Sunday, July 19, 2015

Weird Thunderstorms Abound This Weekend, And "Shelfie" Photos

An amazing shelf cloud at dawn in Wisconsin shared
on Twitter by photographer Shawn Hamachek.  
For the second morning in a row, I was awakened to rumbles of thunder as storms, just around dawn or a little after, rolled near or over my home in St. Albans, Vermont.

This morning's storm was not severe, but it did have some dramatic clouds that I managed to get some photos of.

The photos are OK, but pale in comparison to a storm around Green Bay, Michigan yesterday.

This was a severe one, and had a pronounced shelf cloud.  Shelf clouds often form in front of a strong or severe storm, along the gust front as it approaches. Shelf clouds resemble giant snow plows or tsunamis and are often quite scary looking.

But they aren't tornadoes, so that's good.

Dramatic shelf cloud in Wisconsin by Adam Bisner.  
Big thunderstorms in the northern hemisphere usually approach from the west, and usually come along in the afternoon or evening.

So shelf clouds are usually dark. The thunderstorm is blocking the sunlight behind the shelf cloud, so they're usually black and ominous.

Yesterday's storm in Wisconsin was odd in that it was severe, fully formed and coming through around dawn. So the sun, rising in the east, was able to light up the shelf cloud.

It was beautiful, especially in the photo with the calm lake water. Before the storm rolled over, the wind was calm, and so was the lake.

So photographer and storm chaser Adam Bisner and photographer Shawn Hamachek caught some great colors in the shelf cloud, which was leading the way for the dark and scary thunderstorm approaching.

Not a good morning for breakfast
on my St. Albans, Vermont deck
this morning. Not as dramatic as
Wisconsin but click on photo to
make it bigger, and see some
of the thunderstorm structure.  
By the way, you've heard of selfies, right? Those obiquitous photos people take of themselves and spread on social media.

Us weather geeks do something different. We refer to all these photos of shelf clouds as shelfies. Social media types take selfies. Weather geeks like me take shelfies.

Speaking of odd things and odd storms, there was a BUNCH of thunder and lightning in and around Los Angeles, California overnight.

It usually doesn't even rain in that neck of the woods this time of year, but the remnants of Hurricane Dolores, which was off the coast of Mexico last week, drifted north into the southwestern United States.

The Dolores remnants made southern California and Arizona strangely humid this weekend. The air is usually very dry there.

The result: Thunderstorms. California certainly needs the rain. Los Angeles got 0.32 inches of rain from the storms Saturday. That's not much,  but is smashes the old record rainfall for the date of 0.02 inches.

Like I said, it doesn't really rain in most of California this time of year, but this was an odd one.  Fresno, Calfornia had 0.36 inches of rain Saturday, also a record. The old record was just a trace. Fresno is also already having its wettest July on record, with 0.43 so far, breaking the old record of 0.33 in July, 1913.

Los Angeles also had a record high for the date Saturday, too. It was 85 degrees. (The biggest heat waves in Los Angeles tend to come in the late summer and fall, it's relatively cooler there in July.)

The California storms won't solve the drought, but the rain can't hurt.

Or can it? In the deserts of the southwest, it does. The heavy thunderstorms on the steep slopes, the sandy soil, have been causing flash floods. There were some Saturday, more are likely in the region today.

Some of the storms have been severe, too. Needles, California, again, deep in the desert, had a severe, torrential thunderstorm with wind gusts to 64 mph.

Today, more traditional severe thunderstorms, if there is such a thing as traditional severe weather, will hit much of the eastern Great Lakes and the Northeast today. New England is under the highest threat.

Time to get my camera ready for more shelfies.

Shelf clouds often resemble snow plows, big waves or tsunamis and can be very scary-looking since they are usually low-hanging. Sometimes they may found only a couple hundred feet above the ground. There are two other phenomena that might rese

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