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Night Lightning Over Scotland, Sperrins Storm Chase, Horseshoe Vortex, Suspect Wall Cloud & Funnel Cloud - June 25th & 26th 2020

As I write this report near the end of June it dawns on me that we are half way through the year already with perhaps another two or three months of Summer remaining before the first signs of Autumn will appear. 2020 is sure going in fast and for many people it has been a year they would wish to forget due to world events and the wretched Covid-19 crisis which is still present and already showing signs of evolving into a second wave. Lock down for many has been a nightmare, it saw an increase in mental health issues, great stress upon families and relationships and tested the will of many people, not to mention the fear and paranoia the virus has instilled within the vast majority of the population and the destruction of many businesses, some of which will never recover. I never mentioned my own experience with lock down however I may as well cover this briefly here for the record since it's a part of the history of 2020.

At first lock down seemed like the end of the world for me, I'm a person who spends a lot of time out in nature, by day and by night, hearing the sounds of birds singing, cattle chewing grass, wasps and bees and the majestic stirring and rumbling of the ocean are my bedfellows and seldom a day goes by that I don't get some kind of nature fix. These locations are the foundation of my photography, time lapsing thunderstorms, shooting star trails and flying my drone over the ocean are as much a part of me as the air I breath, doing these things is my life. When we were fully locked down I was troubled, the thought of missing out on these things was something I didn't think I could handle well, however despite my complaining I always find the silver lining to every cloud. I'm the kind of person who never gets bored, I always have something to do and that something usually involves my passions. I kept extremely busy for much of the time, I was helping Roisin with her work from home and doing essential deliveries for family and workers with disabilities, the work at home often kept me busy all day and well into the night, I would often be finishing up around 03.00.

By amazing good fortune we were treated to an outstanding period of high pressure weather, every day was sunny with blue skies and very warm, I used this to my adventure working with Roisin outside while listening to podcasts on youtube from the BAA and Comet Watch, or the latest shows from radio host James Whale and of course I indulged in youtube doing research into photography, drones, nightscapes etc, I have a selection of youtube channels which I follow which cover a broad interest range and these passed my time swiftly such as interviews with Carl Sagan and anything of value I could find on comets, I even had a laugh with David Icke, studied a few famous UFO cases, I educated myself on Covid-19 by hearing both sides of the story, the governments version, the scientists, mainstream and the other scientists who were being silenced and the conspiracy theorists, I feel its important to have an unbiased view and process all the information first before deciding how I feel about what's going on, it was an educational time.

Lock down was a great time to actually slow down and relax, I read new books and re-read old favorites from Leslie Peltier, David Levy, Carl Sagan and many more, I spent a lot of time reflecting and read through all nine of my observing log books which brought back delightful 'war stories' with auroras, comets and storms, looking back on these fond memories made me really appreciate my roots and how lucky I was to have had such a solid foundation with the sky. Re-living these memories felt like a re-birth, this was something I needed to do to find balance and connect with my younger self once more. I didn't watch normal TV at all, I was either working inside or outside and catching an abundance of vitamin D and a tan in the process, I walked into the countryside every day and in the back yard I began stretching exercises and shadow boxing to keep my body in shape, this physical activity greatly helped vent any tension. Roisin and I watched 'The Last Kingdom' on Netflix, it was great to find a good series which we could both enjoy together, and of course I would not miss out on Forces TV at 6pm, no matter what I was doing I took time out to watch 'The Dukes of Hazzard' which aired twice a day on this sky channel, I loved this show when I was younger and I enjoyed every minute of it as an adult. There's something about this show I just can't get enough of, I think its because its always sunny with blue skies, good always overcomes evil and the sight of the orange General Lee speeding along the back roads in a cloud of dust surrounded by awesome countryside with wild Horses, fields, trees, bales of hay or the General jumping over a river, I loved the countryside in the show and I think that deep down it connected with my own love for the countryside here.

