Monsoonal Magic

July 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Some of the rain that's been falling around the Four Corners is finally making it up this way. Better late than never.

To say this is welcome would be an understatement; there's been very little measurable precipitation for a few months now. We've moved beyond dry. Parched and desiccated are more accurate. 

The summer hasn't been without the occasional thunderstorm passing through the region but more often than not they've failed to produce rainfall. That, or they're very widely scattered; somebody gets lucky somewhere but it's not much to write home about. 

The current weather pattern is generating more widespread storms with rain expected to make it all the way to the ground periodically over the next few days. Or so the meteorologist says. 

A passing sprinkle has been the extent of it so far at my house but hope springs eternal. (The national park has seen a few downpours so that's a positive turn of events.)

Along with much-needed precipitation, monsoonal flow often produces spectacular cloud formations - especially the closer you get to the mountains. The cloudscapes are even more impressive because "big skies" enable expansive views. Throw the Tetons into the mix and you can really appreciate the scale. 

Watch one of these developing storms for a while and you'll see how quickly it expands and evolves - all the while climbing higher and higher. It's not an illusion; those anvil tops can reach a whopping 50,000 feet. Cruising altitude for commercial airliners is around 35,000 feet.

As much as I like to make dynamic landscape photos featuring monsoonal action, sometimes it's just as interesting to pull out the long lens and focus exclusively on the clouds. 

I look for juxtapositions of lighter against darker (more menacing) clouds, or the relationships between shapes, or interesting negative space. Most often these are abstract images - though if there's an enormous, mature formation with a well-developed anvil I might go for the whole enchilada and make a panoramic.  

Because I live up on a bench in the foothills only 60 straight-line miles from the Teton Range, I can see a lot of imposing monsoonal cloudscapes without having to venture much farther than my yard. 

These gargantuan showstoppers have been in short supply so far this summer but maybe change - rain - is in the air.   

Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)


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