Updated July 22nd 2014
A risk of slow moving heavy showers and thunderstorms are likely during the afternoon and evening of July 22nd across the west midlands and far west of Ireland and N. Ireland in response to daytime heating with forecast 24C temps and humid unstable air sporting 1000 CAPE and LIs of -4 with cool pool aloft in a Sly backing SEly flow. There is little to no speed shear so any storms will be unorganised however models indicate a N-S aligned convergence zone extending from Fermanagh N into the W of N. Ireland so there will be a chance of funnel clouds. Issues will be cloud cover and some CIN however these are likely to be overcome given strong surface heating aided by surface convergence. The above chart is from Netweather.tv.
Sorry for the delay in updates recently as I have been busy with other things not to mention being entirely clouded out for much of the NLC season. There have been epic storms over Britain lately from elevated Spanish plumes to surface based supercells with large hail stones, wall clouds, funnel clouds and local damage from straight line winds and also an unconfirmed tornado, the shelf cloud which came on-shore at the south coast of England was nothing short of spectacular with multiple tiers and structure similar to US severe storms so it was a very exciting period for chasers.
Here in Ireland there have been several homegrown storms too and I was chasing these however the first day was a bust and the second was a late evening storm which affected Fermanagh but we never got to chase it (for various reasons), on Friday Roisin and I teamed up with Paul Martin and together we attempted to intercept late evening storms below the border, we met at Kesh then drove to Enniskillen, Clougher and Augher area while storms produced lightning and flooding just below the border, we got in position just in time to watch the northern most storm (nice work Paul!) however it was spent when all the CAPE had vanished, however it was a good memory with the three of us standing by a roadside in the middle of nowhere as the summer sky turned dark in warm and humid air near the peaceful atmosphere with a graveyard adjacent to us, it was a valiant effort regardless. There was a nice sunset over Maghera on the 17th which caught me off guard so I had to shoot it from the garden, the texture and colours were quite spectacular, if only I had captured this reflecting in a lake!. Warm and humid weather is forecast yet again for Ireland and UK this week and there is a chance of more storms so I hope to make a play on these for one or two days so fingers crossed for some much needed photo opps from nature.
I did a short radio interview for Stevie King's Lifestyle morning show on 106FM which was aired on Friday morning on the subject of storm chasing in N. Ireland. I recorded the interview as it was playing on air via my video camera then I removed the audio and uploaded it to youtube and here it is, please ignore the poor quality due to noise issues however you can still hear the interview quite clearly.
June 10th 2014 was the final of four days in a row storm chasing with 1300 CAPE and LIs of -4. Storms fired early in the day and we watched several rumble away over Glenshane Pass then during the afternoon we intercepted an intense and beautiful surface based thunderstorm crossing Lough Neagh at Antrim Marina. The storm boasted rock solid cloud structure and large scale rotation before coming onshore and hitting Antrim town were it made an impression on many with its frequent lightning and hail stones. One page report with 11 images & 2 video clips including time lapse footage. - REPORT.
Plenty of storm chasing done over the weekend, in fact, I was chasing with Roisin on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and got storms on all three days, however the set-up was not great and there were issues with the forecast and what at first seemed a promising set-up for photo opps turned into a let down at a photographic level however we had some great visual experiences and adventures and ended up having a wonderful road trip in the north and even ended up on roads we had never been on before with breathtaking views of the countryside, this is why storm chasing is so rewarding, its not just the storms but also the lessons and experiences which come with it forging great new memories to look back on. The main atmospheric problem was warm air at 500mb, also called convective inhibition (CIN) or better known as a CAP. This warm layer stopped cells from growing tall so all the convection was low topped and did not meet the 300mb range to form proper anvils, winds were also straight lined and cells high based so everything was messy with no good structure, however we happy to get anything from nature and enjoyed what we got.
First and best storm was the cell which approached from Dungannon on Saturday, Roisin and I where at my Dad's house this day and were having a nice lunch in the back garden enjoying the warm sun when the storm appeared to our S, the sky was black in that direction and could have been photogenic if I had a nice foreground however there was no time so we watched it from the garden while eating then took shelter in a gazebo while watching lightning and hearing thunder which was a nice experience, the storm moved over the W side of Lough Neagh and intensified turning white on radar with hail stones which ripped leaves from trees over the N of the Lough. Another storm formed over Dungannon so Roisin and I intercepted it, this time on the Dungannon road outside Cookstown, the above image shows this storm over the fields with Cows making for some nice foreground interest, but as you can see the storm was high based and not camera friendly, we still enjoyed the thunder regardless, it always gets the adrenaline going.
Sunday was another fun day on the road, we got another storm near Cookstown then we ended up chasing in the Antrim countryside in the middle of nowhere between Ballymena and Ballymoney, this was the base of another cell outside Cloughmills moving L to R. The chase took us to the Antrim coast then the day ended with a great walk on the beach and through the grounds of Mussenden Temple and Downhill Estate.
It's amazing what you find while storm chasing, this is Dooey's Cairn near Dunloy, Ballymena, which may be up to 4000BC in age, I love checking out these historic sites. On Monday we chased to the N coast then through Ballymoney again and observed great black bases close to the ground, a mad chase through back roads ensued on the hunt for funnels however none appeared, later in the day a big storm formed over Lough Neagh, I could hear the thunder from Maghera and observed the beautiful primary and secondary rainbows, the lightning then hit over Randalstown then finally the storm died out near Ballymena, another storm also affected Derry/Londonderry, incidentally the same area got hit but a nasty hail storm (Saturday) which once again ripped leaves from trees, chaser Tyler Collins documented the core on video, also check out part 2. Hopefully we will get strong storms in the near future and more in the way of clear nights as I have missed several stunning NLC displays due to cloud cover!
