When I see these big Monsters on the horizon, heading up to the ridge tops is my destination. I have fairly long views from there. From my house, I might see about 1/2 of this from behind the ridge I stand hon. This prairie Mesocyclone was slowly rotating about 30 miles to our north and east. A Mesocyclone is a Mature BIG thunderstorm. They are HUGE.
I’m in Wyoming for this looking into Montana. This storm was worrying folks along the South Dakota / Wyoming / Montana triple state line. If effected all three states as it moved to the south east during it’s lifetime. I see about 15 of these big storms a summer. I will work all of them with a box-o-cameras given the opportunities lol. They are wonderful ever changing photographic subject that move very slowly. (unless your under them lol).
I’ve always considered Mammatus clouds as evidence that the storm is being deprived. Without daylight heating, the storms cease growing. Thusly it is slowly collapsing. Not clearly defined is the exact causation of mammatus clouds. “When Moist air drops into dry air below.”… Essentially they are upside down clouds similar to a cloud top billowing. Similar to the growing tower of a thunderstorm before the “Anvil” forms from the top of the storm traveling faster than the bottom. The bottom has friction with the ground where as the top not so much.
This storm hailed on me an hour prior to this click. I tend to follow behind these guys around sunset. Some of the scenery I see doing this is otherworldly. It was very dark on the ground as the silhouette shows. There was no way to properly expose the clouds still keeping the ground visible. Usually I can pull out the ground detail in the digital dark room. Not so much here. So I consider it a good use of negative space here lol.
This storm was quite a sporty little spitter on it’s way through the area. It was big and had a lot of various rain / hail shafts for me to run from lol. There were rumors on the weather there was golf ball hail on going somewhere under that. I was hit by marble sized hail. It seemed to follow me that night on the way in lol. I went 10 miles away from the homestead trying to get the photographic angle. The proper location is everything.
The Pink light is the “Belt of Venus” effect that is so common with a bunch of moisture in the atmosphere frozen or fluid. The pink light survived the longer trip through the low atmosphere. This light reflects back off the clouds to my photon capture boxes. There the photons are converted to electrons and stored for me to work on later. Have to love technology.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
The First Quarter Moon has risen 1/2 an hour too early to be in the optimal position for me here. It’s still mostly a rule of thirds composition lol. This was taken in mid Civil Twilight. Roughly 15 minutes after scheduled sunset. There were additionally a host of storms behind me to my west. I was in a dark environment looking at a 30K foot high+ projector screen. That reflecting the “Belt of Venus” color gradient back to my photon capture boxes.
The Mammatus usually means a collapsing storm but they can be affiliated with serious weather. Being under this monster would have been less than desirable unless you get lucky to get just rain. It does happen. I might be hyper-sensitive to hail after watching chickens egg sized hard ice fall with all other sizes below for 1/2 an hour this July. These guys ruin insurance agents profit/loss ratios in the summer. They can certainly cause massive damage in their wake. That storm has as much energy as a small atomic weapon wound up in it’s rotation. There is a LOT of mass there too remember. I wonder how many gallons of water is suspended up there … humm.
A generic thunderstorm cloud contains enough water drops to fill up a 275 million gallon container. That’s around 2.3 billion pounds of water. Alternately = 1.1 million tons of water. Assuming a thunderstorm produced one inch of rain over one square mile. This would be 17.4 million gallons of water . Weighing 143 million pounds. Amounting to around 72,000 tons). Heavier than air all of it. Lots of energy to keep it all suspended up there eh?
Just after the sun had set, the Massive rotating storm started to loose the energy that was forming it. Fueled ultimately by rising air from it’s heating influence. Starved from it’s energy source. The Mammatus clouds as above can be a sign of the big rotating storm collapsing.
This particular day was a storm filled afternoon. I suspect that HUGE bolt is 40 miles distant on the “Red Hills” (The name) making up that distant ridge. I use what is called a lightning trigger to “click” my shutter during hours where a time exposure would over expose. You can use neutral density filters on your camera to do time exposures during the day. I’m sort of a purist and don’t like screw on filters in front of my lenses. I have had images ruined by ghost images due to their effect. I point at the sun a lot, lightning probably isn’t that different. Bright Light and all that.
At night however, a long exposure might do you. In pitch black, storm flashing away….need a tripod, with a timer or remote thumb trigger for your camera, start at ISO 300, F4 (ish) and say 20 seconds. Let it flash, wait a second, then click…. Don’t touch anything until the shutter closes. Then look to see what you got. Go longer or shorter exposure to bring the image into reality. Now you know pretty much what I do to do this.
Old Ranch Houses from the 1900’s aren’t usually so well preserved. Nor were there many built this nicely and large. That is a very large pre-electricity structure in this country.
