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Taken in Marana, Az Feb 2010 with a Canon Powershot sx10is. Waiting at the bus stop the light started to break through the clouds. Looked like a spotlight on the mountains ahead..
Storm cells in Arizona are generally short-lived. There are three basic stages of thunderstorm development: the updraft cumulus stage, the mature stage and the dissipating stage. The lifecycle of a thunderstorm cell going through these stages is, on average, about 30-40 minutes.
The first stage of thunderstorm development is the updraft (cumulus) stage. In this stage, the primary activity within the cell is pronounced vertical uplift. Warm moist air is lifted adiabatically and condenses to form cumulus-type cloud formations. As the updraft stage continues, the formation of towering cumulus begins. Little or no precipitation occurs during this stage.
The second stage of thunderstorm development is the mature stage that is characterized by both updrafts and downdrafts. Downdrafts are associated with air that is pulled downward by precipitation. Normally downdrafts will be found near the leading edge of the thunderstorm cell. The air descending from the thunderstorm will often hit the ground and be forced out ahead of the cell creating a gust front. In the Arizona desert region, these gust fronts will pick up large quantities of dust and/or sand creating a dust wall.