Wild weather

A thunderstorm cell with bulging mammatus clouds on its underside passes over Boulder, Colorado late in the afternoon of Aug. 2, bringing brief gusty winds and a little rain. (Shot with an iPhone and processed with Camera+ using the ‘clarity’ setting. Copyright: Tom Yulsman)

As with much of the country, we’ve been suffering through extraordinary heat and drought here in Colorado. On occasion, thunderstorms have briefly teased us, sometimes bringing brief periods of intense rain, but more often than not just a lot of sturm und drang signifying nothing.

That was the case on the afternoon of August 2, when scattered thunderstorms began to form along the Front Range. Gazing out of my home office window, I noticed the sky turning dark. A check of Doppler radar online revealed some promising convection. So I jumped in my car to find a place to shoot pictures. As I drove west, I saw a monster taking shape over Boulder to the southwest. I raced to the Boulder Reservoir, where I knew I would have an unobstructed view.

I was greeted by a dark mass of roiling cloud with bulging protuberances more reminiscent of the pustular Baron Vladimir Harkonen than of the mammary glands that give such clouds their name: mammatus. I lept out of the car and shot a couple of pictures with my iPhone, knowing that I could immediately upload one or more to Facebook. I used the ‘clarity’ option on the Camera+ app to process the best photo of the lot. This added some contrast that helped make those protuberances pop. But essentially, the photo at the top of this post offers a good idea of what I saw when I jumped out of the car.

After that, I used a SONY NEX-7 to shoot the panoramic image below. The camera’s JPEG processing yielded a stark and dramatic rendering of the scene, which in my memory is true to what my astonished eyes beheld on that hot August afternoon.

This panoramic photo of a thunderstorm over Boulder, Colorado, consists of a number of individual frames stitched together by the amazing software of the SONY NEX-7 camera. The thunderstorm itself quickly moved east without bringing much precipitation to relieve an ongoing severe drought.

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