Friday, May 20, 2016

The Warm Season Means We Can Enjoy More Beautiful And Interesting Clouds, Thank Goodness

A beautiful sky over Georgia, Vermont Thursday
morning showed instability in the air,
and accurately portended a few showers
and thunderstorms.  
I think yesterday ushered in the season of interesting clouds in Vermont.

As a weather geek, clouds are often interesting and beautiful to me, but in the warm months, they're much better.

In warm weather, you're much more likely to get those billowing clouds and towering cumulus, which sometimes blossom into full fledged thunderstorms.

The ever changing towers these clouds make, the dramatic shadows, the ominious patterns of approaching storms, the gleaming whiteness of more distant thunderstorms and the dramatic anvil tops of those thunderstorms in the late afternoon sun are always stunning.

Yesterday, a cold pocket of air high in the atmosphere moved overhead. The warm May sun heated the ground. The contrast between the warm surface and cold upper air created some of those billowing clouds I love so much.

This introduced the seasons of great clouds.

At first, in the late morning, there were just some seemingly benign scattered clouds, but the chaotic nature of them, as you can see in the first photo in this post, hinted at more beauty ahead.

As the day went on, the towering cumulus reached higher and higher, until they got thick enough to produce rain.

Toward evening here in St. Albans, Vermont, one or two of those big clouds developed into a garden variety thunderstorm, with a couple nice rumbles of thunder, a quick shower, and even a couple tiny hailstones. Harmless hailstones, smaller than peas, so the garden is safe.

There's a chance of similar weather in Vermont Sunday, depending upon the timing of a weak cold front. The weather pattern might favor a chance of more scattered showers and thunderstorms late next week.

This all gets my cloud watching juices flowing.

Of course, Vermont's summertime cloud drama pales in comparison to the Great Plains. Spring and early summer there are peak storm season there.

I enjoyed this small thunderstorm over
my St. Albans, Vermont home Thursday evening.  
I obviously don't want to see death and destruction from those Plains storms and tornadoes, but the ones that don't cause much harm are fun to watch.

In early June, I'll make my annual pilgrimage to South Dakota so that I can visit my in laws in Yankton.

That's the height of the storm season there. Every year, in early June, I'm there, and get to see some awesome clouds and storms that rise high above the South Dakota plains, all the while spitting lightning, downpours and hail

And they're huge. Two years ago, Norfolk, Nebraska, about 70 miles south of Yankton, was pummeled by softball sized hail and hurricane force wind gusts.

The storm was so big that the top of that distant thunderstorm loomed overhead, and dropped a couple small hailstones as I planted flowers in my mother-in-law's window box.

Gardening, storms and hail. I was in heaven.

Last year in South Dakota,  I even saw a wall cloud, which is often a precursor to a tornado

My goal this year is to see a tornado out there. A small one, a twister that harmlessly crosses a field without hitting anybody's house.  I don't want to see anyone harmed, or anybody's property damaged.

Don't worry, I won't storm chase. I don't have the experience for that. Inexperienced storm chasers are the worst, putting themselves and others in danger.

But come on, just one funnel cloud in South Dakota, please?

Even if I see no South Dakota funnels, I'll come home to Vermont, and enjoy a summer of beautiful, ever changing skies.

It's one of the biggest joys of summer. Get out there, lay down on a blanket and watch the greatest show on Earth, right overhead.

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