Weather Blog

A watched sky can still boil

A watched sky can still boil

The old saying goes "A watched pot will never boil", but when it comes to the atmosphere, peer away!

Some very cold, unstable air moved in behind the big storm Monday morning, and that made for some spectacular cloud formations this week.

Since warm air rises, when cold air moves in to the upper atmosphere, it makes it easier for a warm parcel of air to rise farther since it remains relatively warmer for a longer period of time. That's the main engine behind those tall thunderous clouds. (The "anvil" that you see is when the rising air finally reaches a level where the temperature of the air is about equal to that of the parcel.) 

Around here, our strongest thunderstorms will get up to 15,000-20,000 feet tall. In the Midwest, they call that a speed bump as routine spring thunderstorms get into the 30,000-40,000 range and severe storms can even get up as high as 60,000-70,000 feet tall!

That's a testament to their ability to get much greater temperature differences in the atmosphere there.  When you get very warm, Gulf of Mexico-borne air on the surface and some Canadian arctic air moving in aloft, that allows a warm parcel to really zoom, zoom, zoom up to such lofty heights. But for us, being so close to the Pacific Ocean is a great moderating effect that keeps thunderstorms rare and those that do form relatively puny compared to back East.

But that's not to say ours aren't pretty. Here are some photos captured Wednesday by area photographers that submitted them to our YouNews section, plus some time lapse videos of the bubbling clouds:

Camano Island from YouNews user: Camelot7117

Arlington from Maryellens1:

Camano Island from leonkim

Marysville from mckeon1946

Monroe sky on fire taken from Frylands Elementary by randyraybrown

And here are the time lapse videos: