence from the westerlies, and that pesky Pac. northwest troughiness ( drag it -kicking and screaming- further north, into Canada ).. allowing more moisture to move north from Mexico.. or points east/ southeast.. Because there are fewer troughs digging down into the Great basin, the 4 corners high can build in an ideal position, rather than constantly being pushed to the south/ locked up over Northern Sonora/ Chihuahua where it blocks moisture. As mentioned, same pattern may help moisture moving west from the GOM / Caribbean reach the region as well.. This also often means more overall heat for the west for the summer.. and is suggested from the CPC currently..

** MJO.. If the "wet =enhances convection" and "dry =suppresses convection" phases remain progressive across the globe, and a dry phase doesn't get locked up over Mexico, or just to the west, more moisture is available to move north.. We'll see..

My thought for the season "...is somewhere close to.. or above normal rainfall, and not a repeat of last year's dud"..   Will be the last Monsoon season i experience in- person, so hoping it pulls out all the stops.. But,  ..No promises.. No guarantees..  a blind folded roll of the dice.. 

With that in mind, It is 2020 after all and ..well you know, it's been a weird year already. No reason this summer's  weather shouldn't have something up it's sleeve as well ( already has pulled some tricks in other places so far ).. 

At least more rain will put an end to the fires, esp. those currently threatening homes both in Tucson, and to the Northeast of Phoenix. You know something big is happening when you can see a Pyrocumulus developing on top of a fire, ...from 40 miles away ( picture below.. )
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Then, there is this little video to enjoy.. **Owned and produced by Emmy winning, film making Veteran Storm chaser Mike Olbinski.. Produced back in 2018, during our last "good" season.. None the less, This is why Monsoon season, is the best season  of the year...


Enjoy, and be safe out there...

Nathan

Edited by Silas_Sancona
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SailorBold

Im not sure how much of an indicator it is.. but there is a frog that has its burrow near my front door..  Im not sure what species it is.. or how it even survives..  its hot there and with the heat from the concrete I wouldnt want to live there... the other thing would be it is bone dry..  He seems to hibernate for 10-11 months of the year as well..  looks like he is going to emerge... 

 

 

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Edited by SailorBold

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Silas_Sancona
1 minute ago, SailorBold said:

Im not sure how much of an indicator it is.. but there is a frog that has its burrow near my front door..  Im not sure what species it is.. or how it even survives..  its hot there and with the heat from the concrete I wouldnt want to live there... the other thing would be it is bone dry..  He seems to hibernate for 10-11 months of the year as well..

 

 

If you get a picture, let me know.. Could be Scaphiopus couchii, Couch's Spadefoot but.. Not certain but I think it's range overlaps with another sp. whose range extends west into New Mexico from the plains.. These guys come out in droves after the first good rains out here, esp. down towards Tucson.

 One or two turn up in the back alley / near the gate once or twice a summer after a really heavy storm. No idea where they come from since there is no open desert fro them to burrow/ hibernate anywhere nearby. Call sounds like a Sheep with a cold.. They can supposedly hibernate for quite some time.. Possibly over a year if conditions are too dry.

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Silas_Sancona
1 hour ago, Silas_Sancona said:

If you get a picture, let me know.. Could be Scaphiopus couchii, Couch's Spadefoot but.. Not certain but I think it's range overlaps with another sp. whose range extends west into New Mexico from the plains.. These guys come out in droves after the first good rains out here, esp. down towards Tucson.

 One or two turn up in the back alley / near the gate once or twice a summer after a really heavy storm. No idea where they come from since there is no open desert fro them to burrow/ hibernate anywhere nearby. Call sounds like a Sheep with a cold.. They can supposedly hibernate for quite some time.. Possibly over a year if conditions are too dry.

** Correction**, Looks like you have 3 Spadefoot species whose ranges overlap in/around ALBQ:  Couch's, Plains, and Mexican / New Mexico ( Your state Amphibian ) ..and they can interbreed making accurately id'ing a challenge. Neat chubby little " toads " regardless.. 

