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Tis' that time of year again when heat weary folk start gazing south and east for relief.. When subtle shifts of the wind can usher in one of the most admired times of year in the Desert Southwest and areas beyond.  The ominous walls of dust, tropical downpours / flash floods, and incredible lightning displays ..and of course, those sizzling, summer sunsets.. 

Without it, the desert is dull and everything thirsty.  With it, the heat scorched silence is broken and the desert comes to life.  This is the Summer Monsoon, a fickle and hard to understand personality who rarely shares all their secrets.  After two years of stunning disappointment, there is hope that 2021 will not be any worse, at the least. At the same time, just how much better the season might be, compared to the past two years is a bit up in the air.. 

As mentioned awhile back, early glimpses of the summer forecasts were looking quite optimistic..  As we have gotten closer to the start of the season, that optimism has been tempered a bit as weather models remain a bit undecided on how the season may go.. Essentially, the " official " forecast, issued the middle of last month from the CPC paints AZ and the Southwest in the " Equal Chances " category.. Essentially saying .." Precip. could run above normal, ..could be an average year,  or be below normal again.. though perhaps by far less than the last couple years.  Essentially, this year may come down to playing the waiting game and seeing how everything ends up at the end of September..  Kind of frustrating, but not all that unusual.. though quite important this year. 

Instead of re-hashing the " how it works " details again, diving straight into some encouraging signals, and those unknowns that have plagued -and crushed- the last two seasons..

Good vibrations:

Came across a study again done awhile back discussing the role Sea Surface Temperatures in the Gulf of CA play in how much rain Arizona, in particular, might receive during the summer. A bit lengthy of a read but linking it here for anyone interested in doing some research/ wanting to properly understand how the nuts 'n bolts work here..  Some interesting thoughts on how summer precip. in New Mexico may not be connected to how much rain AZ can get.


Touching on this study, it is believed that SST's in the northern end of the Gulf have to reach at least 26C to initiate " Gulf surges " which help transport moisture north into AZ ( and surrounding areas, depending on the depth of such surges ) The higher the SST's, the better moisture transport that can occur..  Optimum SST's for the potential for widespread rain are around 29-31C. It is also thought that rainfall events can start to occur within 0-3 days of the northern gulf reaching critical temperatures.

** Encouraging Sea Surface Temps. in the Gulf of CA.  As the moment, north end of the Gulf is hovering between 24-26C w/ a few pockets of cooler water mixed in. 28-29C water continues to slowly but steadily work it's way north along mainland Mexico. Positive Anomalies in the gulf are higher in the southern end, but decent in the north. Last year, north was running cool/colder than normal while the southern end was milder.  Early/Mid July is roughly when the Northern Gulf is warmest and things are looking like temperatures there should be within the target range by then, if not before.

Current SST's in the Gulf:


** SST's off CA..  Remain cool to cold  atm..Good for keeping the worst of the heat away from the coast, for the time being at least, but also important for creating the ideal thermal dipole where cooler pacific air is drawn inland to fill in air being evacuated by the thermal "low " the forms over the desert.

Current SST's off Cali:


** HEAT..  As mentioned in the " Current temp. thread " It is HOT.. and staying HOT in the desert for awhile..  This is what helps initiate the wind shift critical to ushering in moisture north along the Sierra Madre in Mexico, and eventually into AZ ..and beyond later. Earlier we see this Nuclear Heat, the better, for things later..  Later the heat sets in, bad omen for the monsoon.  Obviously this factor is variable, and while the basic pattern is there, it isn't always consistent.  Still, would rather bake now, instead of in July /August. ( not that it cools off all that much once moisture/ storms arrive anyway )

** A stormy eastern New Mexico / Texas..  Been very active across both regions. While this doesn't always guarantee a good Monsoon season in AZ, NV, CA, and Utah /Colorado, it can put down another source of moisture to draw from later, depending if there is a good degree of easterly flow from the area over the course of the season.

