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September 20th 2021

Portrush G2 Aurora Display - September 17th

This night turned into quite a surprise, a weak CME had hit earlier in the day and did little to upset the magnetosphere so the prospects for aurora were very low indeed, however since the night was forecast to be clear I decided to take a chance on it anyway, my intention was to get a moonlit shoot in and at best maybe we would pick up a faint auroral glow on camera. I met up with Nigel McFarland, John Fagan and Colleen Webb at Magheracross view point outside Portrush, suddenly after sunset the Bz went south to -12, as darkness fell we could see our first obvious naked eye aurora of solar cycle 25. As the sky darkened further we got treated to an outburst which raised this storm into a G2 category. We observed a huge twin tiered band covering the entire ocean horizon for more than 100 degrees in length, at times sections of a broken third tier manifested.

The highlight was the sporadic outbreak of vertical beams reaching over 40 degrees tall and extending beyond Dubhe in Ursa Major. The beams had green and subtle red colours with the naked eye, the entire aurora was an obvious visual sight despite a bright waxing gibbous moon in the sky, then after 23.00 it began to weaken as the Bz went back north however its glow was visible for much of the night. This is one of my best images of the night showing those earlier beams, keep in mind this was 15mm wide angle on full frame. Turned out this was the strongest aurora we had experienced in four years and it took everyone by surprise.

Before the aurora appeared I got the drone up and captured stills and video of the lights of Portrush visible against the black night sky and ocean below, the view was very cool. I will got into more detail during a future image report.

Sunspots & Aurora Borealis - August 27th

On Friday August 27th I had my first night shoot along the Co. Antrim coast for quite some time, possibly since March before the very first lock down so this was something I was eager to do. I had arranged to meet John Fagan and Colleen Webb at Ballintoy for a general night shoot however we also had an instinct that there could be very weak aurora activity later but we didn't take the prospects too seriously. Thanks to strong high pressure and thick haze over the ocean we got treated to a beautiful sunset. As the solar disk sank into the haze over the perfect horizon the disk changed in colour from yellow to pink then red and could be viewed comfortably with the unprotected naked eye.

A beautiful way to end the day in peace with the sun setting over the ocean.

We where joined by famous local photographer Glenn Miles when we noticed that the Bz had dropped to -12, this was notable enough for aurora activity to be present, especially from this far north so we began shooting a time lapse of the church. During the course of the time lapse we managed to capture the aurora on camera complete with a brief display of purple beams, the haze was so thick it had obscured the display to a significant extent however the camera did a good job in detecting it. We could also discern it very faintly with the naked eye, we didn't mind this being a weak show, it was better than what we could have hoped for this night so it was a pleasure to witness our first aurora of the season. With the sun getting more active and solar maximum getting closer there will be a marked increase in sunspot activity, solar flares and CMEs and with these will come impressive aurora displays, those nights aren't too far away in the future and could happen this Autumn and Winter so stay tuned.

EF0 Tornado Over Toome & Impressive Lough Neagh Convection - NEW REPORT

Toome Tornado

August 9th 2021 was the day my dream came true. After many hours spent watching convection and chasing my tail for miles across the country I came home about to give up when I spotted huge updraughts erupting up into the evening sky to the NE. I gave chase, when I crested a hill I was astonished to witness the best funnel cloud of my life in the form of a huge solid white stove pipe seemingly going all the way to the ground, this would turn out to be over Toome and touched down as a EF0 tornado, this would be my first ever tornado in over 14 years of storm chasing. The cells which spawned it then put on a dramatic sight over Lough Neagh where I bagged another smaller funnel cloud, this was an historic day. One page report with 20 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

Record Breaking Heatwave, Intense Thunderstorms & Rare Wet Microburst - NEW REPORT

New Chase Report

A remarkable period of hot weather with a rare amber warning heat advisory from the Met Office for a risk to health and infrastructure. During the course of a week N. Ireland broke its all time temp record three times with a new historic temp of 31.3 degrees C. The heatwave brought beautiful sunsets, drought & on July 21st the most intense thunderstorms of the year. The cap broke releasing 1400j/kg of CAPE which generated Cbs 11km tall producing constant thunder for almost an hour each. A storm over Swatragh wind turbines formed a rare wet microburst, in total I intercepted six intense storms on this memorable day. One page report with 22 images and video 4 clips. - REPORT.

Noctilucent Clouds With Fairy Tree & Rare Red NLCs From Beaghmore - NEW REPORT

NLC Report

July 12th turned out to be an action packed day, after chasing an intense thunderstorm in Co. Armagh the sky cleared that same night. Following a tip off from a fellow observer I drove out to Beaghmore and witnessed the best Noctilucent Cloud display of the season. The display was type 4 in brightness and exhibited beautiful structure in the form of large whirls, knots and waves glowing electric blue and gold during the darkest hour of the Summer night. I photographed and time lapsed the display over a lone fairy tree. One page report with 10 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

Spectacular Rain Free Updraught Base On Co. Armagh Thunderstorm - NEW REPORT

New Chase Report

July 12th would see the best instability of the current season with up to 1000j/kg under hot humid skies with the influence of high pressure. During the late afternoon Roisin and I went chasing in our target area of Co. Armagh and after a long wait the cap finally broke with explosive thunderstorm development. After a period of core punching and navigating narrow and twisting country roads we intercepted a thunderstorm at close range in the countryside west of Armagh. This storm had the best rain free updraught base I have ever seen on a N. Ireland storm with churning and twisting clouds under its inflow area, we captured the scene from a field with close range lightning and over 30 rumbles of thunder. One page report with 9 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

May Storm Chasing - Lough Foyle & Slaughtneil Funnel Cloud Outbreaks - NEW REPORT

Funnel Cloud Outbreak

Storm season has arrived and as we entered May the synoptic outlook took on a more unsettled and unstable pattern which produced over a week of convective potential. This report documents five chase days which resulted on the capture of a funnel cloud outbreak. On May 1st I captured 2 funnel clouds over Lough Foyle five minutes apart then May 12th I got treated to two more funnels over Carntogher outside Slaughtneil, the first funnel lasted for five minutes and was a dramatic sight has it hung in the sky like a dagger. These recent funnel sightings also broke several personal records by being the earliest and latest funnels I've ever seen. One page report with 21 images. - REPORT.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports - Archive

Northern Ireland Storm Chasing Reports

Astronomy is not the only subject I'm interested in, check out my 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, aurora displays and exciting nature related photo shoots.

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Martin McKenna