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N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports - 2019


2019 had its moments such as the beautiful snowfall earlier in the year which I documented over Binevenagh by drone and the late March thundersnow storm with shelf cloud at Benbradagh not to mention the Lough Neagh distant multicell thunderstorm convection time lapsed at sunset which was a nice moment. The Noctilucent Clouds were superb with several exceptional specimens time lapsed from Cookstown and over Mussenden Temple. The year featured other phenomena too such a 22 degree moon halo, lenticular cloud stacks, moonlit convection, a summer squall line shelf cloud intercept which was the chase of the season, many night time lapse shoots, a severe tunderstorm downdraught with hailstones impacting a fisherman on Benone beach, my first encounter with Bears and Wolves at Wild Ireland and even an nocturnal storm surge which swamped my van within seconds. I spent a considerable amount of time and effort to chase as much natural phenomena as I could and I'm certain that 2019 was my most active period for time lapse photography to date. You can re-live all these memories with me through the 16 chase reports below.

January 16th was my first storm chase of 2019 thanks to the arrival of unstable Arctic air with CAPE and wind shear increasing from 20 to 60 knots throughout the period which would generate convective showers of hail and snow with coastal areas indicating the greatest potential. I spent the entire day and night at the north coast with photographer Nigel McFarland shooting Winter cbs, DSLR time-lapse sequences & even drone footage of convection. After dark we captured sheared moonlit cells, time-lapse and even a surprise military flare exercise. We spent 12 hours on location and I acquired 2700 DSLR images to render. One page report with 16 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Winter cbs & Moonlit Convection - Jan 2019
January 22nd 2019 brought a much anticipated episode of Winter action to the hills of N. Ireland when an unstable air mass advected across the country bringing convective hail and snow showers. I drove to Benbradagh mountain near Dungiven where a fresh snowfall had taken place and for the next hour I got treated to sunshine and glorious blue skies which I documented by obtaining aerial video and imagery using the drone. Suddenly the sky darkened announcing the arrival of a huge cell with a sheared anvil that began moving rapidly in my direction. As the cell advanced it formed a spectacular shelf cloud almost touching the ground which provided the best Winter storm structure I have ever experienced. The cell impacted the area with frozen pea-sized hailstones, snow and rare thundersnow which made for a thrilling experience. One page report with 16 images and 3 videos. - REPORT. Benbradagh Thundersnow Shelf Cloud - Jan 22nd 2019
A surprise phone call from a mate alerted me to a good snowfall event on the morning of January 30th 2019 so I dedicated this day to aerial snowscapes with the Mavic 2 Pro. I spent the day filming snow scenes at Swatragh wind farm and Mussenden Temple however it was the Magilligan area which offered the greatest show surrounded by widespread snow to sea level reminding me of scenes from 2010. The highlight of the day was the spectacular Binevenagh mountain covered in deep snow complimented by polar blue skies and perfect sunshine which I documented by drone. This mountain provided me with epic scenes and my finest Winter reveal aerial footage to date, I captured panos and video footage making this an unforgettable snow shoot. One page report with 15 images and 3 video clips. - REPORT Beautiful Binevenagh Snowfall - Drone View - Jan 30th 2019
On February 2nd 2019 a cancelled night shoot turned into an early morning Winter shoot. Three friends and I spent 8 hours exploring the Sperrins in Co. Tyrone after a cluster of overnight snow showers had passed through leaving a beautiful sunny Winter's day in their wake. We spent much of the day obtaining drone imagery and aerial footage of the beautiful scenes on this area had to offer. The adventure began in the -3C snow-covered Beaghmore Stone Circles then relocated to Gortin Glen lakes, the stunning Gortin Forest route, then climaxing with beautiful ice patterns on the frozen Seven Sisters lakes on the Omagh road during Golden Hour. One page report with 15 images and 3 video clips. - REPORT. Gortin Glen Drone Snow Scenes -  February 2019
March 10th 2019 provided me with a chase day I couldn't ignore with decent instability for so early in the season with -40C upper air in the wake of a cold front. It would be a day of convection, hail and snow showers with a risk of thunderstorms. I chased to the north coast as a base of operations and hooked up with John fagan on Benone beach. By mid afternoon a large thunderstorm fired over Donegal then made its way to our position, as it overtook us the storm turned severe delivering a spectacular downdraught at 58.6mph with a barrage of hailstones and sand flying across the beach at high speed engulfing a fisherman who braved the onslaught, by definition this was a severe thunderstorm and a thrilling encounter. One page report with 9 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Severe Thunderstorm Outflow At Benone Beach - March 10th 2019