That dry dry winter.. Compared to the last two years anyway.. " Dry winter, Wet summer.." Will that thought hold up? Seems to, but, ..not something to bet the house on.  As we all know, snow pack across most of the west was dismal. If there is any good to come of that it is the air above the mountains can warm much faster in dry years and the 4 corners high can center up over that area more effortlessly.

Them' nagging unknowns...

**What will the 4 corners high do?.. Will the darn thing act as it has the last couple years and either sit directly /just south of AZ and shunt all moisture well south of the area.. Will there be pesky troughing over the Pac. Norhtwest all summer ..that constantly beats down the high, or will the high backhand all that troughiness well north into Canada most/ all of the summer and assert it's dominance over the intermountain west.

**Mexico?  Another year where moisture really doesn't progress north across the country/ remains far displaced to the south?, or will it return north w/ a vengeance this year down there. Watching the Sierra Madre closely..

**ENSO.. Being neutral isn't always a helpful thing, not necessarily a bad thing either..  Wetter years tend to be in La Nina territory, but..

**EPAC. Hurricane season outlook.. Supposed to be average/ below average, but had heard more storms this year may hug the Mexican Coast rather than get flung out to sea.. This is also a " Linda " year in the basin.. Linda was one of the strongest storms to form in the East Pacific in past cycles her name was up. She was also the last " big " storm to threaten California ( 1997 )..  We are currently at storm # 3 with Tropical Storm Carlos ongoing. More activity may follow in the next week or so.

**Midwest precip.  " When Kansas is wet, AZ runs dry " another thought that often rings true, but isn't 100%. This is one area Wx Models can't agree on.. Some run drier out there, others wetter, or at least average. This will likely come down to looking the pattern on a weekly scale. Hoping those areas do run dry though.


Looking at the near-term forecast " thoughts ", some encouraging signs the season might start early.. Almost right when the National WX Services definition kicks in, on the 15th.  " Traditional " start of the season occurs when the Dew Point exceeds 50-55Deg. for 3 days straight.. That may occur by next weekend, esp. to the east/ south of Phoenix.

Most of the models agree in an increase of moisture this week / as we head into July.. How much? Where could the best setup occur?.. Not something you can pin down with 100% assurance.. but, signs are looking " decent " we might not have to wait long to kick off the season..  Just have to wait and see where things go from there.. 

Me myself?,  Hoping for wet, but won't be disappointed if average, ..as long as it is better ( FAR better ) than last year ..and 2019.  Tempting fate, lets go for a solid 7" here. More logical?.. 2.95",  barely over average. Tucson, upper end? 9" ..or a logical 6"..  Lets NOT end up below 1" locally, or well below average -anywhere- in the region again this year..  No one can afford another massive bust,  esp. if next winter is dry ..as it is looking like it could be at the moment.

While hoping i'd have been out of here by now, can't push other people handling essential paperwork to do their jobs faster.. while that gets done, the extra month or two provides one last opportunity to experience what can be one of the great things about the desert..  and get more lightning pictures.. Hopefully many more than last year.   You know where they'll go when uploaded. :)

Tis' the season....








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I am optimistic as well.... but Nathan... I dont want to burst your thermal low...  its only summer until the heat builds its own weather.. only to be tempered by a mud thunderstorm giving you a monthly precipitation total of 1.5"....

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20 hours ago, SailorBold said:

I am optimistic as well.... but Nathan... I dont want to burst your thermal low...  its only summer until the heat builds its own weather.. only to be tempered by a mud thunderstorm giving you a monthly precipitation total of 1.5"....

A good explainer of the process around Thermal Lows:

Much more in depth examination:

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Hope all of you out west get some precipitation out there.

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Lakeland, FL

USDA Zone 1990: 9a  2012: 9b  2023: 10a | Sunset Zone: 26 | Record Low: 20F/-6.67C (Jan. 1985, Dec.1962) | Record Low USDA Zone: 9a

30-Year Avg. Low: 30F | 30-year Min: 24F

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  • 3 weeks later...

