Monday, May 29, 2017

In Memoriam - Timothy Alan Maddox

My oldest son, Tim (46), died suddenly this Mother’s Day evening at Banner University Medical Center in Tucson.  

He was an accomplished artist and a talented gardener/landscaper, who had expert-level knowledge of horticulture and tropical fishes.  He created beauty and generously shared his work and talents.  Tim loved nature, animals, and was fascinated by astronomy.  We will terribly miss his shy smile and wry sense of humor, but also know that he is finally at peace.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tropical Storm Adrian Has Come And Gone

Tropical Storm Adrian formed from One-E (above) and was the earliest Eastern Pacific storm on record. However, the storm has already dissipated and the early forecasts for Adrian (below) ended up as serious busts.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Crisp Cool Morning Here

Cool morning here at house with low temperature of 44 F.  Some cloudiness continues this morning, as the photos here from around 07:00 am MST show.

The WRF forecasts from Atmo were quite good for this event, capturing the Tucson donut hole and forecasting no rain at the airport yesterday - which is what occurred. DM did have 0.01" yesterday and here at house we added 0.07" during afternoon showers, making our total for the event 0.10". The ALERT map above is for 24-hours ending at 07:00 am this morning - shows the donut hole quite nicely, as well as some rain amounts near and over a quarter of an inch around the Tucson Mountains and along I-10.

The CG flash density plot below is for 48-hours ending at 07:00 am - the northeast half of state had considerably more thunderstorm activity than rest of state. 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Closed 500 mb Low To Move By Later Today

The Catalinas were draped with clouds early this morning (top), after mostly mountain rains yesterday and last night. Plot just above of ALERT rainfall for 24-hours ending at 06:30 am MST - rain amounts of 0.04" were very spotty over lower elevations - we had 0.03" here and airport had 0.02". Amounts of a quarter inch and more held mostly to the Catalinas and Redington Pass. The CG flash density plot (below - from and Vaisala) indicates some thunderstorm activity over southeast Arizona. Those storms occurred mostly in the late afternoon with nothing nearby during the night. Severe hailstorms over eastern Colorado and new Mexico were prolific lightning producers.

The 500 mb plot above for 12 UTC this morning indicates the closed low is somewhere to our west-southwest. Models forecast the circulation to move nearly overhead late today and tonight. The TWC sounding has the coldest observed 500 mb temperature in the Southwest, but there may be a bit of colder air to our west.

The morning sounding (below) has very limited CAPE, and the WRF forecasts keep it low during the day today, due to warmer air above 600 mb capping the low-levels. I suspect that there will be enough heating for showers to develop in our area, even though models forecast little in the way of additional precipitation.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Early Tropical Activity

The eastern Pacific Tropical Storm Season officially begins May 15th, but the NHC is already providing outlook for two disturbances. The current two day outlook is above and the five day outlook is below, indicating that development of the eatern system is likely.

Good Chance For Light May Rains

GEFS plumes for QPF (from the 06 UTC 8 May run) at the airport are forecasting 100 % POPs for tomorrow afternoon, with some chances for showers before and after. This is a another moisture-starved system that is carrying along a limited pool of PW with it - same as all of our Spring events this year. The 06 UTC WRF-GFS forecast from Atmo (below) forecasts a Tucson donut hole, with better amounts at higher elevations - the forecast is for total precipitation through 11:00 am MST on Thursday.

Forecast soundings from that WRF-GFS run indicate enough CAPE at TWC for thunderstorms - sounding above is valid at midnight tonight and that below is valid at 02:00 pm tomorrow afternoon. Both indicate upward vertical velocity through the important mixed-phase zone from -10 to -20 C, and the nighttime sounding (if it verified) would have strongest upward motion through that zone. Perhaps a crash of thunder at some spots during the night tonight? Note also that steering winds tonight favor very fast-moving storms heading toward the north-northwest.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Some Thunderstorms This Afternoon

There have been some thunderstorms around southeast Arizona during the last couple of hours, in addition to some very light sprinkle showers. Radar above is composite image for about 05:00 pm MST and graphic below shows CG flash density during the past two hours (from and Vaisala).  I also have noted that the hourly digital forecast for TUS have gone considerably awry during the afternoon hours today, as the temp trends downward and wind shifts occurred considerable earlier than the models forecast. Very welcome change to cooler and higher RH conditions today.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

New Wild Fire Along Highway 83

We have just returned from Santa Rita Abbey this afternoon along Highway 83. A new fire, The Mulberry fire, was burning on the east side of the Empire Mountains. This is north of the Sawmill fire burn area.

I took these photos about 03:30 pm MST this afternoon - views are looking north-northeast from the side of Highway 83. The burn area below is from the Sawmill fire. The channel 2 image at bottom shows the hotly burning portion of the fire as bright white pixels. Based on the smoke plume behavior we observed, the fire was expanding very rapidly. Winds in the area of the fire have been gusting 40 to 50 mph this afternoon.