March 12th 2019 introduced a deep low pressure system named storm Gareth which would bring 80mph winds to the coast, high seas, and convective potential in a strongly sheared set-up with tornado potential. I spend 12 hours on location at the north coast where we got treated to non stop squally showers, ocean thunderstorms with active c-g rates and a dramatic cell before sunset. When darkness fell sporadic lightning flashes lit up the sky however the highlight of the event was a dramatic storm surge on Benone beach when the sea suddenly covered the beach and propagated across the concrete road like a tsunami. One page report with 13 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Storm Gareth Thunderstorms & Benone Beach Storm Surge - March 12th 2019
I have always wanted to film a fireworks display by drone however I always put off the event for various reasons due to weather or drone regulations. However after hearing about the Portstewart NW200 fireworks display on May 17th 2019 I finally decided I would tick it off my bucket list. The location and take off point satisfied all CAA regulations and I would be flying over the ocean which would be extra atmospheric. At 22.30 the fireworks erupted into life and from the rocks on the sea shore I launched my Phantom 3 Advanced and commenced aerial filming. The flight was a complete success, I was thrilled and satisfied with the experience in equal measure. Read more about how I went about the filming and my course of action pre-flight on the report. One page report with 4 stills and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Drone View Porstewart Fireworks Display - May 17th 2019
After a long drought the 2019 Summer storm season finally relented with a day of 600 CAPE and a risk of pulse storms. The odds were not great due to a lack of shear, cooler temps and cloud cover concerns with rain bands potentially killing the day. After a mid afternoon bust chase in Tyrone I returned home to be greeted by better solar heating and taller late evening towers. Radar showed a line of storms approaching Lough Neagh so I raced out the road, I battled frustrating roads and finally intercepted the line of cells S of Ballyonan, I followed them N through Gulladuff with nice gust front structure then finally I got treated to a beautiful late evening show from the Maghera countryside with sunlit cell sporting mammatus which I time-lapse departing into the distance at sunset. Also includes a missed funnel on camera and beautiful coastal sunset. One page report with 20 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Maghera Storm Cell - June 6th 2019
This report begins with a local chase on June 13th to intercept a gust front near Toome, progresses to a lament about recent storm busts in the 2019 chase season, then climaxes with the most spectacular NLC display I have seen since 2019. I documented the entire show from a road side near Cookstown where I watched in awe as an extensive type 5 display dominated the northern sky, illuminating objects, sporting real time motion, and unearthly structure with bizarre shapes and motion. A truly unforgettable night in the middle of the most active NLC season for over a decade. One page report with 15 images and 3 video clips. - REPORT. Cookstown Noctilucent Cloud Storm - June 17th 2019
On June 27th 2019 I decided to take a gamble and head to the north coast in the hope of capturing an NLC display over the famous foreground this place has to offer, after all, it would be the last clear night for a while. I left earlier and teamed up with Nigel McFarland, we documented a pleasant summer sunset from Binevenagh by drone, soon after we got shocked by a striking NLC display at the zenith in twilight. This faded however a new display rapidly formed which became one of the most photogenic of the season. We shot the NLCs over Mussenden Temple and Downhill Estate until dawn and I acquired my finest NLC time-lapse sequences to date which made for a great summer memory. One page report with 13 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Mussenden Temple Noctilucent Clouds - June 28th 2019
June 29th brought the convective event of the summer when unstable air overlapping 80 knots of deep layer shear triggered an organized evening thunderstorm over the west of NI. On a hunch and after detailed personal forecasting Paul Martin and I chased into Co. Fermanagh and intercepted a rapid moving squall line which traversed NE across much of the country. We battled traffic and torrential rain to stay ahead of the system and got rewarded with an embedded funnel cloud and strong long-lived rotation over the Omagh road, followed by thunder, and climaxing with a beautiful late evening shelf cloud over the countryside to the west of Lough Neagh which made for our most exciting chase in years. One page report with 26 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Co. Tyrone Squall Line Shelf Cloud - June 29th 2019