After an essentially busted forecast all week, at least for the valley,  and some arguing w/ the camera earlier, a few so so shots of the season's first bolts.  Not the best as this storm was isolated and by the time i'd worked out some kinks w/ the camera, the " better " flashes had backed off ( was the kind of storm that generated a flash or two once every 5 mins anyway )

Regardless, it's a start.. Still no rain here at the house.. Not much for most of the valley for that matter yet.. We'll see what tomorrow and the weekend generates.




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Looks like a down night ( no storms ) this evening despite plenty of moisture around. ( Dew points wavered between 58-65deg through the day )  Most storms that have occurred today have been heavy on the rainfall, though widely scattered and brief.. Light on lightning ( Atmosphere is a tad warm, needs to cool off a bit more < to produce more Ice > ) Regardless.. The season is officially off to the races, as of June 30th:

Especially down in / around Tucson, where the good stuff hung out all day.  Fantastic time lapse of the big storm that powered it's way through town down there earlier, courtesy of AZ. WX forecaster, Mike Leuthold. Now lets bring some of that action north :greenthumb:

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36 minutes ago, Sabal_Louisiana said:

From NOAA, CFSV2 weekly precip forecasts through August look decent for NW Mexico and Arizona but I don't put a great amount of confidence in them.

For what it's worth:


Yep, check the 6-10, 8-14 day " thoughts "/ read over the discussions as soon as they're issued ( roughly 12:30PM our time ) daily, as well as the 3-4 week issued each Friday..  Despite the reputation, the outlooks have been surprisingly reliable thus far. Hoping the 3-4 week issued today is a good sign for the rest of the month/ start of Aug. Some other longer range forecasts are more uncertain as we get to next month. 

Our biggest issue here in/ around Phoenix, -at least so far this season-,  has been an annoying inhibiting " Cap " in the atmosphere that has been destroying 96% of the storms that have tried to drift off the rim/ mountains down into the lower deserts. The one good storm that broke through gave some parts of town some decent early season showers but completely avoided this side of town. ( which isn't all that unusual anyway ) Mountains / rim country have been decently active so far.  Tucson has been doing ok as well, though they too have experienced the same " storm killing " capping issues. Hopefully that starts to change.  Been plenty of moisture in the air / high enough Dew Points ..now to get the other ingredients to cooperate.

The season's first " Tornado warned storm " ( at least radar detected ) occurred today west of Tucson out near Ajo.. Could see the storm itself from every part of Phoenix / Tucson / S.E.  AZ.

Right now there's a line of storms trying to push off the mountains toward this side of town.. We'll see if they make it here or slip by to the southwest between where i'm located, and Tucson.

FYI: for anyone interested ( who might not already be aware of the site ) College of Dupage has a really nice Satellite and Radar monitoring page. Can track lightning and other Wx info on the page too ( is located in the products overlays  tab ) Worth checking out, no matter where in the states you're located.

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3 hours ago, Silas_Sancona said:

Right now there's a line of storms trying to push off the mountains toward this side of town.. We'll see if they make it here or slip by to the southwest between where i'm located, and Tucson.

Well then, haha.. Sans rain, at least at the house, How's the saying go? Ask, and you shall receive?   Hint? See below.. Pictures later ( lots of editing right now )  Perhaps the start to a good week ahead???

*** Credit to the photographers below****



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After lotza' editing and doing my best to pick out the best of the most decent shots..  Some bolts from last night's event.  As mentioned a few times, storms that roared through the far south/ southeast side of town stayed just far enough away to give me something to work with, but would have been better if they'd passed a little closer ( to put more bright bolts in more of the sky, rather than closer to the southern horizon, hopefully cutting down on the grainy " noise " in the shots )

Regardless, not the greatest ( No one is tougher on their photo work more than the photographer, haha ) but decent.. aiming for better with what i have to work with.. We'll see what the next event offers up.

Group #1:




Group #2:




Group #3:






A couple views of our late night duster.. And this was a small one, compared to some others we have had / are famous for..