Great fortune continued as we got treated to night after night of clear skies and since my foundation is that of an astronomer I jumped into the night sky with 100% dedication and passion. I cleaned my Meade 8" LX10 and observed the moon and planets every night, countless Messier and NGC objects and tracked the nightly motion of three comets which were perfectly placed in the northern circumpolar skies to be viewed over the rooftops where I live. I sketched these comets and made records of their changing apperance, their varying tails, and was fascinated by the gradual disintegration of Y4 ATLAS. By day I read about observing the HII regions with M33, observing M81 with the naked eye and delved into the history of great comets of the past. We got treated to a rare conjunction between Venus and the Pleiades, in fact, Venus itself passed through this famous star cluster which I recorded on camera. I began visual comet hunting again and really enjoyed re-connecting with my past once more and during these nightly sessions I noted just how much my observational skill and eye sight had improved from such constant practice. I later bagged comet SWAN in a dramatically bright twilight sky which put my count at four new comets to my collection, this was very fruitful indeed. What struck me most about lock down was how people's attitudes changed from the material and fast and furious to a more relaxed look at things and a realization about what was really important in life. There was a massive boom in astronomy, everyone wanted telescopes or to see something in the night sky, I had never seen anything like it before, suddenly the world shifted from watching trash television to enquiring about what was a better telescope for their son, a refractor?, reflector? or compound?, this was an amazing turn of events.

Nature seemed to bounce back fast and reclaimed what man had took, air pollution rapidly decreased, wild life in Africa began to venture into the cities, Lions slept on main roads and the horrible sound of traffic and constant noise was either reduced or entirely absent. I can vouch for this myself, normally when I'm out with the telescope all I can hear is the constant sound of late night traffic on the carriageway near Cookstown, but during lock down the nights were silent and beautiful, all I could hear on a nightly basis was the sound of Sheep in the fields or some other denizen of the night, this once again brought me back to my younger comet hunting days in Maghera which were filled with memories of audio from birds and cattle or the crash of the large snowy Owl which used to perch in the tree in my back garden on Summer nights then swoop silently over my head like a stealth bomber, these were cherished moments and yet again I felt like they had returned to me in modern times thanks to my trusty old telescope by my side. I also recorded many vlogs, this was an excuse to keep busy and focused, I used these to share my thoughts and even to educate about meteor showers and telescopes or how to shoot time lapse, it was my intention to help others in the process.

Despite all the negativity in the world I can say from a personal perspective that 2020 has been a great year so far from a sky perspective. I had a wonderful three night Winter shoot at the new Sperrin View Glamping pods, I got treated to perhaps the best sunset skyscape I have ever seen, nice winter snowscapes, I experienced a severe squall and big swells at the north coast and diamond dust optics over snow at Moneyneany. By early Spring we had a wonderful evening sky apparition of Venus and the Zodiacal Light from Beaghmore Stone Circles then Ballintoy just days before lock down commenced. During lock down itself we had two days in a row of spectacular complex halo displays with rare arcs which were the finest I have ever seen in my life, for many on social media this was a new experience as it seemed half the country was out observing halos and capturing them on their phones, the public wanted to know what these strange forms in the sky were, once again it was nature which took to the stage, stole the show, and got us all looking up and collectively as a country we all looked in awe and learned new things.

By yet more great fortune we had no decent thunderstorms during the entire three months of lock down, this was staggering as I do think I would have descended into the depths of madness if I had to sit in the house while storms rumbled 20 miles away, this was my worst nightmare of all and it never happened, we had no convective weather, instead pure sunshine and fair weather for the most part. During the second half of lock down I began to get restless and my desire to see a storm burned brightly inside, I had just finished reading a book about the life of Tim Samaras called 'The Man Who Caught The Storm' and it was this that which had me scanning the skies and studying the models in vain for a hint of storms. Then as lock down restrictions eased the atmosphere flipped and I got my thunderstorms, a proper outbreak too with a perfect set-up for big storms and I chased with purpose and raw passion and enjoyed every second of it, talk about great timing from nature. So all this leads me to say one thing, never ever take for granted what you have. Even when I was doing my essential drives I recalled looking at the grass in the fields and the Cows with swaying tails and I decided that I would never ever take this for granted again and that I would make the most of every opportunity and it was with this mind set that takes me on to my latest chase.

