N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports - 2022


2022 was the most challenging year I've ever seen. The year was destroyed by cloud which yielded few clear nights, a grey Summer, no NLCs and very few aurora and convective set-ups to chase. That being said it still had some great memories and special moments. The aerial snow scenes on the Sperrins, several G1 auroras with Zodiacal Light, a close range funnel cloud, milky way & airglow scenes, a great multicell storm, elevated supercell night lightning, a drone fog inversion and moonlit sunflowers with stars. However the true highlight of the year was the Lough Foyle structured supercell thunderstorm (rare) and spectacular hoar frost scenes in Co. Tyrone which surpassed anything I had seen since 2010, these two events were the star attractions of the year. Why not re-live these chases via the detailed image reports below.

2022 got off to a great start with a huge change in the weather pattern bringing clear nights and our first snow chase of the new year. On January 1st we celebrated the start of the year with a BBQ and fire pit in the Sperrins under a canopy of stars, it was from there that we witnessed distant lightning flashing over the ocean. On January 6th/7th a nocturnal coastal chase resulted in more distant lightning then a wonderful daylight snow chase from Glenshane Pass, over the Birren Road and climaxing at Moneyneany. The snow was 9cm deep and the sunshine and blue skies made for a very photogenic day. The highlight was building a snowman on the Birren then drone filming of dramatic blowing snow back-lit by the setting sun at Monenyneany and a BBQ on the snow to end the chase. One page report with 15 images and 3 video clips. - REPORT. Moneyneany Aerial Snow Scenes - Jan 7th 2022
On January 10th/11th 2022 I embarked on an overnight adventure to capture drone footage of cable laying vessel C S Sovereign which was undergoing a fibre optics undersea laying operation on Drains Bay between Ballygally and Larne. I drove through the night, did three night flights to the ship lit up on the bay, did an eerie walk to haunted Cairndu House in pitch darkness then waited in the van under the stars until sunrise to capture this most unusual vessel in golden hour sunshine. Something different, a road trip and adventure of a drone pilot, I hope you enjoy the read. One page report with 14 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Cable Laying Vessel C S Sovereign On Drains Bay - Overnight Drive - Jan 11th 2022
February 4th 2022 was my first storm chase of the year. A 5am rise to make it to the north coast for first light to shoot cells associated with a cold unstable post-frontal air mass overlayed with more than 40 knots deep layer shear. I spent the day on Benone beach with chaser friends shooting and time lapsing cells with dramatic hail curtains, the highlight was a line of low topped tilted towering cumulus with well defined updraught base, this convection would spawn a waterspout off Runkerry Head. That night I captured my first aurora of the season at Beaghmore when a sub storm produced naked eye beams for a fleeting moment. One page report with 13 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Benone Morning Sheared Convective Cells - Jan 2022
February 2022 turned out to be a very active month of weather thanks to the jet stream surging across UK and Ireland with 200mph winds aloft feeding in deep low pressure system drains which had a notable impact on the country. Within seven days we had storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin which brought severe winds, structure damage, countless downed trees and flooding. This report focuses on the convective and cold sector components of two of these storms featuring blowing snow, convective cells, moonlit snow at An Creagan and a beautiful snowfall on Glenshane Pass and Benbradagh for my birthday. The highlight was the menacing squall with blowing hail and snow curtains behind Benbradagh summit which I captured by drone. One page report with 20 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Storms Eunice, Franklin & Snow Squalls - Feb 2022
