Sunday, July 28, 2013

Daytime Destabilization

In Colorado, where thunderstorms are pretty much a daily occurrence during the summer, the rule of thumb is to be back down to timberline by 1 PM.  Here in northern Utah, thunderstorms are not always a daily occurrence, but that rule of thumb turned out to be quite useful today.

Given the forecast, I opted for a mid-morning hike up Patsey Marley.  I awoke to just a few shallow cumulus clouds over the mountains, and kept an eye on things during the ascent, which proved uneventful.  On top at about 11:45, the sky was filled with cumulus, which were growing in depth, but hadn't yet become deep enough to glaciate (i.e., develop ice crystals), which is essential for the electrification.  Rather than push it, I enjoyed lunch on top and decided to head down.

Subsequently, surface heating continued to destabilize the atmosphere, resulting in increasingly deep convective clouds and eventually the development of thunderstorms over the Oquirrh Mountains and portions of the Salt Lake Valley.  The growth of the convective clouds was well captured by George Wilkerson's Cove Cam, which looks westward toward the Oquirrhs from Olympus Cove.

The spotty nature of convection is such that you can get lucky and not be in it, but it's better to finish early and enjoy a cold drink at home than to be cowering on a high ridge.  In addition, I can't sprint downhill to safety as easily as I could a few years ago!

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