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N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports - 2018

2018 was the most uneventful year of weather action I have ever experienced. The entire second half of the year was dominated by cloudy nights which resulted in many missed astronomical events, even the storm season ended abruptly with barely any CAPE for much of the year. However even a dire year can produce exciting and unexpected action and it was these events which made the entire year for me. The severe glaze ice event at Ballyronan, the Benbradagh thunderstorm which rumbled continuously for over an hour at close range and the awesome four day gorse fire event on Glenshane Pass combined with night sky time lapse shoots made the first half of 2018 a thrilling period which resulted in unforgettable memories. Check out the chases through these 14 image reports.

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.

Glenshane Pass Night Blizzard & Birren Road Truck Jack Knifed - Jan 2018
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. Wind Turbine Snow Storm - Feb 11th 2018
Report documenting three days of Winter action in response to a major set-up from 'The Beast From The East' when sustained Siberian air advected across all of UK and Ireland generating the most significant cold spell in years. On feb 28th Conor McDonald and I chased to Co. Armagh inside a Met Office amber warned area which was getting affected by non stop Irish Sea snow streamers where we encountered 8" of snow and local blizzard conditions. March 2nd produced the most epic Winter sight of our lives when Paul Martin, Nigel Mcfarland and I visited Ballyronan Marina where a remarkable ice event had formed. 3" to 6" of glaze ice encased all the trees and branches on the lough shore sporting jaw dropping structure, the results were the most dramatic ice formations we have seen in our entire lives! One page report with 26 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Epic Rare Ice Event At Ballyronan Marina - March 2nd 2018
The Beast From The East generated another rare event when the famous waterfall near Downhill Beach had frozen solid. On March 4th Roisin and I decided to check it out fully expecting to see the water flowing again however much to our shock the waterfall was still frozen for days on end, slabs of ice encased the flowing water while huge icicles hung from the cliff wall coated in white the entire way up the vertical face, we documented the event while cars galore arrived on the scene with families and children marveling at this wonderful spectacle from nature. Locals confirmed they had never seen this happen in their lives before making this yet another exceptional ice event thanks to this action packed Winter, 1 page report with 6 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Frozen Waterfall At Downhill Beach - March 4th 2018
On May 11th 2018 a strong cold front crossed the country bringing heavy rainfall associated with a broken squall line which produced rotation over Co. Tyrone. That evening the front cleared leaving low end instability in it's wake. Unknown to me at the time a cell had evolved and crossed the Sperrins, aided by convergence, wind shear and orographic lift a thunderstorm erupted to life to the W of Dungiven, I got tipped off within min's by my mates, checked radar, then raced out the road. I intercepted the storm on the hills above Swatragh in the form of a large and impressive shelf cloud which crept over the local wind turbines in the late evening light, this surprise storm presented me with the first structure event of 2018, one page report with 8 images. - REPORT. Swatragh Wind Turbine Thunderstorm - May 11th 2018
Two days of chasing hot air balloons around the countryside outside Maghera on May 28th and 29th 2018 as part of the 20th anniversary of the Sperrins Balloon Festival. Warm humid high pressure days complimented by formations of majestic hot air balloons, this report documents two days of chasing along back roads with other photographers to document the event and capture drone footage in the process. On page report with 4 images & 2 aerial video clips. - REPORT. Maghera Hot Air Balloons - Drone View
June 1st 2018, 1000 CAPE, LIs -4, high humidity and heat in the midst of a wonderful four week HP heat wave. I began my chase at Benbradagh outside Dungiven as a base of operations and ended up getting two thunderstorms. The main storm turned out to be the most prolific daylight thunder/lightning producer I have ever experienced. Due to the slack flow storm motion was the slowest I have encountered and from a sunny vantage point on the mountain we watched the entire life cycle of this intense thunderstorm which had solid updraughts and mean structure. The storm produced constant thunder for over 1 hour in close proximity while we watched in awe under sunshine which made for a memorable storm experience. Also a storm at Desertmartin and big convection spotting on the Sperrins on June 2nd. One page report with 15 images, 1 Vlog & 2 time lapse videos. - REPORT. Benbradagh Storm With Constant Thunder - June 1st 2018
New report documenting a remarkable period of high pressure hot weather which lasted for four weeks and ended up in a thunderstorm outbreak over a week long in the W of N. Ireland. I chased on June 7th, 8th and 9th and succeeded in intercepting storms on all three days. Highlights include a funnel cloud over Omagh, standing on the Sperrins between two close range thunderstorms and bagging another funnel from Glenshane. All days were hot and humid, I chased many miles and ended up on roads I have never been on before in my life surrounded by beautiful countryside. This report showcases images from these chases and my efforts to capture time lapse of storms. One page report with 19 images, 1 Vlog & 1 time lapse video. - REPORT. Heat Wave Thunderstorms - June 7th-9th 2018