March 2022 presented us with a bounty of clear starry nights thanks to high pressure weather. This report documents several nights devoted to capturing the Zodiacal Light (ZL), first in west Tyrone where we spent a wonderful night at a lake with spectacular star reflections on the water. Then we went on a road trip to Co. Donegal where we captured the beautiful landscape by drone and experienced the ZL with embedded Moon, the aurora borealis also appeared in the same camera frame thanks to a G1 geostorm from a solar wind stream. A great time spent with friends under truly dark skies. One page report with 16 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Co. Donegal Aurora Borealis & Zodiacal Light - March 2022
March 2022 turned out to be a pleasant and active month for sky action and perfect Spring weather thanks to strong high pressure which brought fine sunny days and clear nights. HP haze and Saharan dust resulted in beautiful sunsets when the solar disk was visible to the naked eye. Large sunspots also appeared on the sun with M-class flares unfurling CMEs. I also captured a surprise funnel cloud from Lough Fea which lasted for over 20 min's making it the longest duration vortex I've ever seen. The climax of this month was the all-night aurora watch at Ballintoy with Paul Martin on the 31st when we got rewarded with a photogenic G1 aurora during the pre-dawn hours in perfect dark skies from the famous sea stacks. One page report with 16 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Ballintoy Sea Stacks Aurora & Lough Fea Funnel Cloud - March 31st 2022
When high pressure takes charge of the weather I invest a lot of time drone filming and late April was one such great period of dry sunny weather. This report focuses on aerial filming of a beautiful rapeseed field at Binevenagh, a sunspot sunset, and drone filming of specialist ship Wind Server which arrived at Port of Larne on April 29th. A supply jack-up vessel and wind turbine servicing ship with four 77m legs which lift her out of the ocean for aided stability, she arrived in perfect weather carrying turbine blades on deck which made for a thrilling aerial filming sequence. One page report with 11 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Binevenagh Rapseed Fields & Wind Server Jack-Up Vessel - April 29th 2022
On May 1st 2022 nothing exciting was expected in the skies. By late morning and quite by chance I had spotted dark storm clouds rotating over the fields east of Cookstown in Co. Tyrone. My Wife and I where driving through town and as we emerged through a curtain of rain we were shocked by the presence of a fully formed funnel cloud. The funnel was massive and at fairly close range in the form of a dark grey vertical cylinder spinning over the fields at the edge of town, we were in complete disbelief. I managed to snap a few images with my mobile phone before we lost it from view behind trees then the vortex vanished into thin air. Based on it's close proximity to the ground this may have been a tornado! One page report with 6 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Large Funnel Cloud Near Cookstown - May 1st 2022
May 16th brought ripe conditions for strong storms across N. Ireland with 1000j/kg of CAPE, LIs -4 and 40 knots deep layer shear. After a clearing front temps reached 20c which triggered the onset of rapid convection. By early afternoon a huge thunderstorm had developed over the Sperrins which impacted the Mid-Ulster area with flash flooding, prolific lightning knocking power out, it was the largest multicell storm in years. I intercepted the storm on the Omagh rd and chased it E, the storm exhibited dramatic storm clouds, a menacing gust front and the best whale's mouth I've ever seen. One page report with 21 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Massive Multicell Thunderstorm Over The Sperrins - May 16th 2022
