Monday, June 26, 2017

Bright Sun And Storms: Skies Perfect For A Weather Geek

A photo I took last summer in Fairfield,
on a day with beautiful atmospheric
conditions similar to Sunday's
in Vermont.
Sunday featured what I consider perfect weather here in Vermont, though I know most people would disagree with me.

Oh sure, people must have thought it was nice enough, at times. There were bouts of briliant blue skies and bright sunshine. But those were frequently interrupted by billowing clouds, lightning, and quick downpours accompanied by chilly wind gusts.

But those skies! Big cloud towers lit up white by the sun against a deep blue sky backdrop, free of haze. Closer to the storms, evening sun cut underneath roiling storm clouds, giving the atmosphere an  otherworldly feel.

This kind of thing happens at least once a year, sometimes several times of year, especially in June and the first half of July.

These beautiful sunny and stormy days are created when a pocket of cold air sits high overhead. The sun is as strong as it gets this time of year and quickly heats the ground. Warm air starts to rise, and rises especially quickly when it's cold up above.

These rising air pockets condense into billowy clouds, and eventually, the types of showers and thunderstorms we saw on Sunday. This is especially true when a weak weather front, again like we had Sunday, adds more lift to the air.

You might think this is odd, but the weather conditions remind me of my favorite play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." by Edward Albee.

In that play, protagonists George and Martha are in constant conflict, but seem to have an emotional need to constantly engage in that conflict.

Sunday's weather was a classic conflict between warmth and cold, and the two temperature extremes needed each other to create the beautiful turmoil overhead.

The kind of storms we had Sunday come on days when the air isn't particularly humid. Which means there's no haze obscuring the beautiful cloud structures the way it usually does when we have thunderstorms. After all, we associate thunderstorms with hot, humid weather and not  during refreshingly cool days. But of course it does happen.  
Dramatic skies over St. Albans, Vermont Sunday evening
as the setting sun lit up the base of a thunderstorm
passing by just to my north. 

Sometimes, these cooler weather storms can get strong or even severe. Since there's plenty of cold air aloft, it's easier to get hail out of the type of storm we got Sunday, so that's one drawback. We love the sky we had yesterday, until the hail shreds the hostas.

Also, these storms are relatively brief, and will collapse suddenly, bringing a gush of potentially strong to damaging winds to a few local areas.

This all happened up toward St. Johnsbury, where one storm Sunday produced golf ball sized hail and knocked down some trees and power lines.

Today, there will be some cool weather showers and isolated thunderstorms around, but the dynamics of the atmosphere don't lend themselves to the skies we had Sunday.

However, tomorrow, Tuesday, we have another weather disturbance and a new pocket of cold air aloft  coming in, so there's the potential for things to look as beautiful as they did Sunday.

So make sure you look up and enjoy the spectacle of an active Vermont summer skh. Let's just keep the hail out of the gardens, OK?

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