7-11 Lightning

July 5, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Summary 

Norman OK

SHORT: Highly electrified twilight storms near home.

If one can define a “storm chase” as deliberately driving away from home in pursuit of the experience of storms, this was my shortest chase on record. I have several vantages pre-selected in the Norman area for viewing and photographing the sky under various situations–day, night, lightning, arcus, rainbow, mammatus, sunset, sunrise, east, west, north, south–views not available from my largely forested property. However, none are as close as the one I used on this day–a previously unused, ad-hoc perspective less than a linear mile away. I typically don’t post these short “chases”, but this is a worthy exception.

Seeing a large storm erupt on an outflow boundary to the SE, and flickers of lightning within, I didn’t know how long it would last, so a SE vantage several miles away wasn’t going to do. I exited my neighborhood and headed to a hilltop that–while not ideal due to a rather cluttered acreage in the foreground–offers the advantage of speed of access. It also would help as new storms developed to the SW–convection that would have been much more distant and less photogenic from even farther E.

First, the sky to the SE offered a rich, deeply textured and rapidly evolving panorama of convective, stratiform and electrical tones. To get a fuller idea, please see this Javascript time lapse of the full series of still photos of that storm. [You may need to tell your browser to enable Javascript if it doesn’t come up automatically.] What a wonder that was, and all in the soft blue ambiance of early twilight!

As that storm was weakening, I started packing my gear, when I noticed flashes in weaker convection to the SW and SSW (along the same boundary). The updrafts looked skinnier and not as intense, yet suddenly…BAM! A discharge brilliantly flung well away from its originating cloud area. Time for action! I hurriedly twisted around the tripod and camera, realigning, re-aiming, hoping and wishing for more. I started interval-shooting too, which caused me to miss a few of these spectacular “bolt-from-the-blue” discharges, but which also allowed for two more very brief time lapses. For once, I also managed to capture the most amazing stroke of the whole sequence.

Consider my photographic desires fulfilled. The cells kept blasting forked strokes far out through clear air, out of upper reaches of the convection, while also splendidly illuminating the cloud structures from within!

One of the most dazzling lightning strikes I’ve ever captured on film or digital media then burst forth from the opposite side, forking for many miles across clear air between cloud and some very unfortunate ground target. That left me exuberantly breathless, mouth agape, absolutely astounded that a “mere” summertime multicell could put on such a dazzling performance. Its thunder, though originating many miles away, reverberated through the air, felt within while echoing from laterally and behind. Finally, the storm had one more electrical javelin-throw in its arsenal before weakening.

Those two short time lapses I promised? The first is here, and the second is here, containing each of the strokes pictured above, but in larger format whose animation you can adjust.

The trip back home took all of two minutes. The “chase” yielded the only Image of the Week that I posted within less than an hour (the site goes by UTC time, hence the “12” date), and it’s not hard to understand why so little deliberation was needed.

Casual Country Drive

July 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on Casual Country Drive
Filed under: Summary 

Mustang OK
8 May 13

SHORT: Casual intercept of some multicellular to marginally supercellular storms on the E edge of a favorable air mass.

On this day, I didn’t expect to be out there storm observing. I had a shift beginning at 9 p.m., and the best supercell potential along the dryline was too far SW and W for any meaningful intercept activities. However, after a late-afternoon wake-up, some convection had fired W of the OKC metro area in the warm sector and along outflow/differential-heating zones from early-day activity.

I knew this wouldn’t be an important tornado setup, because of the potential for messy storm modes and the lack of more robust deep-layer winds, but perhaps one of these initially high-based storms could rotate and exhibit photogenic structures before entering drier air closer to home. Elke and I made the ad-hoc decision to go for a casual country drive out to the Tuttle-Yukon area for 2-3 hours–one that also involved some elements of a convective sky.

Storms that had looked strong W of OKC moved into the dry air and weakened– a fate sure to befall those developing on the W side of the same cluster. Still, the boundary was weakening and moving slowly E and NE, expanding the moist sector in that direction through late afternoon and evening. Perhaps storms could follow us back home and, as a bonus, offer some always-needed rain.

Terrain between Tuttle and Minco can get rather choppy, thanks to easy erosion of the Permian red-clay shales and siltstone layers into the nearby Canadian River valley. Still, we found a vantage a few miles WNW of Mustang to watch a marginal supercell that was becoming elevated over the boundary put on one last structure show.

Except for the singing birds, mooing cows, and an occasional local resident puttering along the back road, we had the farm and sky scene all to ourselves for about an hour as this storm merged into the cluster to its N, and other convection formed on its trailing flank. Despite dealing with flimsier convection than observers were enjoying at greater distances, it was a nice relief to enjoy such a relaxing storm experience without any pressure or enticement to be elsewhere, and to do so as an appreciative couple.

Many more storms soon developed and filled in rapidly, between the initial cluster to our W-NW and dryline storms over SW OK. These started flinging CGs ever closer to us, so we eased back into Mustang for a fast-food dinner. The band of storms grew in length and intensity, forming a jagged squall line with occasional, embedded bowing segments.

This system followed us closely back down OK-4 and OK-9 to home in Norman, whereupon I had to turn right around and head to work. I got there in plenty of time, but actually had to stay outside in the vehicle and wait for the lightning-infused core to pass, pinging NSSL Ping with reports of heavy rain, small hail and minor flooding before heading inside.