July often delivers dramatic afternoon storms here in the Greater Yellowstone area - especially over the mountains. That's how the month began, in fact, with promising conditions developing not long after lunch on the very first day. I jumped in the car early that afternoon and chased the clouds, starting first in Idaho's Teton Valley and then working my way up to Harriman State Park near Island Park.
This is what it looked like at Harriman at about five o'clock, with beautiful clouds and rain moving over Henry's Fork of the Snake River.
Unfortunately, the rest of the month has mostly failed to followed suit. Humidity levels have dipped into the single digits on some days, and there has been next to no precipitation. On the few occasions when there has been cloud production, the result has been "dry" storms - perhaps some thunder and lightning, but none of the rain reaches the ground. One such storm on the afternoon of the 17th sparked the Cliff Creek Fire near Bondurant, Wyoming - not far from Jackson. It has grown to more than 16,000 acres and continues to burn. While the threat to structures has been mitigated, smoke continues to hang over the Jackson Hole Valley.
Today's fire report indicates it's being "actively suppressed" with both ground crews and aerial support. Burnouts are being set to control its path. As it moves into the Gros Ventre wilderness, the fire is being permitted to burn as it plays its natural ecological role.
As long as it's burning, I expect air quality to continue to be less than desirable for photographs - especially in the mornings as colder overnight air pushes the smoke back down into the valley. Sometimes extra haze can enhance the sunrise or sunset colors; if there's too much, though, all you're looking at is smog. We'll see.