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Updated August 1st 2014

Slight Chance of Aurora - August 2nd

Slight chance of aurora activity on August 2nd if latest NOAA models are correct when a CME could deliver a glancing below to Earth's magnetosphere with the chance of active periods for both northern and mid northern latitudes, although the risk is small it bares watching for unexpected surprises, the nights are drawing in here now in northern Europe and although twilight glow is still evident there is however a period of true darkness during the middle of the night when any aurora activity can be observed and photographed, this is the first aurora forecast I have posted since Spring and I hope it will be the first of many more to come this Autumn and Winter.

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ovation/ - aurora oval position

http://www.spacew.com/plots.html - aurora activity charts and Bz tilt

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ - NOAA activity chart

Convective Outlook UK & Ireland - Friday August 1st

Storm Forecast
Valid: Fri 01 Aug 2014 06:00 to Sat 02 Aug 2014 06:00 UTC
Issued: Thu 31 Jul 2014 20:05
Forecaster: TASZAREK


Trough that is cutting from Icelandic Low will move towards Ireland and Great Britain bringing atmospheric fronts. The belt of strong atmospheric flow over this feature together with intensifying ridge extending from Russia to Poland will move tropical air masses to central and eastern Europe while cooler polar marine air masses in the rear of the trough will move to British Isles and NW France. A well developed cut-off low over Balkans will begin to weaken and move eastwards. 

NW Europe will be under influence of moderate mid-level flow associated with wide geopotential wave, while central, E and SE Europe will demonstrate rather weak wind speeds. Jet streaks will be located over N Atlantic, S Spain and partially over British Isles and Scandinavia. The majority of the thunderstorm will form in the homogenious air masses in low environmental wind shear. Increased DLS and better storm organization is expected over British Isles, western Scandinavia, NE Spain and N Turkey. Source: ESTOFEX

St. Mary's Church Sudden Thunderstorm - July 24th

I have been on a lot of road trips lately and several storm chases over the last two weeks and have also been busy with personal life so there have been little in the way of updates lately as I haven't been home, however I'm back now and thought I would give a brief write up on recent events. We have been getting outstanding Summer weather for the better part of a month with a decent heat wave which peaked last week which offered many wonderful scenes worth photographing, the good weather was great news for the farmers so there was no shortage of tractors in the fields however it was this scene which deserved the click of the shutter, I have always wanted to photograph a combine harvester in action in N. Ireland and on this warm and humid hazy afternoon I finally got my chance, this was outside Portrush using the 100-400mm lens with the humidity soaking me while I was shooting the combine approach.

The hot and humid weather sparked off several days of thunderstorms along the W of Ireland with moderate cape and convergence which demanded our attention so Roisin and I chased for three days in a row. This was July 23rd after driving from Maghera to Sligo, the cap held tight for much of the afternoon and evening however it broke just over the sea near Bundoran where we got treated to one rumble of thunder and that was it, there was high based convection and cells to the S however none of them produced sparks after this so it was a bit of a bust however feeling that cooler air and even seeing a shower was like heaven after the long hours in the car in the warmth all day. It was still a fun trip though and we didn't come home empty handed, here's Benbulbin Mountain near Sligo which looked very dramatic and abrupt as it seemed to pierce the heavy summer air with clouds hugging the peaks which was spectacular to watch. We also found a stunning megalithic site in the form of a large stone cairn burial ground which was fascinating to explore, this country really is full of hidden gems.

The highlight was July 24th on our third day chasing to the SW, this was the hottest day of the year with temps of 29.6 C recorded at Magilligan. It really was a very hot and humid drive and although there where elevated towers in the area there was no indication anywhere in the sky that the cap had broke or that there was going to be a storm, in fact, it was storm-free for miles all around so Roisin and I explored St. Mary's church and the old famine graveyard in Ardess outside Kesh in Co. Fermanagh, it was so relaxed and peaceful and the sky was harmless as a few towers struggled against the warm air aloft, we sat on a seat within the church grounds for the heat and humidity was too much, it seemed like it was difficult to breath, the place was bone dry and stifling, it was difficult to believe anything could happen this day given the view of the sky so Roisin asked the universe to please give us a storm to make our trip worth while.

Five min's later there was thunder!!, then more thunder, and the sky kept rumbling over and over directly above the church and over our heads, we couldn't believe it, where had this come from?, there had been nothing in the area at all, it felt so crazy to ask the universe then get a result so soon, it really did seem like a divine response!. Obviously the cap had broke in this area and a tower exploded into a storm within min's rite above us, talk about a coincidence. It was eerie and atmospheric to watch the old church tower as thunder rumbled above from an unseen source, it also had a strange acoustics too, the lightning was also unseen so it must have been flashing high up within a tower blocked from view by mid level cloud, then suddenly it began raining heavily then turned into a deluge with hail stones for 15 min's, the rain and hail stripped leaves from the trees then it began running down the country road like a river several inches deep, the transition from dry and humid to this within min's was astonishing to experience.

We chased after the storm to the countryside outside Kesh trying to stay in the core until the storm moved away from the road heading NE over the fields so we pulled over for a few shots, the storm didn't have any great structure due to its elevated nature however looks can be very deceiving as it certainly deserved respect, here's the high based gust front as the storm moved L to R heading for Donegal, this would be the main storm of the day in the north of the country so we had experienced its birth rite here in Ardress over the church, it went from towering cumulus to a mature storm on radar within 10 min's with significant lightning rates, the chase was already a success.

Here's the video of the Ardress church thunderstorm beginning with the rumbles then moving on to the rain, hail and road flooding, you really should have seen the sky before this for comparison. We got another storm over the Fermanagh lake lands in the evening then headed back home to Maghera, after three days of long hours in the car in such warm and humid weather I felt absolutely exhausted, however I was not tired enough to check the models once again to see if and when the next chase day might be! Thanks very much for reading.

Maghera Sunset - July 17th

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.

Storm Chasing Interview On Stevie King Show 106FM - NEW

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.

Lough Neagh Thunderstorm Chase Report - NEW

Lough Neagh Thunderstorm Report

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.

Three County High Precipitation Storm Chase Report - NEW

Fermanagh Thunderstorms Chase Report

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.

Cookstown & Omagh Road Thunderstorms & Hail Report - NEW

Omagh Road Storm Chase

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.

Mullaghmore Thunderstorms & Funnel Cloud Image Report - NEW

Mullaghmore Thunderstorms 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.

Stunning Dungiven Thunderstorm & Funnel Cloud Report - NEW

Stunning Dungiven Thunderstorm & Funnel Cloud 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.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports

N. Ireland Storm Image Reports

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.

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Martin McKenna