STORM CHASING 2005-2006

Travelled today: 185kms | Travelled so far: 1313kms | Allowance: 1400kms

Today is the first day of our Darwin visit that I would call a successful chase day.

The day held some promise with an apparent gulf line on it's way since yesterday. A gulf line is a kind of squall line originating at the Gulf of Carpentaria which makes it's way west across the Top End. This one was due to arrive this afternoon or evening. Some unrelated pileus was a nice way to start the day:

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Pileus is the condensation 'cap' or lens-like cloud over the updraft, which is a good sign that the updraft is strong.

Around 3pm we went and visited Hector the Convector as it anvilled out and let out it's regular booms of thunder, accentuated by the otherwise silent sands of the endless beaches at Lee Point.

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Around 4pm we saw some congestus towers starting to anvil-out inland, much to my surprise. This was what I was expecting every day since I got here. Cells which develop inland generally move west-ish making them available to be chased, unlike the many cells we'd seen developing or moving over the ocean.

We took off down the Stuart Hwy stopping around Palmerston for food and fuel. Most of the anvils we'd seen were way off in the distance, so we hung around at the service centre and watched Brad Hodge knock up his double century. About half an hour after we arrived we took off again and two anvils were close enough to chase with more columns going up nearby.

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The closest cell was ESE which was perfectly down the Arnhem Hwy, so we took that turnoff. About 20kms up the road is Window on the Wetlands, a tourist centre perched on Beatrice Hill with awesome views in almost every direction.

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As the cell approached, an obvious gustfront was forming with some nice lightning bolts dropping out of the front.

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As the guster moved overhead the outflow winds hit, and it was difficult to stand up in it. Jeff is clearly excited to finally be in amongst the action:

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Soon after, the rain arrived with more lightning and we enjoyed the storm as it unleashed over us.

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About 45 mins later when it had passed, a new cell became visible to the NE with a very solid-looking gustfront.

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Unfortunately, it was too far to chase and over area inaccessible by road, but by now the edge of the gulf line was becoming visible directly to our E.

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A line of storms was going up behind a very defined shelf cloud with several bands and a gustfront underneath, and also dropping some very nice lightning bolts.

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Lightning was still visible from the cell that had just moved over us, and yet another new storm was also developing to our N.

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This cell was also out of the question for us as it was tracking west, away from us. With the gulf line heading straight for us, however, we had no reason to move! It was difficult to tell how far away the new line of storms was but it took longer than expected to arrive at our location. Our plan this time, was to stay ahead of it as it moved W and watch it develop.

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Unfortunately, the line actually seemed to weaken as it approached us, but just as we were taking off to ensure we were ahead of it, a portion of the gustfront seemed to twirl down into a funnel shape. We were too far away to see any stirring on the ground, but it looked suspiciously pointy for a few minutes. This sequence of shots was taken within a three minute period:

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A little further up the road the scrappy remnants of the decaying gustfront were lit orange by a setting sun, with an aqua blue rain curtain behind it.

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Having this huge line weaken reminded us very much of yesterday when the long line of lightning active storms died before they got to us. We were considering our next move when a new line of storms seemed to develop in FRONT of us as we moved W. We were still on the Arnhem Hwy and it seemed the most active northern end was right over Darwin! This seemed very unfair to us considering we'd flown up here and done plenty of driving to find the storms, and this thing had just skipped right over us!

We decided to head back north towards Darwin and see how far we got before these storms weakened. It was around 7:45pm when we stopped somewhere near Berrimah with a good view WNW towards the storms.

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We were getting a great light show but it was drifting further away from us so we decided to keep going towards Darwin in the hope that we'd get a good show over the water. As we got there we found the storms were directly west so we drove to Myilly Point, with it's great westerly views over the ocean. Thankfully there was no rain as the cell dropped some beautiful CGs (cloud-to-ground lightning strikes) in front of us.

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After a while it seemed that we were getting the odd flash behind us to the E. A call from Jacob confirmed that the gulf line had fired up again was about to hit us. A weak front was visible over the city lights as it moved towards us with lightning visible behind the front.

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Very soon after, we received lots of rain with some strong winds, but not many CGs. Sheet lightning was quite regular so we stuck it out until the line moved on, when it eventually let out some lovely crawlers.

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Eventually, these stopped and at 10pm were finally able to get some dinner and call it a night.

Unfortunately, this was the kind of activity that Jeff and I were expecting more often here in the Top End, so it was nice to finally be treated to some great storms!