June 25th, we ended up getting one of our best storm set-ups in years. This was a very complex outlook with CAPE values in the 1600 range and Lifted Index varying between -3 and -5 with some models showing -7. This extremely unstable Sly/SEly flow was expected to develop a loaded gun scenario with high energy trapped then suddenly released to generate explosive thunderstorm formation. With such high instability one can expect intense thunderstorms and with models showing 30-40 knots of shear inland with up to 60 knots over the ocean associated with -40 degree C air aloft one could expect severe thunderstorms and even supercells. TORRO had issued a convective discussion and Convective Weather had placed us in a moderate risk box overlapped by a severe box, I honestly don't recall ever seeing a forecast like that for N. Ireland, this was shaping up to be a one in ten year event. Current thinking was that if there was enough solar heating then surface based supercells could form inland or west in the evening then as night arrived we could see the on set of severe elevated thunderstorms. This was all extremely exciting and all of us storm fanatics in Ireland were chatting and planning, one thing we all agreed upon was that there would be little in the way of sleep over the next 36 hours or more.

Thursday June 25th was a gorgeous sunny day and solar heating wasn't hindered at all for the most part, I hadn't slept much the previous night due to all the excitement and I was up very early looking at the charts, I decided that even a cat nap wasn't going to happen as I was to obsessed so I just got on with things. As the day unfolded I began to wonder if anything was going to happen, the cap had stopped anything happening and by early evening I was convinced that the surface based aspect of the forecast was a goner, now all hopes held on the elevated storms. These storms have bases which are extremely high, hence the term elevated, the aviation forecast for that day mentioned Cb bases in the 3000ft to 6000ft range. In my opinion elevated storms are not a photogenic event in daylight, however if you get them during twilight or night then these storms can be epic. Elevated storms do not require solar heating, assuming there's sufficient shear and instability they can travel for hundreds of miles, they tend to produce copious precipitation and on other occasions they produce little or none at all. They are major lightning producers, in fact, prolific lightning rates and because of these high bases the bolts travel a lot further to the ground and hence have more energy, positive strikes are not uncommon and such a caliber of storms do present a risk of damage to buildings, people and livestock. Due to big CAPE hail was also possible in the 2cm-4cm range.

That morning elevated thunderstorms formed over the north coast and moved north back-building for hours, they turned into a supercell over Scotland and dropped hail almost as large as golf balls. However back inland within N. Ireland things were getting frustrating and nothing was clear cut, I had yet to figure out where I was chasing. I noted the increasing presence of Altocumulus Castellanus in the skies over Cookstown by evening, these clouds are a visual cue of mid level instability and can be a sign of storms later. Nothing showed on radar though and the sky was bone dry, I was anticipating a bust and to make things more difficult there was great disagreement between models and the television forecast. The latter was giving storms after midnight over central Ulster, that would be handy for me, however high resolution models also showed a MCS over the west later in the night and over the Irish Sea around dawn, so I was undecided between inland west and east with no clues what to do. By 22.00 in the evening it was time to make a decision, I had considered inland a non event at this time and the west was seeing showers, however the east had major storms. TORRO updated about two elevated supercells over Scotland however what got my interest was an elevated storm which had passed over SW England and moving up the Irish Sea, it was producing lightning and growing in intensity, I figured this could be my only target of the night. It worked its way up the sea and became very organized with prolific lightning, I didn't have time now to get to the far east coast however I decided on a whim that I needed to do something or I would see nothing, the plan was to hit the north coast and move to the north east and with luck we might see some of these storms near Scotland, I already had all the gear in the van then at 23.00 I hit the road north.

