If you stay under a large Mesocyclone long enough, your going to see some interesting things. This bolt was just ahead of a large rain shaft as the storm moved right to left. The dog leg in the precipitation shaft show a pretty huge change of direction. Winds can do very unusual things around these monster clouds. The light environment was basically pitch black post sunset but the flash bulb was adequate to the chore. I have to use a 25 second time exposure to do this kind of work. Wind is never an asset in that work. 🙂
The reason I like this is you can see the point of impact. It hit what I call “ridge 2” about 3 miles to my south of my position. I’m sure it hit a tree seeing the sparks. Fortunately it did rain which would put out any grass fires. I have seen trees burn for days internally after a strike. I have put out several of them. You could pour 1000 gallons of water on a burning tree and not put it out. It usually is nessary to tear it up to really put out an internally burning Pine tree. Most of the time the lighting runs down the outer bark blowing away chunks of the tree in the process. I see a LOT of lightning scars on the old growth timber along the ridge lines. Most trees survive the strikes. Some certainly don’t….
Boy I was traveling and I sure didn’t want to get under that. It’s hard to predict the motion of something like this and drive at the same time. You have to stop. Which is where it overtook me. It’s about 7 miles away from me at this point and heading right my way. I weathered the storm behind a stand of large well needled pine trees. Trees are of course a dangerous place to be during lightning but this really wasn’t an electrical storm. I was on rubber tires so I wasn’t too worried about ground currents in the truck. It was definitely a hail storm and that was a VERY heavy shaft of rain/hail. I call that a “Water DUMP” .
When streams run up here high on the ridges, there is going to be high water down drainage for sure. All this surface area really adds to the number of gallons concentrated in the valleys. Some canyons off this ridge are a hundred feet deep cut into the Cretaceous Sandstones underlaying my parking place. I saw more running water after this passed than I’ve seen in years. The hail was small marble sized fortunately but we got a bit of it. There are many more (many) more photos from this weather event’s timeline.
The events in the aftermath of this were VERY interesting to me. I saw some phenomena I haven’t seen in decades. Click, Click, Click, Click …. So many choices, so little time ….
If you don’t think one is dangerous and the other isn’t, you need to live up here a while. It would change your opinion. Two things that can mess up your day are in this image lol. You might have to look closer to see the 5 deer and one bedded Pronghorn. The thunderhead (Mesocyclone) Anvil is about 80 miles distant from the Bull. The sub-irrigated field still green even this late in the year.
Bulls are of course known to be temper-mental. I find generally they are lazy unless there is a Cow involved. In which case 1800 pounds of moving muscle on the hoof is a lot of hamburger to flip on the grill. This is the sized animal that if it decides to screw with you, your best bet is to start turning faster than he can lol. It’s your only hope lol. Being on a good cattle horse is a whole different experience of course.
The Huge Mesocyclone off in the distance is known to be temper-mental. Their bad behavior is due to the heating of the land by the sun during the day. The rising warm humid ground air coming into contact with cooler air aloft causing cloud growth. Like the bull, you can never predict what they are going to do.
Both will run right over you if you get in their way :(.
The Emergency Alert was going off on the Local Radio Station warning of golf ball sized hail, 60 mph winds with dangerous lightning. I’m not much for heading down the basement. I’d rather drive up a local ridge and watch it all develop. I don’t have cell service up here in the backcountry so I don’t have radar. I have to react visually to what I’m seeing. Fortunately this one wasn’t moving directly at me staying about 20 miles to my south.
These storms are huge and while we did get a direct hit, the 50+mph outflow from it was “sporty” up on a high ridge line. I often have to set up and tear down camera gear very quickly to keep them from getting wet. Rain coming in a vehicle window is not good for high end camera gear. I know there are rain coats for cameras lol. Just another layer of complexity I think. I’ve been known to pull off of the ridges onto the leeward side of the hill to get out of the highest winds. Some of these Mesocyclone can get pretty sporty before you know it. It’s always good to have a plan be. I’m about a mile away from someplace I can pull behind/under at this particular spot.
This is a classic wall cloud surrounding and acting as a floor to the massive cloud above. The back side of these storms (right) is usually the worst hail. Those shafts are hail not rain. The hail is often hidden in the rain too. That tendency caught me off guard during our big hail storm in early July this year (2020). I didn’t see it incoming. No radar remember…. In the front (left) , you can see the rain precipitation wedge in the front of the storm ahead of it’s motion. The down drafts forcing the rain sideways forming the wedge.
This pair of 30 mile across spinning tops of a storm called a “Mesocyclone” stretched across the Montana /Wyoming border 20 miles south and 45 miles north to Broadus MT. Internet Radar showed it pretty well considering. We are in a Doppler Radar shadow zone between Rapid City and Billings. These storm showed up paired up which I don’t see too often. Two alien ships approaching as in the movie “Independence Day”.
