On the Bubble’s Edge: Meteorological Fireworks

By Tom Yulsman | June 29, 2013 10:49 am

Thunderstorms swept across the base of Colorado’s Front Range near Boulder on Friday. (Photograph: © Tom Yulsman)

It’s not yet Independence Day, but for people along Colorado’s northern Front Range, the fireworks arrived early.

I took the photo above just a couple of miles north of Boulder at 6:45 Thursday evening just as thunderstorms were sweeping in. The view is to the northwest, over the foothills of the Rockies. A sheet of rain and hail is to the right. The towering cumulus cloud catching the evening sunlight beyond moved off onto the plains and coalesced with other clouds, producing quite a downpour — a needed one, given our continuing drought.

Here’s what things looked like just a bit later, a few hundred yards from my house:

Cumulus clouds catch fire in the fading sunlight over Niwot, Colorado on June 28th. (Photograph: © Tom Yulsman)

And before a bit of explanation, one more:

Close up of a cumulus cloud at sunset, near Niwot, Colorado. (Photograph: © Tom Yulsman)

Before the outbreak of storms, temperatures in this part of Colorado had reached the mid-90s. That’s just a few degrees higher than normal, and nothing compared to the scorching heat in the Southwest and Great Basin, where record highs for this time of year — and perhaps the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth — may happen this weekend.

In my previous post, I included an illustration depicting the kind of huge bubble of high pressure in the middle levels of the atmosphere that’s causing the heat at the surface, as well as a graphic showing how a gigantic kink in the jet stream is helping to bottle it up. The Front Range of Colorado is on the very eastern edge of the bubble, where the jet stream is causing the wind to blow from the north.

Here on the bubble’s edge, the meteorological fireworks yesterday heralded the arrival of cooler air. The proximate cause of the spectacular weather was a bit of moisture and some unstable air.

Now, this day has dawned with gloriously cool conditions. And the forecast is for a high only in the mid-80s — along with a decent chance for more thunderstorms. I’ll be out there with my camera again.

  • http://www.thealders.net/blogs Doug Alder

    I hope the parched earth was able to absorb the rain. Too often it runs off and takes precious topsoil with it.

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    surprised that you able to profit $9059 in one month on the internet. did you
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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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