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A few from last night / others i salvaged from Friday.. ( thought i'd deleted the file )

Despite the looks of it on radar/ satellite, let alone the intense flash rates seen as the storms were pushing through the area, last night's storms were more flash than bang ...very few bolts, esp. Clear Air Bolts ( CABs, as they're sometimes referred to )  Regardless, the kind of storm you view from inside rather than out due to approach speed / high degree of unpredictability on where any bolts might drop due to the amount of dust / rainfall obscuring most of the activity.  Despite that, and my nemisis.. the tree directly out front, in front of the living room window,  some " ok " shots..

Group #1:






Group #2:



Group #3:






Last of the cuts from Friday night's event..

Group #1:





Group #2:




Likely a down day this evening before things ramp up again starting tomorrow..

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We got rocked up here in Wickenburg.  The town did a crappy asphalt patch in front of our house that sits about 2” above the rest of the asphalt, thereby diverting water out of the street and into our driveway.  Here was the result:



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A few scenes from this mornings surprise downpour..  Attempted to head back to Veteran's Oasis assuming what storms were nearby would be clearing out by the time i got out there.  After driving through a wall of water between a mile or so east of the house, and the park, had about a 15 min window to check things out / check on the Desert Willows again between storms moving over the park / side of Chandler



Then it was back through that wall of water on the way home. 

As of noon, closest official rain gauge indicates we saw .31" with .51" being picked up by another gauge near the park.. A little suspect of the number closer to the park since it was hard to see while driving, even w/ the wipers going on high, and showers/ storms rolled over the same spots numerous times. Lots of water running out into the right lane along some roads also. My guess would be closer to 1" / 1"+ fell in many neighborhoods out there.

With storms limited to a narrow section of town, quite steamy out, esp. as " Debris " clouds ( left over stuff from the storms ) start thinning out.  Was 78F out w/ a 72 deg Dew Point / 83% Humidity when i checked at noon. Back to 87F now.

Closest strong storm that passed just south of the house before it started pouring here gave me a rare gift as well ..Perfectly unobscured, day time bolts.  Was hoping to capture more but this storm started dying out after i caught these two. Others that occurred as storms passed overhead were shrouded in rain, and a bit too close to try and film safely ..let alone widely dispersed. One of those situations where you'd have to have multiple cameras pointed in several directions.




Could see more storms roll off the mountains from the east later if the atmosphere overhead hasn't been worked over for the rest of the day.


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Close,  but not quite close enough..

Can see why..  Storm #1 < to the south > came right up to Chandler/ right at the county line, then fizzled.. Storm #2 < big area of Lightning to the east > headed due west, then made an abrupt right turn north over the N.E. side of Maricopa county..  Best show was over Pinal ( County to our south / southeast )

Couple decent pictures regardless.

 Group #1: looking south into the storm headed west. Some dust in there too.




Group #2: Looking northeast toward the bigger storm up there.. Very flashy, but very few clear bolts..



Interesting statistic from Phoenix NWS office on how things are stacking up Lightning- activity wise so far compared to the last several years ...and esp. last year /2019. Where could we end up come September???? Next 2-4 nights could add a lot to this total..


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Dude - @Silas_Sancona - we're getting absolutely hammered this year up here!  I don't have a rain gauge at the house, but I don't think I'm overstating when I say I would guess we have had 4" so far in the last three weeks.  We've had three monster storms that just dumped and dumped on us, around an hour each, and two nights of rainfall (like tonight) that were not heavy, but were consistent and lasted for hours.  The garden is loving it but MAN it is a lot of water!  And I'm also constantly sweating because the humidity has been much higher than normal.

Edited by ahosey01
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Epic weather and lightning for us as well. Had a lightning bolt blow a hike in a neighbors roof last night. Lots and lots of wind and rain the last several nights. 

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29 minutes ago, ahosey01 said:

Dude - @Silas_Sancona - we're getting absolutely hammered this year up here!  I don't have a rain gauge at the house, but I don't think I'm overstating when I say I would guess we have had 4" so far in the last three weeks.  We've had three monster storms that just dumped and dumped on us, around an hour each, and two nights of rainfall (like tonight) that were not heavy, but were consistent and lasted for hours.  The garden is loving it but MAN it is a lot of water!  And I'm also constantly sweating because the humidity has been much higher than normal.

