Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wild West Weather

It's been a wild weather month with everything from dust storms to roll clouds appearing in the skies and the little creatures have had to struggle to stay warm one day, cool the next.

Yesterday it was nearly 80 degrees in Rio Rancho and I sat on the back porch with my dogs for four hours, reading a great book on bird photography. This morning, it was 65 degrees with wind gusts of 65 to 70 mph and...blowing snow! Technically, it was called flurries. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see it. Generally, snow doesn't appear unless it is 40 degrees or lower...or so I thought. I did some research on the subject and discovered this depends on the temperature of the sky above, not the temperature on the ground. So, obviously, the fast moving clouds above were much cooler, and the snow melted as quickly as it fell.

Rio Rancho is very much a desert. We don't have dirt here, we have sand and sagebrush, which is fine with me. I love the desert landscape. However, when the winds kick up, we get sand in our eyes, ears, hair, nose--everywhere. The trucks were covered with sand. Thankfully, my husband left for work early before the storm winds picked up, and arrived home when they were dying down.

The setting sun through the thin clouds of dust created what is called iridescence. I took some photographs and posted them to the right. Iridescence is caused when sunlight passes through thin clouds, and these moments of iridescence appeared as the sun was getting ready to set behind thin clouds of dust.

As the storm began to die down, it also created roll clouds. Three of them. I've never seen anything like it. I've seen one before, but never three. One of them was huge, with wisps at one end to mark the movement of the cloud.

Roll clouds occur when a storm is coming to an end. Roll clouds are long, low tubes of cloud extending horizontally from horizon to horizon. They are actually moving, rotating as they move. They can move as fast as 35 mph. As I mentioned above, in some of the pictures I took today I could see the sweeps marking the movement of the cloud. The roll cloud rotates against its direction of travel. Sometimes it is a very smooth tube, sometimes a bit raggedy. Today, I saw three roll clouds coming off the mountains, one by one, as the dust storm began to die down.

The dogs and I have started a routine of driving to the hilltop that overlooks the valley and watching the sunset each night. Well, I watch the sunset while they sniff the sagebrush and look for jackrabbits to chase. Sometimes they actually find a jackrabbit, which is always amusing. The rabbit will run the dogs in circles for a bit, kindly giving them some exercise, then kick it into high gear and disappear in a cloud of dust while the dogs turn in circles, asking each other, "Which way did he go?"

New Mexico is such a magical, spiritual place, truly a gift from God, and I am thankful for every day I spend here.