March melts in

March eve 2016

A March evening in 2016 in Minneapolis, most of the snow was gone and the city lights can (surprisingly) look beautiful by way of contrast against the sunsets.

It’s February 28th and as March melts in to the weather scene I have summer and Cumulonimbus on my mind. I miss hot sweltering weather full of billowing clouds and those ominous shelves of gray that rumble in from the west at the end of an afternoon. Especially do I miss the more active and continuous type of summer weather we used to have circa 1999-2003. Storms roared in full of power and exited just as quickly leaving the day humid, hothouse and full of sunshine bouncing off green things, like a jungle.

Cumulonimbus facts

Cb with height comparisons

An airliner nearby to MSP airport with a Cumulonimbus backdrop

Cb with Incus

A bigger view of the same storm where you can see the cumulus congestus phase of the cloud on the right, which is more crisply defined. The larger cloud on the left is forming the more fibrous and diffuse incus phase in the early evening.


-A Cumulonimbus cloud shows some instability in the atmosphere and has several growth phases, each with their own moniker:

Cumulus Humilis – Humilis is Latin for humble or low and Cumulus means pile or heap, so these could be called heaps of humility? Hmm.

Cumulus Congestus – is the phase of cloud growth that follows humilis. Congestus in latin refers to the action of heaping together.

-Once a cloud leaves the congestus phase it’s top (the part I always think looks like a pile of powdered sugar when I am baking) becomes softer and less crisp in appearance as it turns to ice in the Cumulonimbus phase.

-Cumulonimbus are so tall that the tops can reach over 40,000 feet. Most commercial airlines fly at around 28-35,000 feet.

-Lighting can be seen in the heads of Cumulonimbus. The instability and rising air currents in Cumulonimbus create the conditions most favorable to lightning although lightning can be found in other weather conditions.

-As a Cumulonimbus grows and then begins to dissipate it’s top spreads into an anvil or Incus. It can spread to a much larger area than the cloud it came from. This is my favorite part of the end of a storm when the sun is setting and it throws light onto the bubbled undersides of the incus, called mammatus. You will see ethereal circle and tube shapes against the blue sky in bright pinks and oranges as the light is fading.


homelight cirrus 2

The end of a June storm looks so dreamy as the extremely diffuse anvil phase catches the setting sun.


homelight sunset 1

You can make out some of the rounded mammatus features on the underside of the anvil.

I am looking forward to another summer full of the majesty of Cumulonimbus. I always think about the sky – no matter where you are or what is going on, it’s always beautiful and always clean. Do you ever just stop, look up, breathe and feel some of the stress fall off your shoulders for just a moment?

Stay positive and keep looking up!




Current Conditions

IMG_3212 IMG_3214 IMG_3233

This was the sky at around 7:45 pm in Minneapolis, MN March 31st. I am excited to have our first gentle spring thunderstorm. Just a few distant rumbles but great mammatus development. The third picture looks to me like a giant birds wing is hidden in the clouds.

Doom and Gloom

A large dark gust front

Me at the Chateau St. Croix Winery

thick green gloom nearly obscures a red sun

Haze at the farmstead

Inclement weather always gives me a little thrill, like a jolt of caffeine zipping up my adrenals. Others who have experienced the worst with me trapped inside waiting for it to pass have said “Look at her, she’s giddy!” with a mild look of skepticism. I am usually thought of as reserved, introverted even, so this surprises people to see this facet of my personality. Am I strange? I don’t know, but this weather obsession is working for me.

The large gust front behind me in the photo was amazing to watch unfold. It began with a day dry and hot as an oven, the sky was clear as a bell. Later in the afternoon a large anvil head drifted silently over the country road by the winery. Peeking over the tops of the trees on the hill, it’s towering dove gray head displayed silent flashes of lightning, like spider veins. A small group gathered with me in my “giddiness” to watch and talk weather terms, I explained that the mammatus we were seeing are the unstable underbellies of the large anvil heads you often see in the distance on a stormy day, and that some meteorologists claim that each bump can possibly give birth to a tornado. As we were looking up again, the storm bloomed into a silent explosion, as though we were watching safely under a layer of thick glass. The dust in the parking lot in front us picked up and began to spin in a columnar fashion. I began to walk backwards into the winery and not wanting to appear alarmist yet not having the confidence to really yell it out, I murmured that, perhaps ” we should get inside”. I had just crossed the threshold when cast iron lawn furniture were being tossed like rags and a haboob of sorts was chasing my panicked friends inside.

We all found shelter in the winery’s cellar and everything was fine in the end, although a 15,000 lb horse trailer was lifted and moved one foot over on it’s blocks and a few shingles were misplaced. We all swore it was a small tornado even though the news had it as straight line winds from a gust front. This gust front was so large in fact that it stretched a line from southern Minnesota all the way to Northwest Wisconsin. Moving eastward it destroyed many trees near the Danbury area.

I am not so giddy as to put myself at risk to go and see these things or chase storms but if the chance arises and I am there anyway I will photograph, Also I find that some of the best shots occur when the storm is yet far away, you can get the progression and the scale of the storm before you have to “batten down the hatches”.

Viva L’Ete !

stormy skies 008

I just happened to be passing by a west facing window on a summer night when the sight of this made my jaw drop. I raced, out of breath, to the edge of the cornfield with my camera in hand and the dog at my heels. It all faded away in five minutes. Cumulonimbus were on the skyline intersecting the setting sun.

storms and skies 2012 121 copystorms and skies 2012 102 copy

Like an Antiques flea market, it was hard to know where to look first when snapping these pics. Head spinning eye candy to a photographer. I took these on our farm in Northwest Wisconsin in February of 2012. It was a foggy late morning, with fairly warm temperatures.

Stroke of Brillance

Sun Columns appear when the last light of the setting sun is filtered through layers of ice particles. This reminded me of the pillar of fire in the Ten Commandments. It faded quite fast so I had to be nimble about finding the right spot off the road where I first saw it.