A detailed report documenting drone filming of a barely cut with combine harvester at Broighter Gold, a Cookstown NLC display then four days of storm chasing from an outbreak of unstable weather on August 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th which resulted in ten thunderstorms intercepted, a beautiful discrete country storm with funnel suspect, intense rainfall, strong rotation over Bellaghy Church, storm clouds over bales of hay at Cranfield and climaxing with a sudden late evening storm over Lough Neagh which we watched evolving from a cumulus to full cb. This was the storm which impacted Belfast and from which I acquired my finest convective time-lapse to date with the entire storm documented from birth to sunset with dramatic explosive updraughts in the last light of day. One page report with 26 images and 2 time lapse videos. - REPORT. August Storm Chasing, Time Lapse Shoots & Broighter Gold barely Cut
It has been too long, on September 20th 2019 it was time for a return visit to the iconic Fanad Head Lighthouse on the north coast of Co. Donegal along the Wild Atlantic Way with Paul Martin and Nigel McFarland. We arrived just in time to enjoy the location during golden hour during which time I filmed the lighthouse by drone, we then got treated to a glorious volcanic sunset afterglow with fanning crepuscular rays. At nightfall I shot time lapse with two cameras and captured the lighthouse from darkness through moonrise. After a much needed BBQ we then documented the derelict custom buildings in moonlight while battling strong gusts of wind which made for a memorable night under the superb skies of Donegal. One page report with 16 images and 3 video clips. - REPORT. Fanad Head Lighthouse Drone & Time Lapse Shoot - Sept 20th 2019
A new report featuring a selection of random imagery taken during 2019 which didn't make entry into my recent updates but which deserve showcasing. This is a combination of convective and nightscape scenes featured in no particular order, however all of which bring back fine memories which I wanted to document. This report includes stars & star trails from a Co. Tyrone church, An-Creagans mock up Bronze-age settlement, Swatragh church, Davagh forest and daytime ground and aerial scenes of north coast convection and inland storms and rainbows including robust updraughts over Belfast. One page report with 21 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Various Imagery 2019
Early on a September morning I woke early to a dark sky full of pre-dawn stars, my intention was to head to the north coast for aerial filming at the ocean and to catch the sunrise light. Quite by chance I ended up at Magilligan Point at the entrance to Lough Foyle, the day got off to a challenging start with a lot of cloud and showers hampering the light. Suddenly a rainbow formed over the lough and the sun broke free of cloud, I got my Mavic 2 Pro in the air and was amazed to capture a 360 degree full circle rainbow on the surface of the sea. This in combination with the low sun angle, swirling sand and tides, made for a stunning scene which validated my early morning rise. One page report with 5 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Beautiful Sunrise Full Circle Rainbow At Magilligan Point - Sept 2019
I have always wanted to photograph Bears, I never thought it would happen unless I flew to Canada, however a dream suddenly came true when 'Wild Ireland' appeared on the television news. An animal sanctuary located in Burnfoot within Co. Donegal featuring rescued animals by Solicitor and Zoologist Killian McLaughlin. Roisin and I spent four hours at Wild Ireland on November 5th 2019 and had a wonderful time. This report features imagery of the three Brown Bears and Wolf Pack which was a dream come true for me. I will be visiting this place again in the future but for now these images document my first look at these marvelous animals. One page report with 24 images. - REPORT. Wild Ireland - Bears & Wolves - November 2019

My 2019 end of year video presentation featuring my video and time lapse highlights showcasing various storm, weather, winter and atmospheric optics scenes all captured from N. Ireland this year. This is a combination of DSLR video, DSLR time lapse cinematography, Go Pro, Mavic 2 Pro drone and even mobile phone footage. often using two DSLRs at the same time. If only I could work out the hours, diesel and images taken to do justice to the amount of time I've spent out in nature to get this material, however it was always time very well spent, either solo or with good friends, and always in the company of Mother Nature. This video is really about those special memories. I hope you enjoy all 27 minutes of sky and nature scenes. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what 2020 will bring!


Martin McKenna

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