As a side note, While not officially  listed here, some of the bigger nurseries around town that import plants from Florida have Greenhouse Frogs, one of several "Tropical" frogs that lay eggs in moist leaves. Eggs develop directly into froglets, no free-swimming Tadpole stage.. Tiny, no more than about an 1" in length, hard to locate, and sound like dripping water. Most people would mistake the call for a cricket unless you'd lived in Florida. Very common there.

Edited by Silas_Sancona
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SailorBold

Interesting..  here is a pic I took last year.. he or she would return to its burrow during the day.. and come out every night... thats when I noticed where its home was. 

It looks huge in the pic.. but actually maybe 2-3 inches.. i can't say I heard any noises tho.

Do you know which one it is??

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Silas_Sancona
23 minutes ago, SailorBold said:

Interesting..  here is a pic I took last year.. he or she would return to its burrow during the day.. and come out every night... thats when I noticed where its home was. 

It looks huge in the pic.. but actually maybe 2-3 inches.. i can't say I heard any noises tho.

Do you know which one it is??

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Tough call.. Couch's tends to have more distinctive brown blotches,  while the Plains Spadefoot is more uniform color-wise..  think it has more of a greenish tone overall.  Mex/ New Mex. species can be somewhere in between. Because they can cross, this guy ( or girl ) and any others you might find can vary in color pattern.

They all are nocturnal, except on days it is really cloudy and humid.  If you have any washes / artificial ponds nearby, you'll likely  hear them calling the nights on , or right after a heavy rain event. Think the desert species disappear completely for the year after September.

Here's a couple pics. of a Couch's Spadefoot i found in that yard last August. The Mex. / New Mex. Spadefoot also occurs here, though mainly across Southern AZ apparently.
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Edited by Silas_Sancona
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Silas_Sancona

As forecast, season's first moisture surge brought a few storms to the state. While the " good stuff " stayed mainly over and south/east of Tucson, we managed to pop a few isolated cells just south of Phoenix late yesterday afternoon.. Forecast for more widespread precip. had looked better earlier in the week but there was just enough lingering westerly/ southwesterly sheer higher up that the bulk of what moisture did make it into the state from Mexico was moved more toward the northeast before it could reach this part of Arizona. Same set up kept the atmosphere too dry and what storms did form were short lived, pop corn- type events.  Regardless.. a nice little tease, just wish the atmosphere overhead could have had a little more "umph" to help spur better development.. With essentially clear skies to the west,  what was a good sunset could have been quite wild.. Maybe next time..

While Low- grade Monsoon conditions stick around, looks pretty dry for the first week of July for most of the state.. As it stands now, Heat cranks up a bit, but humidity/dew points also remain elevated. High pressure circulation that helps move moisture into the state sets up overhead until about mid week, then may move north into a better position. Still fighting the persistent trough off the Pac. N.W.  but more and more signs that it will finally get shoved out of the way as a large ridge tries to anchor itself over the Intermountain West / Central Plains. Same High pressure area could get quite strong, and essentially cut off rainfall over the central Plains also.  If such occurs, it would be an ideal set up for directing what moisture would go into the plains more in this direction. We'll see..

A look at what is essentially a low top ( relatively speaking ) High base-type of storm. Fast Southwest to Northeast "sheer" higher up is clearly evident in how quickly the storm is being blown downwind of where it's trying to develop before it can really put on significant height/ bulk. Nice, fairly tight raincore though ( pic. #2 ) Outflow from it provided some moist breezes but no dust. Rain didn't make it up this way either.

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Fast movement higher up helps create a narrow, but crispy/ well defined Anvil, complete w/ a good presentation of Mammatus clouds. Nice rainbow too ( pic #3 )
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As mentioned, had this storm had the opportunity to really get itself together, these two shots taken just as the sun was setting could have been more impressive.. We'll see what happens later. Fingers crossed.
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SailorBold

Nice shots..   we got a quick bit of rain yesterday.. for a minute... More of a sun shower really...0.01".. Lots of verga? here too.  If that high whips this way no monsoon until august.

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Silas_Sancona
10 hours ago, SailorBold said:

Nice shots..   we got a quick bit of rain yesterday.. for a minute... More of a sun shower really...0.01".. Lots of verga? here too.  If that high whips this way no monsoon until august.

