Tuesday 16th June 2020 – Uk Storm Chase

The Uk was pretty much in the middle of 6 days of a favourable pattern for Severe Storms with a Trough Parked out towards the Western English Channel and moisture being pumped up from the South with SE Flow persisting from Saturday 13th until Friday 19th June. After the first 3 days of this event with probably upto 20 Funnel Clouds and Tornadoes being reported across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales it was becoming clear that my little part of the world namely SE Essex was not going to get even 1 drop of rain from these Storms so drastic action was taken and I focused on this day to chase some storms around Western East Anglia and the East Midlands.

Most of the storms this week had been initiated from Convergence Zones from Sea Breezes or Orographic Lift, and some of the hillier areas benefiting from these SE winds were the South & North Downs, The Chilterns, The Cotswolds, Penines and Peak District along with Snowdonia and the Southern Uplands of Scotland.

Morning Models were painting a decent picture of a CZ line by around 4pm along the A14 area from Cambridge to Kettering and up towards Leicester and Nottingham so I drove to Northants and watched small popcorn storms initiate and die within 30 minutes for most of the day.

Around 530pm the Storm above got its act together near St Neots and was throwing out quite a lot of clear and visible Cg Lightning Bolts, the structure was also pulling together See Below

But ultimately the Storms never really got to severe levels and I broke off the chase around 730pm with the drive home to SE Essex in front of me.

The week did feauture a couple of Supercells in amongst the hundreds of pop up storms but when you are dealing with 500-700jkg of Cape each day finding that one diamond is scarce to almost impossible unless you luck out. Was great to finally hear thunder again though.

Friday 1st September 2017 – SE Essex CZ Storm

After a pretty warm day in South East Essex Cumulus Towers had bubbled up throughout the day but only for a few showers in Far East Kent and the Coastal Parts of Norfolk nothing much had happened during the day in SE Essex. As the sun set I did notice a line of bubbling cumulus about 20 miles to my west but thought nothing really of it and went down the pub! Temperatures were now also down to around 12c and the Moon had risen in the Southern Sky.

At about 945pm I started to notice some really bright white/blue flashes off to my west and duly looked at radar and was surprised to see a really electrically active storm about 25 miles to my west which was moving from North to South along that boundary I noted earlier in the evening. Thinking nothing of it really I continued to watch the lightning getting further away now to my South West. But what did catch my eye was quite a few flashes now starting to my NNW, this developing storm would pretty much come very close to my area and it was off home to watch the radar. As the storm was near Chelmsford the lightning was starting to die off quite a bit so was initially just expecting a few IC flashes and some heavy rain but luckily for me the storm really developed on its eastern edge around 1130pm. I started noticing some really nice Cg bolts to my North and deep booming thunder. As the storm was pretty much on top of me I did not have any time to make it to one of my favoured locations so it was sit it out at home time and get to the covered part of the garden and shoot away to the south. This Storm had some superb motion and agitated clouds on the leading gust front edge which was getting lit up by bright lightning at times. The best lightning was from the anvil canopy though as the storm was overhead with some lovely crawlers and Cg bolts. Most of them landed out of shot this evening but got some lovely lightning all the same.

Below : Spider Lightning (Anvil Crawlers)

Essex Storm Chase – Tue 18th & Wed 19th July 2017

After missing out on the early July Storms and Supercells over Lincolnshire these 2 days would see another shot at storms after another very warm and humid period. Tempratures had again been in the Mid 80’s and Dewpoints constantly in the mid 60’s. Today’s set up was proving to be a pain for the weather models, it was a case of who do you believe in the main. In one camp you had the Arpege, Hirlam and Euro going for nothing much in the east and in the other camp we had Estofex, Meto and Euro4 all stating the South East would get affected to some extent from 7pm onwards until the early hours. I was happy that the main 3 models I trust in were on “our side” so to speak.

The Set Up was a pretty classic breakdown for the United Kingdom. A High pressure moving east into Scandinavia a large area of Low Pressure situated west of Ireland and warm humid air being pumped up from Iberia. The trigger would come from a shortwave trough moving north from France during the day firstly affecting the South West and then as it migrated North East areas further North and East of that would come into play. An added bonus to keep storms sustained was an LLJ from the east aiding inflow and longevity for storms to sustain themselves.

Cornwall was affected first but a seperate area of storms around the Channel Islands looked promising for Central Southern and SE England for this evening, some strange radar returns around Jersey aroused my suspicions of a forming MCV (Mesoscale Convective Vortex) this is an area of Surface Low Pressure within an MCS, And these can last between 6-12 hours. This area (Complex) of storms was moving NNE due to the fact the steering winds at 600hpa were better orientated than further West in the Channel with those winds steering straight North or slightly NNW.

I continued to track the storms not really giving them much of my attention because I plotted their course to run through Portsmouth, Reading and onto Milton Keynes and probably too far to chase on a Tuesday night, but what was noticable was the continued redevelopment of very strong storms way off to the SE of the Complex. This first occured NE of Portsmouth, then and West of London. This area of the MCV was going to track towards the M11 and that would be doable from here with a quick run upto Chelmsford and then across to Stanstead. My chasing buddy Peter Scott was also up for the chase so we kept in contact and aimed to meet up. The Storm by now was very discrete in nature and sitting between Harlow and Bishops Stortford and it started to put down some nice Cg’s. ┬áBut of course as soon as we got to the stopping point they dried up completely, the IC lightning was prolific though and lit up some stunning structure, the hail core also had a green tinge to it when lit up. Have found out that 50p sized Hail was falling near Duxford with this storm. Peter got some nice shots of this storm one of his pics below.

You can clearly see above the inflow tail cloud racing into the Storm from the east, we were directly south of the storm looking north at this point. Shortly after this we left the storm as it was heading into Norfolk and I was starting to see lightning from the south again, this was from an amazing storm going on over Brighton and the South Coast. I knew exactly where I wanted to be for this and was on a mission to try and get that in the water shot from the Cliffs I have been trying to get for 10 years! Travelling south from Chelmsford the sky was constantly lighting up with the storm system still over 50 miles away. I got down to my vantage point in good time and just sat there watching lightning for about 45 minutes and watched as the storm grew closer, I would only start shooting for lightning when a few cg’s were within a sensible distance and around 2am this started to happen.

Everything in place and with anvil crawlers aplenty could this be the day it happens. Anvil Crawlers are good for out the front of the storm Cg’s in front of the rain so I was hopeful add to the fact we do not normally get this type of storm in the Uk that often. ┬áJust about then the rain started -Noooooooo

But luckily for me it was coming from the North East and not hitting my camera so I continued, the lightning getting closer with a few bolts landing on the hills the other side of the Estuary about 5-7 miles away. Then one that landed pretty much on the shoreline so we were getting closer.

Was this to be the day, literally 30 seconds after the shot above and on my next exposure of 15 seconds Boom, everything went white in a blinding flash in front of me (It was soo bright I didnt even see the Cg land in real time) and was absolutely gobsmacked when my camera processed the following image!

I jumped for joy! Good job it was 215am and nobody could see a mid forties man jumping around Leigh Cliffs in the pouring rain. But I got the shot I always wanted to get from a Uk perspective and was over the moon. I packed up and headed back home and watched the storm unleash over SE Essex at around 3-4am. This was an above average event for the Uk with 100,000 lightning bolts registered with 70,000 of those hitting Sussex, Kent and Essex!