June 2022 has been a very uneventful month with no storms of value, Autumn-like weather, cloudy nights and a lot of grey skies. On the 18th a clearing front during the late evening suddenly unveiled a dramatic sunset which took many people by surprise. The sun appeared in a clearance and lit up a formation of very swift-moving high level cirrus clouds illuminated red, orange and yellow by the sunset afterglow. The cirrus bands covered the entire sky with beautiful colours and structures where they converged in the SW & NE sky sectors. With no time to waste I ran into a field with the DSLR and took these images from Cookstown. One page report with images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Spectacular Cirrus Sunset - June 18th 2022
Don't get me started on the Summer of 2022. At the time of writing this has been the worst Summer I have ever experienced with countless grey days, overcast nights, missed NLCs and very few thunderstorms, and the convective set-ups we did get were either cap busts or had no weak CAPE. June has turned out to be very uneventful and extremely frustrating, that being said I still chased what I could. This report covers several warm sector capped high shear chases, a surprise funnel cloud (4th of the season) with perhaps the most photogenic catch being a storm gust front over a cruise ship on Lough Foyle (29th & 30th). One page report with 19 images. - REPORT. June Storm Chasing, A Difficult Month - June 2022
July 24th 2022 turned out to be a dream storm chase when a severe thunderstorm outlook was issued by CW with 900 CAPE, LIs of -3 and 40 knots DLS. I teamed up with chaser Colleen Webb, we targeted the Co. Antrim storms which turned out to be a grey mess. We were about to give up when through several chance decisions we made our way to the north coast where better solar heating and discrete cells were rapidly forming. We arrived at Gortmore Viewing Point to be greeted by a rare classic supercell thunderstorm over the W side of Lough Foyle. The structure was amazing with mesocyclone, striation rings, vault, wall cloud, RFD slot and accompanied by thunder and lightning. After 15 years chasing I finally captured a structured surface based supercell over N. Ireland! One page report with 26 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Rare Supercell Thunderstorm Over Lough Foyle - July 24th 2022
Detailed image report covering various night sky shoots captured during August 2022. Two nights of Perseid meteor watching, telescopic observations, Messier objects, comet hunting, moonlit mist, Armagh viaduct with Milk Way, a moonlit shoot at Portglenone sunflower field with planets and Milky Way scenes (surreal experience), rare late season Noctilucent Clouds (new personal record) and a UFO sighting which we identified the next day as a Starlink G3-3 Placeholder which was one of the most bizarre phenomena we had ever seen in our lives. All of these adventures are detailed here. One page report with 19 images. - REPORT. Armagh Viaduct, Portgelone Sunflowers, Milky Way, Moonlit Mist - August 2022
August 14th 2022, after a week long heat wave Ireland experienced a dramatic thunderstorm outbreak when cold and warm air masses clashed with big CAPE and strong wind shear. The result was hours of elevated thunderstorms which began at 5am in the morning in my area and again in the afternoon. However the highlight was a huge highly sheared suspected supercell storm which erupted over Co. Mayo in the evening which produced constant lightning for over four hours. My mates and I arranged a late evening chase to Emyvale near the border and got treated to a fantastic dusk lightning show with regular flashes lighting up the sky for an hour before the target storm went silent. A thrilling late Summer storm chase!. One page report with 9 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Emyvale Night Time Lightning Display - August 14th 2022
August 31st 2022 was the last night shoot of Summer before the Autumn season began to make its presence known. I teamed up with two photography friends and spent the night at Ballintoy on the Co. Antrim coast. It was a beautiful clear dark and tranquil night, we got treated to a surprise aurora, the most vivid airglow we have ever seen, Milky Way structure and a beautiful Taurid meteor with a 20 degree long tail, all this in the company of the 50 million year old sea stacks and arch as airglow turned the smooth ocean green. One page report with 7 images. - REPORT. Ballintoy Sea Stacks Vivid Airglow & Milky Way - August 31st 2022