As I drove it was still warm and muggy, I made good progress as the roads were quiet then I made it to the Co. Antrim coast, our base was Magheracross car park where I met up with photographers Nigel McFarland and Colleen Webb. We could sense the anticipation and excitement in the air, we spotted several updraught towers to the N, I said I wouldn't be surprised if they started sparking, a few minutes later Colleen and Nigel saw lightning, then I witnessed it too, we had scored already. These updraughts were far away with random flashes but very easy to see, it was still twilight and not quite dark enough so we decided to get footage.

We climbed the wooden fence and got set up on the grass near the cliff which offered us a marvelous view across the ocean to Scotland and to our right was the famous ruins of Dunluce Castle. We watch more random flashes from the towers to the north then suddenly the north east sky began to light up too. These where huge updraughts going up ahead of the Irish Sea supercell complex, these where over the North Channel and brushing the west coast of Scotland and the sky was getting darker by the minute. We began recording video, I managed to capture several flashes, this is a frame from the footage, keep in mind these updraughts must have been huge to have been seen from this range so easily, as we watched the Cb tops were lit up from within several times within a second. If we were seeing this so readily from those towers ahead of the supercell surely we would get a great show when the main storm got closer so we debated about moving further east along the coast, we all agreed and the night's adventure began. Three of us chased along the coastal route, two vans and a car, as we drove the storm towers flashed from within, the further east we went the better, every bit of ground gained was to our advantage.

Nigel, Colleen and I chased in full combat mode, there was no time to waste, we communicated via walkie talkie and continuously reviewed our game plan. We stopped briefly at the look out point above White Park Bay where we decided to keep heading east, it was now full darkness, it was quite an adventure as we raced along the back roads over hills and into dips and negotiated tight hair pin turns with little warning, we passed through Ballycastle and shot further east into Cushendun, Nigel found us a good place to pull over and it was from here where we spent the remainder of this short Summer's night. I don't know off hand the name of this location, it was a crescent shaped beach with what looked like an hotel or apartment on the right hand side, straight ahead faced east to north east and the view was perfect across the sea. From here the darkness on the horizon was periodically interrupted by flashes of lightning from several distant storms over Scotland, I set up two cameras on the beach, the 600D with 50mm F/1.8 lens and 5D Mark IV with 15mm F/2.4 lens so I had two different focal lengths trained on the area of interest. At first it was so dark it was difficult to know where to point the smaller field of view of the 50mm so I had to watch for more flashes until I could size up where to angle the lens, I scarified a few bolts near the edge of frame before I got lined up, I found that the region of sky to the right of a red flashing light from a marker or buoy over the ocean was the perfect spot, I stopped the lens down to F/2.8, ISO400 and an exposure of 6 seconds and began shooting time lapse, I did the same with the larger camera then sat back in the sand and watched.

Behind me I could see the dark outline of Colleen and Nigel shooting out to sea, there was a camper van beside us so we had to keep our excited voices low, we ended up whispering across the night air and this actually added to the surreal atmosphere. I bagged several c-gs or cloud to ground bolts, this one was the best, you can see just how high based those storms are and how much atmosphere those powerful bolts had to cover to strike the ground. It was a pity they where so far away however seeing these storms at all from this range was still a real treat. I was getting text updates from storm spotter Owain Rice located in Co. Down who was watching the Isle of Man storm, he was reporting constant lightning and even a bolt from the blue, on radar it had that classic Eagle Wing look of a supercell.

This was a really atmospheric moment, I was crouched on the warm sand on a beach in the middle of the night, the only sound was from the gentle lapping of the surf on the beach with distant rumbles of thunder from the storm moving up the Irish Sea while lightning flashes continued over the ocean in front of us. After a considerable amount of time watching we were about to call it a night as dawn would soon be near however the lightning drew us back once more so we set all the gear up again for one last round. It was then that I captured this scene which made my night, a huge pink anvil crawler whipped across the entire storm illuminating the entire anvil and precip core, it was my best image from the night, considering this was from a storm over west Scotland at perhaps 50-60km distant is impressive, if only those storms had been half that distance away, what a view it would have been. However seeing these bolts from these massive towers really was a result from a very difficult chase, at least we wouldn't be going home empty handed. We drove back home along the coastal route watching distant flashes of lightning, this time to the west and south west, we parted ways near Coleraine and I headed back to Cookstown, along the way I encountered nasty downpours, the rain had saturated the roads and I had to slow down for safety, at 04.00 BST I finally made it home exhausted, I went straight to bed to get what rest I could as the following day also had good storm potential.