Yea.. Supposed to stay in the 109-111F range most of the week while this High sets up nearby or overhead.. If the forecast for it to really strengthen on top of us by the weekend pans out, a stretch at/ above 114-116F might be ahead.. Wouldn't be surprised if temps. get raised a degree or two either ..You guys may see temps exceed 100-105F around the same time, at least from what i saw in the NWS forecast there..

Thinking we'll start drawing in moisture after that, unless that high gets stuck across the central/ southern part of AZ and NM. Strongest part of it is currently forecast to shift toward the north or northeast after next weekend, which should allow moisture to begin it's return. Hopefully..

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SailorBold

Guard dog?  I mean Guard Frog?    Lol...   (I now know its a toad..)  

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Silas_Sancona

Well Hello there Monsoon 2020!!...

After a LONG wait, FINALLY something worthy of the season.. 

After waiting to see if anything would develop today,  pretty powerful storm developed up in the mountains off to the east and,  in contrast to most storms that have occurred this year, didn't completely fall apart ..or split in opposite directions.. as it rode down the Rim and into the Easy Valley.  While rain was modest, wind wasn't.. Not much dust w/ this event but very strong winds as it blew through.. Strong enough to topple another large section of one of the Chilean Mesquites in my neighbor's yard. No damage on this side of the Alley.. Just more decent pictures.. and,

....Wait for it..



Small  single-cell shower that blew up ahead of the main storm. hard to see it but there is a rainbow in there..
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Beautifully ominous skies gathering to the east..
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Look south as more storms gather down there
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Lingering dust from yesterday + Smoke being blown in from Colorado higher up in the Atmosphere = a pretty dramatic sunset on the mid-level outflow edge of an incoming storm...
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10 mins. later, from out back.
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Dust storm #2 this week, incoming..
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Caught ya!
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YAASSS!!  FINALLY!! :yay::yay: First of the season, first EVER i have captured here in AZ..  Not the best quality-wise, ..but i'll take it!!  Did miss a few other beauties though.
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More, please!!:yay:

 

 

Edited by Silas_Sancona
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SailorBold

Nice !   How much did you get??    I suspect this is turning into a 4 corners high??  Not so good on the wind.. feel sorry for all that damage that needs to be cleaned up now..  blech!  Its too hot to work outside ha ha..

The worst storm I ever experienced living here was in 1991.. I believe it was during the same set-up we are getting now..  ALthough these are wimpy clouds this year...this was a storm that formed over the valles caldera and moved straight SSW...  I remember huge 30-50 foot trees that toppled..  anyhow..  the northern mountains are good at getting the storms started.. even if its not that typical southerly flow.

On a side note..  the guard toad was active for 2 weeks and then went back into hibernation....  

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Silas_Sancona
20 minutes ago, SailorBold said:

Nice !   How much did you get??    I suspect this is turning into a 4 corners high??  Not so good on the wind.. feel sorry for all that damage that needs to be cleaned up now..  blech!  Its too hot to work outside ha ha..

The worst storm I ever experienced living here was in 1991.. I believe it was during the same set-up we are getting now..  ALthough these are wimpy clouds this year...this was a storm that formed over the valles caldera and moved straight SSW...  I remember huge 30-50 foot trees that toppled..  anyhow..  the northern mountains are good at getting the storms started.. even if its not that typical southerly flow.

On a side note..  the guard toad was active for 2 weeks and then went back into hibernation....  

Rolled through pretty quick so not much rain, maybe .12" though the closest flood control observation station a few blocks east of me recorded .39"  More " Great Basin High " set up than the more traditional  4 corners pattern. Most of the disturbances rotating in are coming from just to your west/ northwest, then turning westerly as they cross the state line. Brought in alot of Smoke from the fires in Colorado today. Was hoping for round #3 tonight -storm wise- but looks like ..if we see anything, it will be isolated.. Might be something small  trying to form to my east right now but have only seen a single flash. Weekend might offer more moisture / better dynamics.  Was 115F again here in Chandler and Phoenix again. Broke their daily record of 112F. This heat can end anytime, lol.

