Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Amazing Mammatus Clouds Highlight The Dry July Sky

We had huge 55,000 foot thunderstorms just to the northwest of the Lafayette viewing area and it made for the brightest show in the sky since July 4th. This made for an incredible sunset, which was full of anvil-head cirrus and a few mammatus clouds. Dena Flanagan did a great job as usual capturing this beautiful sight. Let's take an even closer look at how incredible last night's mammatus clouds were. Normally we only see these mammatus clouds about 25 days out of the entire year. What a sight!

Mammatus clouds look like pouches in the sky and are usually a sign of weakening thunderstorms and usually tell you that the severe weather threat has passed. What happens is the cirrus clouds at the top of thunderstorms start falling and these downdrafts cool the air, leading the way for these beautiful clouds to form. They are an indication that plenty of turbulence once existed in the atmosphere, but now the downdrafts are taking over and it means the storms are in a weakening phase. On rare instances mammatus clouds can form on the backside of storms and can indicate more severe weather on the way usually in the form of damaging straightline winds. But it does not happen very often.

Last night was a textbook example of these foretellers of weather as not only did most of the area dodge severe weather but also missed out on some needed rain. Notice all the severe weather reports around the Midwest. There were a few wind gusts near 60 mph (flags) in extreme northern Indiana and some quarter-size hail reports (white shading).

The rainfall amounts were so disappointing. My dog B.J. even had a hard time looking me in the eye when I got home last night. I had to give him an extra treat. I was expecting more of us to see a good quarter to half an inch of rain, but most of us saw less just a few sprinkles. The doppler rainfall estimates tell the story.

Even though the map is tough to see. All the dark areas missed out on the rain. Yes, the dreaded doughnut hole was right over most of us. The shades of blue were areas close to a quarter-inch. These lucky areas included Boswell along with portions of Montgomery County. The second area with about a quarter-inch of rain was from Winamac to near Rochester.

Now the big question is will what does this mean for the drought. Well, the good news is that most farmers are reporting good crop conditions thanks to some good rain to finish out June and cooler conditions as we started out July. This helped immensely. The forecast through September is still optimistic based on the latest maps from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

By no means will we stay bone dry the rest of the summer, but we will have to watch out for occasional dry spells and it looks like we are in another one. One thing that slows down droughts and keeps them from overtaking huge chunks of valuable farmland are temperatures. Cooler than average temperatures are in the forecast all the way through the weekend. So the good news is even though we only have spotty rain in the forecast later on Thurday, the cooler temperatures will save us from going into a drought in the near future. Our weather team will continue to watch this closely for you, but for now, cooler is better, much better in all ways! Now if I could only find the switch that I could flip to bring more rain. It has gotten so bad, apparently some farmers have been drawing turtles for better luck on bringing rain to their fields. Now this is the first time I heard of this. If you know of any turtle stories to help explain this to me I will definitely share all the details here on the blog. Take care. I better go practice drawing turtles until I find out more.

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