June 26th, yet another good set-up with 1000-1200 CAPE, LIs -5, good surface heating, convergence and 25 knots shear which rapidly intensified to 40 knots by early evening. The Met Office had issued a yellow warning for thunderstorms and Convective Weather had placed parts of N. Ireland in a moderate risk box for flash flooding, large hail and frequent lightning. I was already buzzing from last night's hectic chase and already had the gear packed, I didn't get to worked up about this day as I was concerned storms could be too elevated but I decided I would chase anyway if things fired, after all, chasing anything is Heaven compared to being trapped during lock down, I didn't need any more motivation than that thought to keep me sharp. The models indicated the midlands to the north and north west were most at risk, the Sperrins through to the coast, good chase territory so I kept watch. The day began cloudy but suddenly cleared then temperatures climbed rapidly. I was in the sunroom on the lap top going through social media and replying to emails then I decided to refresh the Met Office radar, suddenly out of nowhere there was a growing storm in a line with three red cores located to the west of Omagh, storm motion was to the north west but these where slow moving and I suspected back-building so I'm decided to give it a shot.

I left Cookstown and headed out my old favorite chase country on the Omagh Road and drove west, my mind set was relaxed, it was simply my intention to go for a casual drive and likely head back home again. It was another one of those fantastic chase days, the sky was really talking with warm sunshine and blue skies and convection stirring fast, two large updraughts were visible to the west and another to the north west, I got a text from Paul Martin saying massive towers visible to the west of Omagh, I decided to change by westerly heading and go north west instead as this was the direction storms where moving so I might have a better chance of an intercept in that area so I took a random road to the right not far ahead of the Beetling Mill and drove across country into the heart of the Sperrins driven entirely by instinct, I always love it when this happens, I usually end up having a great adventure.

I kept the towers within visual line of sight and used the read out on my sat nav to take me in a north west direction, I quickly ended up ascending the Sperrins, I was on the higher mountain road adjacent to the Omagh Road then veered off into proper rural countryside. I drove along steep hills, tight bends, descended into valleys which looked like they came from a fairy tale, the countryside here was outstanding, rich fields and green rolling landscapes, mountains, trees, Sheep, Cows, Horses, I'm pretty sure I passed a few farm houses with Hens running about, then ahead I could get glimpses of a large precip core which was certainly the core on the developing storm on radar earlier, the precip had a deep thundery blue colour which contrasted beautifully over the vibrant landscape, this was some of the most gorgeous countryside I had ever chased a storm over, I was really glad I decided to chase this day just for this wonderful visual experience. As I gained ground I could see the updraught base move into view as it revealed itself from behind a crest on the Sperrins, the base was mean and black with big dark chunks of scud, not the outflow kind, but the proper inflow variety, this storm was growing and feeding and to me it looked quite surface based which I hadn't expected so I kept chasing.

Suddenly a unusual phenomena appeared in the sky in the form of a rotating form like the letter 'U' suspended in the air not far from the upper flank of the storm, I recognized at once what it was, this was a Horseshoe Vortex. These are a rare meteorological phenomena, I had only ever witnessed one many years ago from Benone Beach but had never seen one since, now here was another visible against the backdrop of a rumbling thunderstorm. I couldn't find a safe place to pull over, I desperately wanted to get a DSLR capture with the telephoto lens but due to these narrow roads and no space to pull over I had to keep on driving, these are frames from the window mounted Go Pro.