Friday, May 05, 2017

First 100 F Day Was Yesterday

High temperature at NWS ASOS at the airport reached 100 F around 04:00 pm MST yesterday afternoon. So that's that as we head for summer. Big question now is whether we'll get rain next week after a dramatic cool down.

Very windy conditions will prevail over much of Arizona tomorrow afternoon as the closed low develops in mid-levels to our west-northwest. The above forecast is from the 00 UTC WRF-GFS and is valid at 04:00 pm tomorrow, May 6th.

The big temperature change is illustrated by the forecast soundings for Tucson from the same forecast run: skewT plot above is valid at 04:00 pm tomorrow, while the much cooler plot below is valid at same time Monday afternoon. Much more moist by Monday with surface temperature drop of around 30 F - will be a nice change.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Images From Mike Leuthod

Congratulations to Mike re his "Image of the Day" at

And from a bit closer - wild turkey's at his place in Paradise.

Gould's wild turkey (M. g. mexicana(Gould, 1856)[edit]

Gould's wild turkey
Native from the central valleys to the northern mountains of Mexico and the southernmost parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Gould's wild turkeys are heavily protected and regulated. The subspecies was first described in 1856. They exist in small numbers in the U.S. but are abundant in northwestern portions of Mexico. A small population has been established in southern Arizona. Gould's are the largest of the five subspecies. They have longer legs, larger feet, and longer tail feathers. The main colors of the body feathers are copper and greenish-gold. This subspecies is heavily protected owing to its skittish nature and threatened status.

First 100 F Today?

As a strong 500 mb ridge moves eastward over the Southwest (see 12 UTC analysis for today, above from NCAR)  today and tomorrow, Tucson will likely record the first 100 F high temperature at the airport for 2017. The ridge will eventually be replaced by a significant closed low at 500 mb early next week.

In the shorter term, the developing system will first bring strong winds to Arizona over the weekend. The graphic above shows the GEFS plumes for the 10-m winds at the airport. The 06 UTC WRF-GFS wind forecast below is valid at noon on Saturday, May 6th.  

 Then as the cold low moves by, the GEFS precipitation plumes (below) show a decent chance for at least light showers at the airport, particularly on the 9th (Tuesday).

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Photos Of Sawmill Fire From Santa Rita Abbey

The photos below were taken by Sister Pam from Santa Rita Abbey of the Sawmill wildfire. The location the Abbey ("X") relative to the burn area is shown above.

Above and below just before and after sunrise on Monday morning, April 24th - view is looking toward the west-northwest.

These two were taken, looking north, a bit before 08:00 pm MST on Tuesday (above) and Wednesday (below).

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Helvetia, Arizona, And The White Scar

A few posts ago I mentioned the white scar visible in the NASA image showing the Sawmill Wildfire burn area. I thought that it was remnants from mining operations in the old town of Helvetia. However, when I dug into what was showing on the image, I learned a few things.

There are numerous old copper mines (green triangles shown above) in the area of what was once the town of Helvetia, Arizona. The map above also shows what was the town site of Helvetia. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the town (just below) was the site of a smelter (second below) to process the copper ore from the nearby mines. Actually, there were three different smelters, since the first two burned and were rebuilt.

Today there is little left of what was Helvetia - crumbling walls of a few buildings and a cemetery - and no white scar from old mining operations.

The white scar that shows up in the NASA image is actually an operating mine - it's an open pit quarry (above and below) where marbleized limestone is blasted, and sized and hauled away in trucks on the dirt roads that lead to the mine. The truck traffic explains the dust that hangs in the air west of the mine during stagnant conditions. The Emerys Limestone Quarry is owned and operated by a Georgia-based company, and employs around a dozen people.

The NASA image at the bottom shows a long plume of residual, calcium carbonate that has slowly washed eastward over the decades toward the town of Sahaurita, Arizona.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Interesting Week Ahead For The Southwest

The coming week will first bring a significant warm up, as mid-level ridging builds into our area. This will bring another flirtation with our first 100 F day of the year. However, during the weekend a cold, 500 mb closed low will develop to our west. This will bring much cooler temperatures and perhaps even a chance of showers.

Shown here are the operational global forecasts from 00 UTC last evening for 168-hours, with a valid time of 05:00 pm MST next Sunday afternoon. The 500 mb ECMWF forecast (above) predicts the 500 mb low to be centered over California. The corresponding 850 mb forecast (below) indicates a VERY strong east-to-west temperature gradient across Arizona, with temperatures approaching 30 C over New Mexico and California having temperatures in the single digits. The same forecast for 500 mb from the GFS is at the bottom and is very similar to that from the ECMWF. Will certainly be interesting to watch how this all plays out in the real atmosphere.