 I'm loving the not so hot, but soupy humid weather atm.. Wish it stayed like this through October.  We'd been missing out on most of the rain until last week when i went out to the park through the " South Chandler waterfall " and some of that storm followed me back to the house.  As far as the extra water, keep it coming, by the dump truck full!!  Have been seeing more and more pictures from down by Sonoita / Patagonia of nothing but green down there. Tucson was just starting to green up when i was down there last week.

12 minutes ago, RyManUtah said:

Epic weather and lightning for us as well. Had a lightning bolt blow a hike in a neighbors roof last night. Lots and lots of wind and rain the last several nights. 

Ya know, lol.. Lightning had started to settle down right before i went to bed, then started up again as i was falling asleep when it dumped over the house.. ( was nice to be able to open my window again, haha ) Sounded like many of the strikes were fairly close.  After the strike that hit the back wall / somewhere on the neighbor's side of the Alley awhile back, have been waiting for another close call.

Btw, we'll see what happens but here are the latest " thoughts " from the CPC for the next 3 weeks.. Some other longer range forecasts i've seen also keep things normal/ above normal, and expand  +normal chances into parts of CA.     Like i said above, keep it coming!!


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  • 2 weeks later...

After lots ( and lots ) of going through footage and then picking out the best images picked from that footage.. then deciding on if they were the best picks,  more Lightning shots from the last two storm events.  If only i had the camera i want in my hands this year, haha..

July 22-23:














Last night, July 30th:












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  • 2 months later...

....With the end of the season, some reflection,  final stats, a couple articles related to forecasting challenges,  ..and belated, final lightning shots of the year..

While there was a lot of concerning unknowns heading into the season, optimism won out and granted most of the state ( and region ) a reprieve from last years' excessive, un- ending heat and sun burnt landscapes praying for any sort of moisture..

While the season ended rather quietly for most, this summer was definitely one of the best in quite some time with plenty of stormy nights and thirst quenching rains..  While AZ took the brunt, other spots outside the state saw decent rains that also brought back life to the deserts, although some areas did experience damage from flash flooding. 


About the only thing missing this year was drenching moisture surges from decaying Tropical systems moving up from Baja / Up the GOC.  Nora tried, but died  after slamming into Mexico around Mazatlan instead of threading it's way up the Gulf toward AZ.  California also did not get quite as much moisture as i'd hoped.  On the flip side, those areas of the state that did see ~some~ moisture, did set a few new records..

While not the ultimate drought buster, ( will take a couple really wet / snowy winters, and perhaps another extremely wet summer to punch a decent hole through 2 decades of mostly below normal precipitation across the region ) rains this summer will bring some relief for the short term, esp  with what is currently looking like another dry winter ahead.

Flashback to the optimistic article from May, when some forecasters were seeing signs of a wet summer ahead. Before the not so optimistic forecasts were put out by the CPC in June.




TUC:  ***Sooo Close..*** Beyond the airport, some really impressive rainfall totals in other parts of town ( 2nd Tweet )

Albuquerque: ( No stats from El Paso posted yet - that i have seen- )

Belated lightning shots:

..The evening of close calls, lol.. ( Laser beams dropping almost overhead, Wish these weren't so blown out < over exposed > ) 8/ 15/21








Smaller ( and last for the season.. over the house at least ) storm from Aug. 29th.



A few ( better, lol ) parting shots from some of our great Storm Chasers / Wx. photographers here and nearby: *** All Credits to the shutterbugs *** Awaiting this year's installment of Monsoon season footage from Mike Olbinski. The latest installment from his Spring Chases, " Vorticity 4 " is out and on You tube now.



Forecasting- related articles discussing the challenges ( and frustrations.. ) of a " perfect " Monsoon season forecast, and some thoughts on what might lie ahead in the future.



Until i head east for our next meeting, Farewell Monsoon 2021..  Thanks for the epic summer.. Couldn't ask for a better closing call on my time in AZ.  :greenthumb:



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