On June 5, only four days after the storm clouds featured in my previous post, the weather gods brought another spectacular display of clouds and light.
The previous storm consisted primarily of nimbostratus clouds that traveled horizontally: "where the wind comes right before the rain." This one, however, built vertically and moved very little horizontally. Moisture from the highly vegetated east side of the Sandia Mountains was heated by the sun; it evaporated, then rose and condensed into towering cumulonimbus clouds.
This cumulonimbus cloud formation was well along by the time I happened to look out our east-facing window about 30 minutes before sunset:
To understand the size of this cloud, look at the mountain beneath it. The base of the mountain is at about 6,000 feet above sea level, while the top of the mountain is 10,600 feet. So the top of this cloud formation rose probably 2.5 to 3 miles above the top of the mountain, and was probably 5 miles in diameter/width.
As the sun began to set, the normally white clouds began to acquire some color, and sheets of rain began to form at the bottom of the cloud:
Illustrating the enormous amount of energy at work within, the cloud resembled an atomic bomb cloud:
The streaky, curtain-like formation at the bottom of the cloud is falling rain that evaporates before it reaches the ground. It's called virga, and is very common in rain clouds out here in the dry Southwest. (If you are interested in a more technical explanation, click here.)
This virga, however, made for some dramatic images:
Higher up within the cloud, you could see the effects of the upward and downward motion of air. This closer view looked to me like images of the surface of the sun:
Meanwhile, off to the north, a separate cloud formation was looming, creating some weird light and colors of its own:
Sunset occurred at 8:18pm, so the lower levels of the storm cloud began to turn gray, while the upper levels kept their color until the shadow of the earth climbed upward:
The virga continued to create beautiful streaks . . .
Finally, the upper level of the storm cloud began to lose its color as the sunlight faded:
If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.