These Mesocyclones are a curse and a blessing depending on where you are when they go over you. Usually there is a rain shaft or two in them. Sometimes it just rains like heck and the storm parks over you. We got .45 inch from this storm “front” moving through. That is a HUGE amount of water during a very dry summer. We feel fortunate to get it.
If you look at the trees on the landscapes first ridge, you can see the burnt area from recent grass fire on ranch. We BARELY kept it out of the trees on the other side of that hill. Starting on the right, blown to the left It did run about 1/2 a mile. If it had been unattended, it would have made it across the 10 miles to Biddle Montana by the next day. The phone tree worked resulting in neighbors with water/sprayers on their truck coming out of the wood work. It takes a community. 😀
Seen from the hill I climbed after a lighting storm to “look around”. When I first saw it, it was very small. 20 minutes later, the first break in the fire left to right was us driving across in front of it. It still got past our first pass as the 20 mph winds drove it.
Windmill Weekday: Windmill Junkies Unite, (you know who you are). 🤘🤘
Perspective photographs properly done mess with your sense of depth. Here “Sneaky Pete” the windmill is “Milling” his fate at the scary scene unfolding “just over the hill”. He can’t see whats coming. I can just sense his aprehension. These big fires out here can be devastating. Most ranches have some way to fight fires. Usually a “quick reaction” truck. Perhaps a wagon pulled behind a pickup with a sprayer rig on board. Several thousands dollars of equipment to safely fight a serious prairie fire.
I’ve lived up here on the border 20 years and have fought dozens of range fires.. I’ve lost track and they all blend together going back that far. Each and every fire was a community experience with familiar local faces. There will be 6 or 7 more finished images from this timeline.
Fortunately for us, this particular smoke plume was over 40 miles distant. We can’t travel very far in our big lumbering fire truck. For those fires we do show up at, we try to make a difference with the 1000 gallons of water we can carry. I’m in the process to fit my Raptor with a 100 gallon bladder tank. Quick reaction is good too. This HUGE forest fire distant started with one spark (lightning) and was small for a while. They it got big quickly. If some rancher had enough water and got to it with the first smoke, it would have been controlled. We had our ranches fire under control in about 3 hours. We were on it about 20 minutes after I first saw it.
The Rain Shafts over the Barn on the Historic Parks Ranch in Northern Campbell County is classic. I used a telephoto shot about a mile out for the perspective across 40 miles of landscape with a 20 miles wide river valley between ridges here. The ridge in the shadows is only about 3 miles out . Weather over the far ridge. The ridge in the pink light is 40 miles out.
This is about 4 miles from our ranch. That direction is the closest drive I have to make to get to an asphalt road. The next closest paved highway is about 12 miles from here. These guys are my closest neighbor at around 4 miles from my homestead.. It’s 70 miles to the closest traffic 3 way light from here. The trip to those hills in the distance would take you an hour. I’ve had meeting I’ve driven to Casper to many time. (4 hours or so drive). Distances are big out here to go anywhere but where you are lol.
The Historic Parks Ranch is now part of a larger cattle association. It is managed under the Trail Creek Grazing Association. Old original buildings out here. In this remote backcountry were certainly built out of locally milled wood. The rough milled wood from cut from the local old grown pines. The original of homestead there is HUGE and finished around 1920 I understand. The 1950’s marked the last updates to the main house. Still utilized for hunters with year round caretakers living on site. That barn is classic.
Location: A few miles from The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
Upcoming in the next few months…. (from late last summer 2019)
Can you smell the wet sage and the ozone yet? Hear the distant rumbles of the thunder? As this storm sitting over the whole northeast corner of the Wyoming and the southeast corner of Montana. This storm certainly spans the MT/WY border and probably is over in South Dakota as well. You can just see the edge of it to right frame. These big 40,000 foot high storms can be 100 miles across. Big spinning tops of a thunderstorm is a good way of thinking about MesoCyclones. They are the way we get most of our summer rain. Having moved over us the unfettered sun really popped in the refractions going on within the raindrops in the far distance. I’d estimate that rainbow is 1/2 mile out.
I see a lot of rainbows as I actually go to work after rain showers move through. It makes for a “Trip up on Ridge 1”. YGoing up the hill to see what is going on to the east. I see afternoon rainbows 10 to 1 over morning rainbows historically. Rainbows will move as you move. If I could have gained say 1000 feet in elevation magically I would have seen a full circle rainbow. A drone footage of a rainbow would show a big circle/halo of color. You see this with the 22 degree halos around the sun/moon. But rainbow alway present behind you when your facing he sun/moon. They are always down stream so to speak.
