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Updated February 24th 2018

Beast From The East Cold Spell Next Week! - NEWS

(Above) Snow and hoar frost with -10C temps at Ballyronan Marina during the 2010 freeze

A significant cold spell is on the way and will impact UK and Ireland next week bringing the coldest temperatures we have seen in years and for some areas the deepest cold since the epic winter of 2010. Known in weather circles as the 'Beast From The East' - deep cold air originating from Siberia with minimum temperature forecasts of between -10C and -15C showing constantly on the 850hPa charts, this is considered a surface chart however in reality the temperature height is at 1500m. Bitterly cold dam air will overspread all of UK and much of Ireland bringing severe frosts, daytime temperatures at or below zero and night time lows anywhere from -5C to -10C. It's possible in cold prone micro climates areas such as the sheltered low laying Lough Neagh basin and Co, Down that temperatures could actually be colder than -10C.

(Above) ECM 850hPa chart for next Thursday

The cold air will make it's presence known on Sunday night then by the following week the deep colder air will have arrived with the atmosphere trending colder as the week advances. There will be severe frosts, ice, and perhaps even beautiful hoar frost and rime ice events, also icicle formations can't be ruled out. A bitter wind chill will make temperatures feel two to three times colder so be prepared for a nasty period of raw winter weather. Snow is also in the forecast, England and Wales will get prolific falls while Ireland and N. Ireland will also be getting snow showers, these more like to the E, SE and NE and perhaps drifting into the midlands in places. It's impossible to predict snow fall amounts or even where it will fall at this stage however confidence is high that the E is where the greatest action will take place, however snow showers further inland can be expected also. This sub zero air passing over the warmer Irish Sea and North Channel will generate instability which in turn will fire convective snow cells similar to lake effect snow in the USA. Snow showers may form in 'trains' or along convergence zones over the moisture rich seas then move over inland coastal areas, local wind lines may push these showers further inland. Thundersnow and night lightning can't be ruled out in these areas so be on high alert.

(Above) Icicles hanging above my front door in Maghera during 2010

Met Eireann have already issued an early yellow weather advisory for next week and the Met Office will be sure to follow suit in the near future. This weekend's model updates should reveal all and by early next week we will be able to nail down more details on this rare event. From a severe weather perspective I'm quite excited by what this set-up might bring, although it's unlikely to match 2010 here in N. Ireland I still believe England will experience what we had that year. Will this turn out to be an epic winter event? or will it be a damp squib? time will tell, this is what makes severe weather forecasting so much fun, however everyone agrees that they haven't seen charts like these in years and for some people they may not see the likes of them again in their life time so enjoy the events which unfold.

(Above) Preliminary snow risk map for UK & Ireland, source: severe weather updates europe 2008

Early winter weather advisory just issued by Met Eireann...

Weather Advisories
Exceptionally cold weather is forecast for next week with significant wind chill and severe frosts. Disruptive snow showers are expected from Tuesday onwards, particularly in the east and southeast.

Issued: 23 February 2018 12:00

Validity: 23 February 2018 12:07 to 2 March 2018 12:00

Freezing air from Russia is to grip Ireland in what is set to be the coldest late February in years. The cold blast - dubbed the ‘beast from the east’ - will see freezing temperatures, severe frost and disruptive accumulations of snow nationwide. Met Éireann has issued a Status Yellow weather warning, which is in place from today until next Friday March 2. Exceptionally cold weather is forecast for next week with significant wind chill and severe frosts. The temperatures will begin to drop from tomorrow. On Sunday night, temperatures will fall to as low as -3C overnight with a widespread sharp to severe frost. Monday will be mainly dry with snow flurries in eastern areas.



