It’s a cliché to claim that the sky is bigger in the American West, but the wide, open views in that region do offer a very different perspective on weather. Photographer Mike Olbinski’s works give viewers a taste of that perspective of far-off thunderstorms, towering anvil clouds, and massive downpours in the distance. At the same time, many of his sequences illustrate the birth and death of these massive storms. As warm, moist air rises, a puffy cumulus cloud (below) swells upward as fresh moisture condenses. When it reaches a thermal cap and can rise no further, precipitation begins to fall, dragging surrounding air with it. This is the mature stage of a storm, when both updrafts and downdrafts exist simultaneously.
Eventually, the storm’s power begins to wane as the downdrafts cut off the updrafts that feed the storm. Sometimes this occurs in a massive downdraft where cool air sinks straight down and, upon encountering the ground, spreads radially outward. In dry regions, this outward burst of ground-level winds can pick up dirt, dust, and sand, forming a wall-like haboob (below) that advances past the remains of the storm. Watch the entire video to see some examples in their full glory! (Video and image credit: M. Olbinski, source; via Rex W.)