You might also notice if you look carefully….that the order of color ROYGBIV is reversed to VIBGYOR on the double component of this twin rainbow.
This low pointy feeder band was forming in front of me and flowing toward the larger storm system right.
This marvelous sunset is the result of a complex weather system moving through. Complex skies with multiple layers / levels are usually worth stalking at sunset / sunrise. There is just off frame right and above, a single huge rotating Mesocyclone storm. The air is rife with ozone. A mimic of a slight chorine smell as with any compound that will react with your sense of smell. The wet sage was ALMOST over powering the lightning induced tri-oxide. You might say the atmosphere was “Sporty” that evening.
Having passed right over us last summer at sunset (2019). This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 150 miles across. It provided me with a long feeder band into it’s wall cloud right at sunset. The yellow color low is atmospheric dust ice and moisture stopping all the colors with shorter wavelengths BUT red and yellow. The clouds high are white as that light didn’t travel through the atmospheric gauntlet at that angle. Still blue sky there.
These storms are HUGE, dominating the landscape. They are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as big spinning tops with the energy of an atom bomb inside. That energy is released over time but it’s still a LOT of kenetic and potential energy up there. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long. The cloud canopy straight up is still white
Part of the joy of my job is I get to see odd things occur now and then (OK, every day). I sometimes consider the other places I’ve lived during my travels. Then I compare them to the 20 years I’ve spent on this wondrous place. Not even close .
Magical things often appear in the clouds in front of me. I am just a stenographer taking notes about the big stage productions in front of me. Click click of the keys of the steno machine or the camera. No difference in effect. The details are in the dark here for this fantasy image. Imagine the mood of that moment in time and space. You could hear thunder rumbling 24 miles out.
I can not record all that I see with my cameras. They possess superhuman sight much better than mine but their ability to see dynamic range is limited. It is for instance VERY hard and essentially impossible to take a stars photos behind the full unveiled moon. You could see it with your eye easily. Not so much cameras. My best camera (a Sony Alpha 7R4) has 15 fstops of dynamic range. My only good eye (I’m close to blind in one eye from an injury) has at least 21 f-stops of dynamic range. Far greater ability to see a black cat in a coal bin in a dark room and see the detail in it’s hair. Like seeing the tree silhouettes here under the very dark blue clouds. This was a tough shot to get :).
This captured during a rare trip to Gillette for a medical checkup. I came out of my Dr’s office only to have this scene in front of me. Gillette”s Hospital Complex up on a high hill overlooking the city. Rainbow’s from above appeared to me. Might have just been me ….Personally I think it’s a secret gov’t project to get us to look up at that hill top. Sort of a “Men in Black” “Flashy thing” lolol. What DO I know. I’m just an observer during the day.
I try to get out of town before nightfall. The road home is a gauntlet of deer on the road . Most nights I come across a half dozen groups crossing the road in front of me . It’s a 70 mile trip home so there is plenty of ground to cover. I spend a lot of money on bumpers and lights for the time I do spend driving at night. Deer hits are a real thing in this country. My road work is mostly early morning chasing sunrise light on backcountry roads. This particular day in town was undertaken / initiated during twilight travel.
I of course worked the trip to town photographically driving through the ThunderBasin Grasslands. Road Time is good photographic time in my experience. You cover a lot of ground. Slowing down a bit helps to actually tune in to what’s going on around you. 70mph is too fast to see around you let alone stop before that “Hawk on the post” flies away… Speed limit on the gravel backcountry roads is 45 mph. 👀 There are lots of moving brown or black speed bumps to keep you honest…
A little Throwback Thursday for you this evening…. Too much winter weather for my taste even though it’s been a relatively mild winter so far.
The weather that mid-summer after noon was a bit sporty to say the least. This “little” cumulonimbus storm off in the distance was one of several that went through the area that evening. Several of them developed into severe mesocyclones a little down the road in South Dakota. We got a couple of smaller storms wet us down that day.
I imagine in my musings that that Butte is a local Volcano and that cloud is the eruption. IT actually looks a LOT like the images from Mount St’Helens back in late 79-80. Back of the Butte blew out it appears to this geologist lolol. It made me do a double take as I first saw it.
We do have dedicated crop areas but we are a dry land ranch with no irrigation. We need that water to raise all the grass we do. Just one cutting of hay so far each year over 20 years. Pretty consistent. It’s all about the massive (not) 14 inches average rain we get a year. Most of that being from snow fall accumulation in the spring.. Last year 2019 was phenomenally a wet/cool year. We had the lowest forest fire risk ever. I didn’t even fill up my fire truck with water all summer.