Located at the head of a local Drainage. Multiple artesian lakes surround the Historic ranch fed from the Fox Hill Aquifer 300 feet below. Cracks deep into the ground feed water to the surface, lakes form. A land of plenty and a wonderful place in the world as far as I can see. Caretakers live there with the ranch also being part of a much larger Cattle Ranchers Association. No one has given me a comprehensive oral history recap on the family. I have heard members Parks family started out driving a big herd of sheep up here from Sheridan, crosses 3 big rivers along the way, lost someone to a river crossing. Came up to Wyotana. They did very well building this house along with outbuildings and barn.
Sometime in the past the sounds of livestock sounds on this land changed from baaaa to moooo. Several Generations of several families have inhabited the old ranch house. Some people I’ve talked to have lived there. Some of those lived on my place as well. Small community around here. It’s still an interesting place inside with wonderful old oak woodwork. livable, good place to bunk. Dated to the 1950’s inside and out. Locally Obtained wood must have all been felled/cut within a few miles . Notable exception to the oak molding lol.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
I was watching this monster come in. It was coming right at us. Everybody on ranch had their car under that big white roof a mile distant from my camera. That roof is the size of a regulation foot ball field in it’s entirety. Built in 1964, it was the largest building in Campbell County Wyoming. It’s a pretty tough heavy metal framed building. That roof replaced in 2008. After a hail storm threw baseball sized ice chunks at us. That along with all the other roof tin on the ranch. Definition of “Big pile” of dented metal left over after that repair. I’m still using it for various projects.
I seriously respect hail in this country having seen it crash through car windows many times. I also respect the down drafts from big storms that have shelf clouds stretching 130+ degrees across the horizon. Taken with the widest lens in my tool kit. It’s not a panorama but a 10mm lens. Looking south west (right frame) and east left frame. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in with the gear I had. I don’t have a lens wider than 10mm for full frame Sony cameras. No one makes one.
I thought this storm might produce the golf ball sized hail it was known for from radio warnings. That missed us as it passed fortunately. Rapidly moving, it produced .3 tenths of an inch of sideways rain and 60+ mph winds but from where I stand, they were way higher say near 80. I had a calf shed cartwheel over a fence, a window blew in, two empty 500 gasoline tanks/ stands blew over. Found some things moved “quite a ways” here and there by the blow. I made it into that big shed before it hit but that is where I weathered the storm too lol.
Driving under rapidly growing spring Mesocyclones is always an interesting time. This magnificent display of Mammatus billows coming out of the flow bands in this huge storm transcends normalcy. Though admittedly this still growing sporty “little” mesocyclone is a small one based on local standards of 100 miles across for big ones. It’ve seen them spanning the 3 states of Wyoming / Montana / South Dakota from my high ridges. It’s right at 90 miles to South Dakota east of my door step.
Monsters each and every one of these storms. They do spawn tornadic activity. I’ve only photographed one funnel up in this country over 20 years. They do occur in the county I live in. Straight line winds are aggressive at times. The average counties up here are bigger than a couple of US states. We are on the high plains weather wise… We only get one or two tornados a year within 150 miles of here as a general observation. You don’t want to be right under a mesocyclone that isn’t moving very fast because your gonna get wet there…
Big Spinning Mesocyclones are absolutely amazing storms to observe on the sunlit side. I’ve been known to follow but storm chasing is not my tendency. I’m usually running from them more than driving toward them.😜 I deeply respect hail in this country very much. We had base ball sized (3) inch hail hit the homestead in 2008. That left a few marks… Had to replace 44000 square feet of metal roof on the combined buildings here on ranch. I’m still using pieces of that old roofing for misc. projects. Works great for raised bed gardens.
This is a VERY wide image of 130 degrees or so with the top of the frame being straight up overhead. Mitten Butte in the distance center is the 300 foot tall monadnock for scale.
This shelf cloud from a good sized mesocyclone moving through May 2020. I’m happy to say I only had one small formerly nice calf shed cartwheeled over a fence. As well as two empty standing gasoline tanks/stands blown over from this one. They have been standing for decades. Any hail missed us. I was however, pelted by horizontal rocks and gravel. Carried by the wind gust coming up the hill over the gravel road lower left frame. Looked like a sand storm coming at me.
I’m estimating conservatively it was a 60 mph direct down draft but it was probably 80 mph. My recording wind gauge is currently down waiting for a replacement moment as the winds here wear out the 120 dollar devices every 4 or 5 years. They are actually incoming next week so that will be fixed. I have recorded a 79mph wind on the ranch historically.