Circumpolar Branches - Feb 15th

The aurora never happened, at least it never became significant enough for observers at mid northern latitudes, the CME and solar wind stream hit however the impact was weak with only a vibration stirring the magnetic field which barely increased solar wind speed levels. However since the night was clear Conor McDonald and I decided to go on a local shoot, not for aurora, but to check out a new location we found on the mountains near Tirkane and do a little test photography and perhaps shoot a star trail. We left after 23.00 UT and drove to our location then hiked up the mountain to a selection of trees we had discovered during a snow hike a few days earlier. This tree looked very nice, almost like a Bonsai to some degree with nice shape to the trunk and branches, I opened the tripod legs wide and positioned the camera as low as possible to the ground and began shooting a star trail, 10mm F/2.8 stopped down, ISO1600, 20 sec exposures. We had issues with high level cloud passing however there was nothing we could do about that, after all, this was just a location test, this is approximately 60 exposures stacked, the tree and clouds lit by town LP almost gave the scene an African feel to it.

This tree was stunning with bare branches reaching out to the sky, it looked very atmospheric and suitably spooky, you can see the trail of 1st magnitude star Vega rising behind the distant tree on the horizon. This was 10mm F/2.8 wide open, ISO1600, 25 seconds and a stack of 50 frames, the trail was going well however cut abruptly by thick high level cloud later. It was a great experience standing on this exposed remote location upon frozen ground watching these stunning trees covered in patches of snow with the stars doing their circumpolar dance overhead.

Conor suggested trying a black and white exposure, I hadn't tried that in a very long time so gave it a go, we side-lit the tree with a phone and it turned out very interesting indeed, great structure inside the tree, Cassiopeia to L, Ursa Minor and Ursa Major above. It began snowing heavy so we made our way back down the mountain again across a frozen tractor path then called it a night at 02.00 UT.

Wind Turbine Snow Storm & Photogenic Golden Hour Clearance Report - NEW

On February 11th 2018 during the sixth cold spell of the season my Wife and I spent the entire day winter chasing after waking up to a stunning snow fall in Co. Tyrone. We drove all day across Glenshane and Benbradagh, had a sliding adventure on the Birren road and encountered local blizzard conditions. However despite widespread snow the sky was cloudy and light was bad and I never found any photo opportunities. After 17.00 during last light we drove to the wind farm on the hills above Garvagh and got bombarded by a sustained squall of hail and snow, when the cell passed the sky cleared revealing a stunning scene with cell and anvil surrounded by blue sky above the turbines over a winter landscape all lit by golden hour sunlight which made for a sublime convective snow scene to end the day. One page report with 10 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

Glenshane Pass Night Blizzard & Birren Rd Truck Jack Knife Report - NEW

Glenshane Blizzard Report

First report of 2018 documenting a week of winter chasing when cold spell number of five produced the best snow falls of the season to date. Featuring trucks jack knifing on the Birren road, beautiful snow curtains and drone flying over the winter landscape. The highlight was the epic night blizzard on Glenshane Pass when Conor McDonald and I encountered a terrific high speed snow event with severe winds and snow drifts on the exposed mountain road on parallel with the famous 2010 blizzard in the same area making for the most thrilling snow event we have experienced for years. One page report with 17 images and 3 video clips. - REPORT.

New Nightskyhunter facebook Page - NEWS

I have created a new facebook page dedicated entirely to this website, I'm currently transitioning from my private page to a new public page which will feature links to all my site updates, reports, forecasts and also showcase my night sky and storm photography, drone videos and time lapse cinematography. If you already follow me then please like and follow my new page and spread the word, thanks very much for - Nightskyhunter Facebook Page

Impressive Winter Convective Cells At Benone Beach - NEW REPORT

Benone Winter Convection Report

December 27th was my final storm chase of 2017 when after a relaxing Christmas my Wife and I decided to chase to the north coast to intercept cells forming on an unstable post frontal air mass, the trip was also mainly an excuse for a day of fresh air and exercise. Not expecting much we were surprised to be greeted by a stunning winter multicell cb dominating the ocean horizon, this cell exhibited impressive structure sporting dramatic curtains of cascading hail and wet snow falling over the sea making for some of the finest convective scenes of the year. The day ended with more cells at sunset which I documented via DSLR and by drone making for the perfect end to the year. One page report with 12 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports

Astronomy is not the only subject I'm 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