Have yet to see any Spadefoots roaming about,  likely because it's been so dry.. Lots of baby Tree Lizards / Med. Geckos this year though.

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Silas_Sancona

A few shots from last night's storm.. As mentioned before, just sprinkles here, though it looked like it was going to be a whopper of a night. Was in other spots in the Valley/ down south where storms intensified and dropped a lot of lightning. You can see in this tweet from the NWS where the greatest concentrations of Lightning occurred in the state. Not all that much on this side of town.



Good, but most were very dirty ( rain/ dust obscured strikes ) Lots of flashy, up in the clouds stuff as well last night. Big bright bolts were few and far between until later, well after the storms had passed through. As shown above, " good stuff " was much further south..  Quest continues for the Holy Grail ..err, bolt(s) Hoping i can catch something striking the Crane that has been helping to build another section of the Hospital.
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Even w/out the rain, wind was howling and did more work on the neighbor's Chilean Mesquite..  Next big storm and what remains will come down,  esp. on the right side. Thanking my lucky stars it is close to September and not May. That tree ( and the other two ) are what protect most of my plants from the late afternoon sun thru the summer.

From earlier this week.. First limb to fall, and how the tree looked afterward.. Can see on the far lower right where a main limb was removed ( Pic. #2, Removed this past Spring ) not sure why they lopped it off, but had a feeling the tree was in trouble after it's removal..
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Last night's damage, and resultant appearance. Won't take much at all to bring down that section on the right ( Pics # 2 &3 )..  Me myself, i'd cut the entire tree down. Not worth trying to rehabilitate. Surprised the skinny tree to the left in Pic. #3 hasn't come down yet. Not much to it's structure.
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Part of the structural issues w/ this particular type of Mesquite, and Argentine Mesq. -compared to native species- involves shallow roots, ( All South American Prosopis sp. are considered shallow rooted ) and very fast growth that often produces a much heavier canopy than the tree can support. Improper pruning and frequent production of narrow crotch angles along branches ( due to such rapid growth ) also makes for a weak tree.

In contrast, "The Beast" and "Son of Beast", un-fazed by wind..
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Silas_Sancona

As the final day of the season comes to a close, Monsoon 2020 will leave Arizona, and most of the southwest high and extremely dry.  104F today, both here and in Phoenix. Marks day 133 of Temps above 100F so far this year.. Record is 143 days, set in 1989 and we may come close to tying or exceeding that record. Hotter tomorrow and Friday ( 104-106F forecast here/ in Phoenix ) Might drop below 100F next weekend.

2 ongoing fires across AZ atm, on top of the bigger fires in California. Very rare that you see ANY fires in AZ this time of year. Fire restrictions, which would have been lifted in late July/early August, look to continue into October, possibly November ( or longer ) if October stays dry.

Without a doubt, the driest monsoon here, ..and pretty much everywhere across the state ( and beyond ).  While they saw better numbers than most of the state, Most areas of Southeastern AZ were below normal as well. Waiting to see if Tucson NWS posts Monsoon season stats from that section of the state ( hadn't seen anything posted when i checked ).

As for Phoenix, Sky harbor saw only 2 days of rain.. One, which dropped .10" and the other, which almost missed the recording site at the Airport with .90" About the same # or rainfall events here at the house.. Crazy.  This is also year #5 of below normal monsoon season rainfall -in a row. ( and here i thought 2018 wasn't all that dry )
 

 

 

 

 


As much as i look forward to reading over detailed analysis of what factors kept us this dry once released, many of those factors became quite obvious early on, only intensifying the longer they persisted. 

The bigger concern ahead is with this being a La Nina year, very likely it will be a dry winter across the region, esp. compared to the past two.. As warm as it looks to stay, that will likely continue into the upcoming winter. All near-er and long-term forecasts are consistent in showing both drier/warmer than normal conditions in the November- Feb. time frame.

Regardless, was hoping this last Monsoon season, experienced in -person, would have been far better than this. So long Monsoon This truly was the " Season of Fire -without much Rain ".. See you next year,  -if you decide to visit coastal S. Cal.;)

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