I’ve been an observer of weather for some time. The winds usually affiliated with this type of Arcus cloud CAN be pretty severe. I snapped this image along with a few more. Thought the better part of valor was to avoid the worst of it. “Clever Girl” is only 5 months old and has no hail dents yet. I heard golf ball sized hail in this…. didn’t get it. Only .3 inch of rain but we’ll take what we get.
I thought it was pretty nifty this shelf has 3 horizontal rings looping around rotation clearly visible in this capture. The lightning bolt was a rare one in this storm as it really didn’t light up too much. There were some dangerous bolts. When my truck started getting seriously buffeted, I headed for the barn under that big white roof. I left that building’s white roof in the frame for a reason. It is a good scale. That is 1/2 of the roof of a building which is roughly the size of a regulation foot ball field. I’m almost a mile and 200 feet above that building at the click.
Taken 10 days before it posts mid-may 2020. This is how long it takes me to get a “current” photo in to be published. That is if I bring it to the front of the line. I have to admit I have a bias for big Mammatus. (👀). When I say big you have to realize this storm is about 10 miles long. Admittedly this is a tiny storm for this country that occasionally has 100 mile across mesocyclones develop from these smaller storms. The shelf cloud off to the right was awesome in this storm.
This was one of a series of storms moving south to north along a line that evening. They all were just east of me along Parks/Garst Road up here in Wyotana. The little rainbow as you follow the red gravel road as it curves to the right, was a nice touch from the storm. Lightning? Not so much. The big views we have up on the high ridges gives up 50 to 180 mile long vistas to photograph and observe weather occurring from a distance. I followed this and it’s sister storms moving along the frontal boundary moving through our area. I couldn’t have asked for a better view of this barking dog.
As I type this, the wind blew well over 60 mph last night. Rained sideways for 20 minutes. It said .3 inch but this is suspect lol. I was up photographing the storm come up but got back to shelter before that one came through. I have yet to download the images from that event.
Taken after sunset, the LOW angle long wavelength sunlight is still reaching the curved boundary under that reflective bumpy “projector screen”. The landscape is in total shadow from a storm low on the horizon over my shoulder at sunset. This storm is around 100 mile across and called a “Mesocylone”. I’m parked under the huge trailing apron of it. While not terribly common, Mammatus clouds are often very dramatic particularly with just the right light…📷 An affiliation with storms that produce extreme weather has been noted over the years. Hail isn’t usually far away with these olympic athletes of cloud types.
This one easily spans 3 states in my part Wyoming/Montana with South Dakota about 80 miles east. We are not sure exactly what is going on in this kind of cloud morphology. I will tell you that cloud boundaries form where two different air masses meet. Like oil floating in water, the density interface gets all visually 3D on us. Localized micro currents of flow scours into the air mass below like ripples in water. I think the the boys at “Skunk Works” would call it turbulence. Most planes divert around these atom bomb energy storms for good reason. You don’t want to fly through one for sure.
The water and air interface is one where two states of matter mix. The relative density differing the two substances create that obvious boundary. Gravity is doing the sorting. Cloud/clear air boundaries are not that different. Ripples and moving air channels / flow channels both vertical and horizontal within these Mesocyclones are chaotically complex apparently lolol.
Mammatus clouds tend to indicate that there’s a thunderstorm about. Certainly linked with heavy precipitation some where, mammatus are very impressive at times… Particularly when back lit by the sunset (slit) over my shoulder. That precipitation doesn’t always make it down to the surface before evaporating or sublimating. (Virga). Other times it dumps several inches…
The difficulty of getting enough warm air aloft means that a thunderstorm has to be rather strong before it can form huge mammatus. Often read as a harbinger of strong oncoming storms. I find they are usually a sign of one that has just passed. Aviators taught cumulonimbus cloud avoidance live longer. Particularly with Mammatus about. Notoriously, associated with severe weather, mammatus certainly mark turbulance.
While they look impressive, they have very little impact on life at the surface in my travels. . Mammatus are merely the messengers of their bigger, tougher clouds about the area. Having one pass over RIGHT as the sun passed under the cloud deck to the west
As mammatus clouds don’t usually do damage tohumans directly. They can occur around a very hazardous environment however. Scientists really don’t know much about them. While they’re not that uncommon, it’s difficult to get scientific data back about exactly what’s going on under the thunderstorm’s anvil. They certainly reflect a density change between the air below and the cloud itself. Puffy surfaces like that would indicate micro circular flow environment of trought troughs. It’s a 3D thing going on up there. Very complex as I visualize what is ongoing under there.
Meanwhile, their striking appearance and relative rarity make them good targets for conspiracy theorists. Some believe that they’re the result of weather modification programs. As most conspiracy theories, they don’t hold much water…. or maybe there is some “water” up there lolol I consider this one of the best capture of the species of cloud that I have done to date. Next summer is a whole new set of sky shows.