October 18th 2022, in the midst of a period of poor weather, and eager to get my drone in the air for some much needed photography, I targeted the only settled day associated with high pressure, light winds, and good sunshine. The forecast also mentioned fog, by late morning fog conditions were perfect, I drove outside Cookstown and got the drone in the air, when it rose above the fog I was treated to a spectacular view of an extensive fog inversion with sunlit cotton cloud tops, bright sunshine and blue skies. Projecting through the inversion was the solitary form of the chimney belonging to Cookstown Cement Factory, this scene made for an epic morning aerial photo shoot with several surprise Glorys on a tsunami of fog. One page report with 13 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

Cookstown Aerial Fog Inversion Scenes - October 18th 2022
On October 25th 2022 a partial solar eclipse was visible across UK and Ireland when over 20% of the solar disk would get covered by the moon during the late morning period. The forecast was for a cloudy day with a chance of a few breaks, I observed from my home in Cookstown and my expectations were low due to the cloud forecast however much to my surprise the solar disk was visible through the mid level cloud. I ended up experiencing much of the eclipse on and off throughout the entire event. In fact, the cloud acted like a filter working to my advantage, as a result I was able to take images using my DSLR and telephoto lens. It was nice to witness two solar eclipses within a year of each other. One page report with 4 images. - REPORT. Cookstown Partial Solar Eclipse
November 4th 2022 was a quickly arranged photo shoot at Beaghmore Stone Circles in Co. Tyrone. This was a bright moonlit night with our intentions focused on Taurid fireballs. Despite cold temperatures and a harsh ground frost we ended up having a great night shooting meteor patrol images and star trails over the ancient moonlit stones. A second night on November 18th resulted in a good telescopic session hunting Messier objects and comets with M42 being the finest we have seen it in a long time thanks to superb seeing conditions. A short report with 4 images. - REPORT. Beaghmore Stone Circles In Moonlight
A potent two week cold spell impacted UK and Ireland bringing with it Arctic air, sub zero daily temps, severe frosts and some of the most beautiful pre-Christmas atmosphere I've seen since 2010. Snow in December is relatively rare in N. Ireland so I was delighted when on the 8th a cluster of wintry showers put down the first high ground snow of the season. I spent the day chasing in the Moneyneany and Birren region of the Sperrins where the snow was much more dramatic than I had expected, as a result I got my first drone images of the Winter season in crisp clean air and great light. This was the beginning of a severe cold spell, part two of this period will be in the next chase report. One page report with 19 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Eagle Rock Snow, Northern Ireland Cold Spell - December 8th 2022

This sudden two week cold spell almost made up for the entire year of weather action thanks to an Arctic high pressure freezer event which brought dry but daily sub zero temperatures across UK and Ireland during a two week period bringing the lowest temperatures for years when Co. Tyrone dropped to -10C. Episodes of freezing fog in dead calm conditions introduced the perfect set-up for widespread and rare hoar frost scenes.

This report covers two days of Winter chasing on December 13th & 14th 2022 in the Greencastle and Omagh areas where the best hoar frost scenes I've ever witnessed since 2010 took place. The trees were covered in hoar frost over 2cm thick with needle structures which in conjunction with Winter sunshine and blue skies made for perfect photography conditions. Two page report with 29 images and 2 video clips. - PAGE 1 & PAGE 2.

Spectacular Hoar Frost Formations During Severe Cold Spell - Co Tyrone December 2022

This is my 2022 video highlights presentation featuring the best weather and night sky shoots I experienced throughout the year using DSLR cameras, a Go Pro and the Mavic 2 Pro drone. 'ETHERIC' features video footage and time lapse cinematography of funnel clouds, thunderstorms, snow scenes, hoar frost, moonlit snow, sunsets, several G1 aurora events and various night sky shoots from Ireland and N. Ireland during the year.

I should state from the start that 2022 has been the worst year of sky action I've ever seen since I first began documenting the sky on camera. This was mainly due to a bad weather pattern which produced what has to be the most cloud-filled year I've ever seen. Countless cloudy nights and days, the Summer was ruined by grey cloudy weather which greatly reduced any convective potential, also the NLC season was a non-event due to the same reason so I have less storm scenes than I would have liked.

However, I stuck it out and remained as dedicated as I could and took advantage of what Mother Nature presented to me and all being said and done when I look back on the year I'm still happy and grateful that I managed to experience some wonderful events. The May multicell thunderstorm was a great chase day and the Cookstown close range funnel which may or may not have weakly touched down, the highlight of the Summer and year was the Lough Foyle Supercell thunderstorm with clear Mesocyclone and the Emyvale elevated Supercell lightning. The video is dominated by Winter scenes, these sequences were among the main prizes of the year for their beauty and the adventures involved in getting the footage. The main highlight of Winter was the severe cold spell in December which produced the best hoar frost scenes I've experienced since 2010, so the hoar frost and supercell are the two star attraction events of the year for me personally.

I've also included several ships from Lough Foyle and Larne in great light and I simply had to include footage from the day I was invited onboard the Foyle Leader with the Lough Foyle Pilots and Coxswain for a trip out on the Lough to collect a Pilot disembarking from a ship. This was a very special memory with a lot of deep routed emotions going back for many years. Thank you for watching this 26 min long highlight video, I hope you enjoy it and I can't wait to start a fresh new year of chasing sky phenomena.


Martin McKenna

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