STORM CHASING 2014-2015

Low shear but heaps of instability today meant lots of small pulse cells popped up then collapsed on themselves - until dusk, that is, when a couple of cells managed to produce a brilliant lightning show amongst beautiful sunset colours.

More work today meant getting out later than I would've liked but perhaps the storms were waiting for me, as not much happened until I was well placed - very rare. One nice cell popped up at Allora while I was still driving down the Cunningham Hwy, so I stopped at Warrill View for a.. um.. view.

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By the time this weak storm hit the troposphere, it was dead - like pretty much every other storm so far today. Even if all these storms were pulsies, the hope was just to be close to one on dusk or after dark during its lightning phase. I was about to have my prayers answered.

As I drove towards Warwick another cell popped up letting out a good number of CGs (cloud to ground lightning), so I headed for decent view just SE of Warwick, meeting up with Drew & Andy. Meanwhile another healthy storm had anvilled near Oakey:

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The lightning had slowed on our local storm but the RFB (rain free base) was thickening up:

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I was waiting for the sun to set so I could shoot some lightning. Here's the view to the W:

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Back E and our storm seemed to be tightening up a bit, but lightning was still infrequent:

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As the sun set we were treated to some spectacular colours:

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Our hopes were finally realised when big lightning bolts started dropping out of the back of this storm!

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We got a solid 30 minutes of these awesome bolts before the frequency dropped off. A new line was developing behind us so I decided to head off for a view of it as sunset slipped away to night:

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There didn't seem to be many big bolts at the front. I wondered whether I should stay ahead of it or core punch it in the hope of getting some bolts out the back, as many storms recently have produced. The other thing lately is many storms have died off the range and not made it anywhere near Brisbane. So I decided to head W into it.

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I was hoping to get N to Allora before it hit where some nice structure seemed to be forming. The drive was an exciting one as I would need to head directly W towards the storm before reaching the New England Hwy to take me N - all hopefully before the storm arrived.

I stopped just SE of Allora for a view of a half decent shelf cloud and outflow winds that were strong enough to blow my tripod over. My heart stopped as I picked up the camera where there didn't seem to be any damage done.

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I waited for the big bolts amongst the bluster and gradually increasing rain but they never happened. I retreated to the car and continued NW letting the storm go over. Underneath a weaker section of the line, the rain thankfully didn't last too long as I proceeded NW past Allora towards Clifton.

Some lightning bolts did then appear from a couple of new cells which had sprung up behind the line.

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The lightning was getting gradually closer and I was shooting at an aperture of F6.3. After the following photo I decided I wanted the lightning a bit brighter so I opened up a little to F5.6. I had just finished wiping rain drops off the lens and a bolt landed about a km away (the second shot below). I've left the following two photos uncropped for a fair comparison:

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The scene in the above two shots is the same, so it's amazing to see the difference in the light due to the different lightning distances.

The awesome show continued for a while with this final bolt landing only a km or so away (I was prepared this time with an aperture of F11). The spot where it hits the earth is clearly visible:

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This strike at 9:40pm pretty spelled the end of the display when I started the two hour drive home.