Third day in a row of storm chasing on June 9th 2014 when we chased across three counties with over 8 hours on the road. The day began with an early afternoon storm intercept with large wall cloud in Co. Fermanagh then multiple storms in Bundoran, Donegal, and ending the day to the S of Omagh, the storms we encountered were back-building very high precip cells which produced hours of intense torrential rainfall, road flooding, and frequent thunder and lightning then climaxing with significant rotation and an all-sky whale's mouth display. One page report with 16 images & 1 video clip. - REPORT.
An unexpected photo opportunity! - the Red Arrows were due to put on a spectacular 25 min aerial display over the north coast of N. Ireland on Sunday June 29th with the display focused on the airspace between Greencastle in Donegal and Magilligan in N. Ireland, I had only just heard about this the previous night and nearly talked myself out of going however when Sunday arrived it dawned on me that the weather conditions would be utter perfection for photography so in a last min decision I went for it - Roisin came along too - and for a while we didn't think we were going to make it however we got to the coast half an hour before the display began which was very fortunate, our location was Benone beach not far from Magilligan Point. The sky was amazing - bright sunshine and crisp clean blue skies - its extremely rare to get conditions like this during a red arrows display in N. Ireland, the last time I had this luxury was the Portrush airshow of 2008 so this was going to be a very rare show indeed. The Red Arrows ended up putting on a performance close to half an hour long however they were far away for much of that time but despite this sore point it was a great spectacle with the red jets sporting multicoloured contrails contrasting beautifully with the blue sky. I was using the Canon 100-400mm lens and I can tell you my arms were sore holding it skyward for so long with full concentration, I managed to get almost 400 images, below are a few...
The images below were facing towards Donegal across the ocean
jets and sail boats
They were doing impressive stunts at a very low elevation, those closer to the action in Donegal must have had a fantastic show
Distant ship on the horizon. Beautiful day, beautiful sea, beautiful beach and a wonderful red arrows display which made for a great day out, however the drive out from Benone beach in the ques was not so great however it was well worth the drive regardless, now I'm wondering if the 2014 Portrush airshow will get treated to conditions like these?
June 8th 2014 was the second of four days in a row of storm chasing with high instability storms boasting 1300-1500 CAPE and LIs of -4 and -5. We ended up chasing across the midlands of N. Ireland with particular focus on the lines of nasty storms between Cookstown and Omagh in Co. Tyrone which produced torrential rain, dangerous and frequent close range cloud to ground lightning and an all-sky whale's mouth display. The highlight of the day was the big storm over the Omagh Road with green precip core which dropped hail stones larger than marbles accompanied by pink c-gs which made for a thrilling chase across the countryside. One page report with 15 images & 1 video clip. - REPORT.
June 7th 2014 was the first of four days in a row of thunderstorms across parts of Ireland and N. Ireland. This was a very successful storm chase day with 12 & 1/2 hours on the road in a very unstable environment loaded with 1300-1500 CAPE and LIs between -4 and -5 which produced intense thunderstorms which we intercepted at the Mullaghmore coastline in Co. Sligo. We got treated to beautiful thunderstorms over the ocean in full sunshine with close range lightning followed by a high based funnel cloud. I also caught my first ever daytime lightning bolt on camera making this a thrilling day to remember. One page report with 13 images & time lapse video footage. - REPORT.
Best chase of the 2014 season to date when my girlfriend and I documented a spectacular convergence zone thunderstorm from Brenbradagh Mountain outside Dungiven on May 26th. We experienced the entire life cycle of this strong thunderstorm for over two hours without having to move position once while staying completely dry in sunshine as the storm grew and evolved rite before our eyes producing a funnel cloud, close c-g lightning, and the best shelf cloud and storm structure I have seen for years. Also included is a funnel cloud over Donegal Bay captured by my Dad from Rossnowlagh on the very same day. Report with 21 images & 2 video clips. - REPORT.
The 2014 Noctilucent Cloud (NLC) season is now underway. These mysterious night shinning clouds can be viewed on Summer nights between late May and early August for observers at mid northern latitudes and most often seen against the lingering twilight glow to the NW-NE when the sun is between 6 and 16 degrees below the horizon. These clouds form in the Mesosphere some 82km high and are literally on the edge of space which is a fitting location for evidence suggests that NLCs are seeded by meteoritic dust particles from ancient comets which passed through the inner solar system billions of years ago and likely the same material that contributes to the Zodiacal Light. NLCs are also correlated with solar activity with the best displays coinciding with solar minimum and vice versa.
Although we are currently in/near solar maximum experts reckon this is in fact a weak maximum and with little in the way of solar activity this year there is a possibility that NLCs could put on a good show this season. They cannot be predicted in advance so the only way to see them is to monitor the sky every night, some displays are weak and take a trained eye to spot yet others can be widespread complex shadow-casing displays which are simply jaw dropping, and believe me - once you see a good NLC display - you will be hooked for life, expect the finest NLCs to manifest on the weeks before and after the Summer Solstice. In the meantime here's an educational article I did for the site all about NLCs with annotated imagery to help identify the various NLC structures and brightness scales. I hope you have a thrilling season, I wish you good luck, clear skies, and a lack of sleep...in a good way!
Astronomy is not the only subject I am interested in. One other such area is severe weather which will be playing a major role on nightskyhunter from now on in conjunction with my other astronomical pursuits. Check out my new N. Ireland Storm Chasing section and view the chase reports and images which detail not only storms but other phenomena such as a moonbows, noctilucent clouds and aurora displays.