N. Ireland is in the midst of a long heat wave with hot sunny days and a new June record max temp of 30.8C on June 27th. This same morning I got a phone call from a mate tipping me off to a gorse fire on Glenshane Pass, I drove up for a look, the fire soon turned into an historic event for this area and raged for two nights and three days. I spent all three days documenting the event on camera and by drone. Due to multiple fires on the mountain fire crews had to be dropped off by helicopter to battle the flames, the chopper against the late evening smoke plumes looked like a scene from a war movie. This report documents all three days, a fire sunset, the forest itself on fire on day 2 and an aftermath trip on day 3 to document the widespread damage. Two page report with 41 images and 4 video clips. - PAGE 1 & PAGE 2 Historic Glenshane Three Day Gorse Fire - June 27th 2018
July 4th 2018, N. Ireland still in the middle of a heat wave and drought conditions. My mate Conor McDonald called around for a chat during the evening, we casually looked to the east and were shocked to see a massive gorse fire in the distance. We gave chase from Maghera, got a sudden tire blow out on the back roads, raced to get it replaced, then made our way through Kilrea when we spotted the fire up close outside Rasharkin originating from peat land. We found a field, launched the drone and flew out to get an aerial perspective on what was going on. The drone view was absolutely incredible with the lowering sun shining through a quivering wall of ascending smoke, the filtered sunshine through the smoke and golden hour light generated a dramatic yellow and orange fiery vista which left us awestruck. This was a short and entirely unexpected last minute shoot, one page report with 4 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Dramatic Sunset Peat Fire Near Resharkin - July 4th 2018
The 2018 Perseid Meteor Shower looked to be clouded out for the peak so two clear nights were arranged for a watch during the build up to maximum. On Aug 8th/9th three of us undertook a nightly vigil at Ballintoy under superb clear skies where we had a BBQ and encountered 56 Perseids, a mag -6 fireball and were surprised by a pre-dawn late season NLC display, in fact, this was the latest NLCs I have ever observed in my life. On Aug 10th/11th six of us teamed up for another watch at Ballintoy two days before maximum, after another BBQ inside a bat cave we spent the night sky watching from the 50 million year old Ballintoy stacks under a vibrant Milky Way where we observed 134 Perseids, this report documents both these nights with star trail imagery. One page report with 10 images and 1 time lapse video. - REPORT. Perseid Meteor Shower & Late Season NLCs - August 2018
On August 24th 2018 I spent a pleasant night hunting for lunar rainbows or 'moonbows' at the wind turbines above Swatragh with John Fagan. It was a night of heavy showers with clear periods from an unstable NWly flow due to a post frontal maritime air mass. The set up presented a rare opportunity to catch moonbows from a waxing gibbous moon two days from full thanks to the low ecliptic angle which meant the moon stayed below 42 degrees in altitude all night long at this phase. We ended up observing nine different moonbows throughout the night, several of which had various colours visible to the naked eye. Here are several of the better bows, however it was the moonlit convective cloudscapes which really made the night for us. One page report with 13 images and 1 time lapse video. - REPORT. Moonbow Hunting At Swatragh Wind Turbines - Aug 24th 2018
On August 25th 2018 I was driving along the north coast under showers, my intention was to seek clear skies for aerial filming that afternoon. Once I passed under the core and made a turn onto the Point Road I was astonished to observe an unexpected funnel cloud clearly visible from the flanking area of the cell. I pulled over and made a dash for my camera, this beautiful white funnel cloud rotated and changed shape over the dramatic sunlit countryside against a backdrop of Binevenagh Mountain for 10 min's. During the latter stages of it's apparition the vortex took on the form of a long rope, at which stage it was very close to the summit of Binevenagh. There's a possibility this may have briefly touched down, details of this surprise visitor can be read in the report along with thoughts on how it formed in such a weak set-up along with funnel spotting tips and lessons learned. One page report with 12 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Funnel Cloud Over Binevenagh Mountain - August 25th 2018
A selection of photo shoots from September to November 2018 covering two visits to the moonlit waterfall at Dunservick along the Antrim coast, an observation of a newly discovered comet from Maghera and a cave with transient waterfall at Ballintoy harbour and moonlit convection. A combination of moonlit and dark night shoots covering still exposures and star trail photography and time lapse shooting. One page report with 22 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Moonlit Dunservick Waterfall, Comet Observing & Ballintoy Cave - 2018

'Ascent' - the Nightskyhunter 2018 storm, sky and nature showcase featuring twenty minutes of DSLR video, drone footage and time-lapse cinematography of storms, weather, winter scenes, heat wave fires, night sky scenes, NLCs, sunsets and much more. Please view in a new window at 1080p HD for the finest experience.


Martin McKenna

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