Dodging a tractor while trying to keep track of the vortex. A Horseshoe Vortex is a type of shear funnel, they actually are rotating just like a funnel cloud would however they are not attached to any updraught based and often seen suspended in the sky on their own or above Cumulus clouds, rising thermals of air lift the cloud vertically, the centre of the thermal moves faster so the cloud rises higher at the centre and this creates the horseshoe shape, shearing winds - a change in wind speed or direction with height - cause the cloud to spin, think of it as a horizontal funnel, they are extremely rare indeed, this sighting alone already made this chase worthwhile.

Keep in mind that even the 'narrow' field of view setting on the Go Pro Hero 4 is still a very large field and as such objects look smaller and further away than in reality, to me at this time it was a large and striking sight against a dark background of blue storm clouds. Also the settings on my Go Pro had changed, for some reason it was not on spot metering and exposure compensation was 0 so it kept over exposing the clouds and even blowing out the sky which was extremely annoying, but at least I still got a record of it which you can watch on the video, I wish I had thought of checking my Nextbase dash cam as I'm sure it would have handled the scene exceptionally well.

After taking several minor roads which came to dead ends I eventually ascended the mountain and made it onto nice open territory, I pulled onto a narrow grass verge and got out for images. This is an extreme wide angle capture, storm based extending across a large area of sky, moving L to R and slightly towards me, dense curtains of precip were breaking out, the anvil was sheared far downrange to the right and out of frame and angry thunder rumbled across the countryside.

The storm slowly crept over the countryside growling with rumbles as it did so, I saw no lightning whatsoever, this was a sign the discharges where taking place high up within the updraught towers, I set up two DSLRs on the side of the road with wide angle lenses and shot a time lapse, there's no better feeling setting out on a storm chase then finding a storm, especially having it all to yourself up close and personal in the middle of nowhere, it really felt like a proper communion. A lowering began to form and I casually dismissed it as a gust front/shelf cloud out flow feature, however I began to think differently at it developed, I opened the van and took out my back up Canon 600D with 18mm lens to get closer into the area of interest.

There was an interesting battling going on with this storm, at the moment it was in a balance between inflow and outflow forms, the latter would always win in the end but for the moment it had briefly transitioned into a curious phase. On the one hand the cloud to the middle right and closer to the camera had that outflow 'shelfy' look to it, however on the other hand the big lowering below it was clearly an inflow feature, the storm was still feeding on warm unstable air and with the lowering cloud tapered towards the precip core I was certain that this was a wall cloud. A lowering pointing towards the precip is a wall cloud, a lowering pointing away our outward from the precip tends to be a shelf cloud.

The underside of the base even looked rounded and cloud could be seen rising and lifting into the base, a wall cloud is an abrupt lowering under the updraught base of a storm and marks the area of strongest inflow, these lowerings can be the visual clue to future funnel cloud or even tornado development if they can continue unimpeded, this applies to rotating wall clouds of course, I didn't see rotation at this distance however the time lapse did hint at rotation. Either way it was a very interesting lowering and my best structure scene of the day.

I watched for funnels until the lowering became more ragged as outflow from the core began to kill off the supply of inflow and the storm began its shift to full outflow dominant, however the base still looked promising so I continued chasing, this time more on more of a north course as I wanted to get ahead of the base yet stay away from rain so I could keep the updraught base in view.

A race along more back roads ensued, some of which I don't think I have ever been on in my life, all the while the base began to improve with a large well defined RFB ahead, the shear was doing its job, I was located approximately seven miles west of Derry/Londonderry, I spotted this huge field and pulled over onto the grass verge, I was extra careful this time as during my last chase I broke a spring doing this very thing. I set up the 5D Mark IV with 15mm lens into the field and began shooting a time lapse, huge base well sheared away from the precip but also in the process of getting under cut and starting to take on a gust front appearance. The precip core on this looked nasty, there must have been hail falling from that, I was on the edge of the core exactly where I wanted to be and aside from a few raindrops I was mostly dry and to compliment the scene loud rumbles of thunder descended from the sky above me where the unseen thunder heads did their thing.

Amazingly I watched a brief funnel cloud form under this high base, I was surprised as I thought the outflow mode would have hampered any such vortex by now. The funnel was yellow-white with the naked eye and could be seen changing shape with a very smooth edge, the funnel was of low contrast as more precip was breaking out and falling between the funnel and me, this was my first funnel sighting of the 2020 season.

Remnant of the funnel still visible before it vanished from view, even without the funnel this was such a cool scene with the large storm base at such close range over this vibrant field. The storm rumbled then moved off in the direction of Co. Donegal so I left it at peace, I was content now with today's offerings, I decided I would head east in the direction of the coast and see what was happening.

As I battled traffic going through the centre of the city I had a great view of this huge high based updraught which expanded in real time above me, I had the Go Pro tilted looking up for this. I passed through the city and east back onto less congested roads, all around me convection boiled and the sky was still full of promise, I realised I was sweating from the heat and humidity and slightly dehydrated so I pulled into the lay by outside Greysteel and got outside to stretch my legs. It was very warm and the sun blazed, I sat near a picnic table and ate snacks and drank water as I watched towers bubble over the west side of Lough Foyle and time lapsed a nice turkey tower shearing over as I ate. After a period of watching and satisfied I wasn't going to miss anything cool I headed back, this time I took the turn off and ended up outside Limavady and found a filling station and shop where I bought dinner for later, as I waited at the till I watched a line of impressive updraughts going up to the NW, I was tempted to time lapse them over the station but I was starting to get a little tired from all the action on the road, I had done well enough and with that I began the drive home.

I was somewhere deep in the countryside between Limavady and Dungiven and noticed a very interesting base so I pulled over for a look, my instincts were telling me to watch for a while so I did. The base was high but well formed, far above dark grey Towering Cumulus erupted and over the hills I could see convergence at work, I decided this was a storm forming, I shot a time lapse of this base and sure enough the first rain drops began to fall and thunder boomed aloft. The storm went from clouds to full on torrential rainfall and lightning within minutes, in-cloud bolts flickered above me and thunder rumbled every couple of minutes, I had to seek shelter in the van due to the intensity of the rainfall, hail began too which made a loud clanging sound on the roof. Once the rain passed I was back out for another time lapse, I noted two areas of rotation under the now elevated base and with that I was back on the road after encountering my second storm of the day.

Somewhere on the main Belfast to Derry/Londonderry road I emerged from a side road into a core of rain, I could glimpse a gust front feature, I drove east to get out of the core into dry air for a better look and pulled over for a look. The light was low, the sky was covered in a milky grey flat mid level cloud and all colour was gone from the clouds, however the sight of this storm passing over the main road made for a fitting end to a good solid chase as thunder rumbled and updraughts expanded by the second as they used up the last CAPE of the day. If only this had been night time, imagine catch those updraughts flickering with lightning with stars. This time I did head back home, I had only started out for a short drive to have a look at the sky however I ended up spending eight hours chasing, I bagged three thunderstorms, witnessed a horse shoe vortex, a funnel cloud, suspect wall cloud, rotation, plenty of thunder and wonderful country scenes in what can only be described as a great solo road trip.

Chase vlog covering the set-up for the June 25th night storms, the flashing updraughts over Scotland, then the chase on June 26th complete with time lapse sequences. This day didn't pass without incident and did suffer a casualty in the form of my Canon 600D. When I was shooting that storm over the field the image was perfect, I took another image and a large black shadow appeared on the image, I figured it was the lens hood, so I changed to a lens which had no hood and sure enough the black shadow remained, it wasn't visible in the view finder or via live view so it looks like this was an internal fault perhaps caused by a displaced shutter curtain. So I'm down one camera for time lapsing, which still leaves me with my other back up 600D and new 5D Mark IV. I hope you enjoyed the report, things look quiet now convectively speaking for the near future so I'm glad I invested so much time and energy into these chases over the last week and with luck there will be more storms to come this Summer, thanks very much for reading.


Martin McKenna

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