Cloud City: Grand Canyon
December 4, 2013 7:08 PM   Subscribe

In a rare occurrence that only affects the area about once a decade, the Grand Canyon was recently filled with a dense, white fog due to heat inversion (Flickr gallery with a few short video clips; Flickr search for "grand canyon fog").
posted by filthy light thief (22 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Oh god, imagine what it looked like from that skywalk thing. Pants-poopingly awesome, in the olden days biblical sense of the word, I assume.
posted by elizardbits at 7:11 PM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

I saw some pictures of this one line and found it utterly amazing.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:23 PM on December 4, 2013

The whole area (Fer instance, the Colorado Monument) has been like that the past few days. I went to Telluride for turkey day weekend, and it's weird to drive up out of a valley into warm air and sunlight, only to drive down into the gloom and cold of another valley.

ZOMG I live 6 hours from the Grand Canyon now!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:24 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: Pants-poopingly awesome
posted by The Whelk at 7:27 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Inversion layers are awesome. /love living in San Francisco
posted by rtha at 7:28 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pants-pooping in the biblical sense.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:32 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

I thought I'd seen something similar this summer, but according to the linked articles this is a much more rare phenomenon. The pictures on flickr look much cooler than the plain old fog-filled canyon I saw, too.
posted by bradf at 7:52 PM on December 4, 2013

I've worked in two national parks. From what I understand, each one has its own 'lifetime' moments. As in, you work there a lifetime and you *might* see it once. This is Grand Canyon's. I'm willing to bet that not one ranger was doing what they were supposed to be doing and was most likely at the rim taking pictures.

From talking to other 'parkies' these types of events are the reason a lot of people commit their lives to the work. For the rare chance to be there and see these things happen.
posted by efalk at 7:54 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's amazing. This is the post that puts Metafilter back on my toolbar...
posted by NiceParisParamus at 8:15 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a little mini inversion in the bowl-like field next to my office the other week and that was cool enough. I cannot even imagine seeing this in person.
posted by PMdixon at 8:19 PM on December 4, 2013

Inversion layers are awesome.

Except when they're not.
posted by jessssse at 8:32 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live at Grand Canyon. I was three hours south visiting my girlfriend's mom when this happened. Dang it.

The skywalk is on the Hualapai Reservation, about a five-hour drive west of here, although it's an indirect route. This inversion apparently covered a lot of area, but I'm not sure if it made it out there. According to the linked article,
A temperature inversion such as this occurs a couple of times a year for different areas in the canyon, typically in the winter. It is especially rare for it to envelope so much of it at once, however.
In the few months that I've been here I've seen clouds below the canyon rim, and even the occasional rock formation poking through, but nothing like this uniform, rim-to-rim layer under clear blue skies. I really wish I'd seen this in person.

There's been a lot of precipitation this year. Bradf, did you come on fee-free day? It was pretty foggy ... a lot of tourists got a free look at a great big wall of fog.

The first tour guide at Grand Canyon was a man named John Hance. He started out as a miner, but quickly realized that he could make more money off of tourists. Hance was renowned for his tall tales. One of stories was about snowshoeing across an inversion just like this one ... until the clouds began to part and found himself stranded atop one of the canyon's rock formations. Without food! Or water! But with his trusty horse!

Fun fact: One of John Hance's mining claims was an asbestos mine on the north side of the river, located along a difficult-to-access stretch of the inner gorge. Today this land is the last private inholding within Grand Canyon National Park, and it is owned by the estate of William Randolph Hearst.

Here is a time-lapse video of the rim-to-rim inversion that I just found. What I've seen looks more like this — much less impressive.

Just for kicks, here is another beautiful time-lapse video ... this one was taken at sunset during the monsoon season. We had lots and lots of rain this year.

Pogo_Fuzzybutt: Hit me up if you visit the South Rim and want to do a hike.
posted by compartment at 8:38 PM on December 4, 2013 [13 favorites]

We had a region wide version of this in southern British Columbia and Washington State last month. Flying over all the valleys, all you could see was fog. I flew into Seattle one night and the entire city was coated in fog to about 250 feet above the ground, with the largest office towers rising above it. Same in Vancouver. The street and building lights lit up the fog as if someone had put Christmas lights under a smooth layer of cotton wool. it was mesmerizing, even though it meant I had to take an overnight bus from Cranbrook to Calgary to find a fog free airport and get a flight back home.
posted by salishsea at 8:45 PM on December 4, 2013

compartment - Yeah, it was the free day at the end of August. We were just passing through on our way to Burning Man, but a lot of tourists who'd come specifically to see the canyon were really disappointed.
posted by bradf at 8:50 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, I just want to add that if you try to Thelma-and-Louise it on one of the really good inversions, you can't do it like in the movie. You have to get the angle just right, otherwise the car will skip across the canyon like a rock on a pond.
posted by compartment at 9:09 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a routine experience where I live, except I'm at the bottom of the fog. Where I am, it can last over a week. Between fog and winter sunlight hours, it gets depressing. But I only just learned, the local hill is high enough to get above!

The most awesome thing was coming down, shortly after the sun dropped behind the distant hills. As we got into the fog, the entire sky turned sunset red. The fog diffused the light all around. But that lasted only briefly before we were down into the cold dark dampness. I was sufficiently stunned I had to skip the crowded bus leaving the funicular and walk awhile.

Next time I will video the decent.
posted by Goofyy at 12:35 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Those are beautiful images. This will be my new desktop for awhile.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:51 AM on December 5, 2013

Just for kicks, here is another beautiful time-lapse video ... this one was taken at sunset during the monsoon season. We had lots and lots of rain this year

It just so happens I was there for that same sunset! It was beautiful, rainbows and double rainbowas at several places; got some nice pictures. We were out along Hermit Road.
posted by TedW at 5:38 AM on December 5, 2013

It's lovely, but I'm not sure I'd want to to occur during my once in a decade visit to the Grand Canyon.
posted by le_vert_galant at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2013

I was there many years ago, and saw a thunderstorm, almost completely contained within the Canyon, slowly moving toward us on the observation deck. Lightning and everything. Amazing.

(And yeah, guess I'm with le_vert_galant, I'd be a little bummed if fog was all I saw at the Grand Canyon. As cool as it looks.)
posted by Bron at 11:16 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

InFocus has a great collection of pics frmo there too.
posted by DigDoug at 12:00 PM on December 5, 2013

compartment: that first video was astounding!

The photos of the canyon filled with clouds don't do much for me because there's no sense of proportion. The video where the clouds move in and flood the canyon is epic--like some incredible deluge inundating the canyon from rim to rim. Being down in the canyon on a day like this would be absolutely terrifying and totally wonderful.

Winter/early spring days I've been out on the desert in a whiteout or heavy fog are some of my best memories. Just glad I was a-horseback and not hiking. Turn around once 360 degrees, and you've lost all sense of direction. At least the horse knew the way back home/to the trailer!
posted by BlueHorse at 7:30 PM on December 5, 2013

« Older Hostis Humani Generis   |   Emu Tango Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments