The early years of chasing....



This page holds chase reports from the 2007/8 storm

season until the dry season started.


Welcome the dry season!

Darwin's new Convention Centre at the wharf has just been opened and all this week during June 16-21 there's special events going on with stalls, entertainment and jet boat rides !!!

A vast majority of folk have been waiting for this beautiful weather to arrive.  There's a lot of people in Darwin that hate the wet season! There's much to do during this time and if you're a visitor to Darwin you'll have a ball!  The Mindil Beach Markets have just started up and running again Thursday and Sunday nights, so take a deck chair, a bottle of wine and relax on the lawns and take all the entertainment and stalls in!  The markets are located next to the casino complex, easy parking and free entry!

Well a gusty storm rolled through the city this afternoon, packed some decent gusts also.  Small storm around nightfall but nothing much in the way compared to the previous night.  One parting shot until next season of an anvil crawler!!
Anvil streamers Fishermans wharf


Final days it seems.  Thursday 4th April gave Darwin some ripper storms with lightning abound.  Looks like the wet season is going out with a roar and not a whimper.  Managed to get two lovely strikes over the ocean during my work tea break - thankfully!  Today, Friday is looking good also for storms and since it's my day off work there's no guessing where I'll be - chasing!  Here's the pics from last night. The first is a beautifully branching strike which left me speechless! 

Mandorah lightning


This second shot was about 2 minutes later, the stroke breaks away to form a three pronged connection!


multiple grounded flash


Final days of potential storms for Darwin?

The dry season is rapidly approaching.  Our storm season realistically could end by this weekend 5 April 2008.  The forecast is for storms possibly in the afternoons for the next two days, but by the weekend the drier easterly winds prevail from dominant high pressure systems from the Great Australian Bight which move west-east across Australia.

Given that La Nina was predicted to be a fairly severe cyclone season for Darwin and the NT, it really has not delivered much in the way of storms.  The storm season 2006-7 delivered many more storms on a weekly basis than the 2007-8 season by far.  Although I managed to capture some of my best photographs this season, it was a little disappointing for a storm chaser!

There is still some active storm activity around to the east of Darwin and inland areas, I don't hold any high hopes of anything decent by week's end.  The wet may go out with a bang as it usually does, but given the daily soundings and weather conditions it seems as though it must come to an end again!

I'll keep the storm blog page up and running for you to view and add anything if it happens,
but once the dry season encroaches I'll be adding things to other pages to keep it updated and interesting - not that it isn't already!  Keep visiting during our dry season and I'll add more storm chase reports/photos in November 2008!

Rural storms tease Darwin

March 29 chase and photos!

With the end of the wet season drawing to a close, typically the weather goes out with a bang.  Tonight was another fantastic opportunity to chase and there were many large storms around the city area and surrounds - the problem was which way to go!  Headed out to several spots to capture as much as I could and positioning myself several times within a four hour period.  Here's a selection of the action from this night!

Sunset bolt Darwin

March 27 storm chase

Some nice rainbows during the afternoon with shower/storm activity before work...the best was to come much later!

Inland storm NT

I had been watching storms in the rural area flashing for over an hour  from around 10pm until finishing work at around 12:30am this morning.  I headed straight home to check on the situation and just as the wet season looked dead there was a cluster of storms forming a line and moving toward Darwin. 

The radar images were about 20 minutes out of sinc with the actual time (going by UTC time) so I headed to an area about 30km away to intercept the incoming squall line.  The line was definitely very active when I reached the area and there were numerous strikes but mainly intracloud flashes, which is usually a good sign that the storm has some energy remaining.


(storm starts...almost got hit again by a close hit!)

I waited for about 30 mins watching the storm line move in, it was definitely coming closer and the outflow winds were preceding it.  Soon after there was moderate rain for about 15 minutes or so with increasing lightning activity to my left.  I moved the car and pointed toward this active area and up to a dozen big close strikes came from the storm.  The rain had eased of considerably, I was thinking that lightning may in fact be concentrated at the rear of this storm as the larger strikes certainly came when there was a lull in the rain.

(Double strike right in front and behind the hotel)

Noonamah lightning strike

After being pounded by several window rattling strikes I repositioned across the highway as the strikes were being concentrated to my left.  This capture was sweet and missed another double strike just as close whilst setting the camera up - I'm pretty greedy but I'll accept what I've got!

Strike in field Noonamah

March 23 storm overview

Some very large storms have been lingering around the rural area and coming close to the city the last few days.  They have shown signs of decent structure but are very short lived. Even the storms that ventured close to the harbour collapsed within 10 minutes of my viewing strong growth and lightning, yet fizzled out soon after with nothing but wind and rain!

 It's been difficult to chase properly of late simply due to work commitments, the days I do have off have given me nothing, but rest assured that if they are in the vicinity after work (which is usually after midnight!) that I'll be looking for them if they are worth it.  I won't chase anything that's's just not worth the trouble or fuel!  The monsoon trough is slowly building to our north and the bureau has expectations that it will not be a strong one.  Although there are signs of tropical lows in the trough there is not enough organization for them to create any excitement.

 Thunderstorms persist in the region above Darwin around Indonesia and PNG and whilst this increases daily, the monsoon will develop further.  With the lingering end to our wet season upon us, this dismal storm season may go out with a bang one hopes.  Once the monsoon moves further south toward the Top End we will see increasing storm activity.  For now everyday is a wait and see option.

March 19 storms

Little was expected after looking at the obs for this day.  Although there was a nice deep instability layer, the capping numbers were pretty high which would prevent anything happening until that cap was broken.  The massive MCS (mesoscale convective system) over the Tiwi Islands to our north were just magnificent.  There were lines of tall cumulonimbus and outflow cloud covering the entire island.

(The start of things to come...cumulous cloud with pent up energy just want to explode upward, as seen by the middle portion convecting vertically - fast!)

By 6pm the cap had broken!  When you have high levels of CAPE - (convective available potential energy) and lifted index numbers which were moderate, that equates to a lot of energy that wants to be released if the 'lid' that is holding all this in finally beraks.  There were beautifully structured storms which I know from looking at them, just went insane once the cap broke.  There was so much convective cloud and tower growth in such a short space of time that all this energy exploded.

(In a matter of half an hour look how much instability is being released!  There's outflow cloud surrounding this maturing thunderstorm and the top of the cloud is creating a pressure zone with its rapid upward development)

The next series of photos shows the next stage of the thunderstorms.  One main storm has matured behind the one in the foreground and has anviled out - meaning its reached its equilibrium level and in the final stages. 

The storm has now created an outflow region as you can see by the bowed area at the leading edge.  There is outflow air being shaped into what's known as a shelf cloud, the rain is underneath this in the downdraught area and the anvil is spreading out behind.

The next photo shows a more prominent gust front area with developing roll cloud - this is condensation that forms in front of the leading edge due to temperature changes and appears detached from the parent cloud.  Moderate rain is still falling underneath and a few lightning strikes were seen from the left hand side.

The rain set in for the next 30 minutes or so and it was then that I headed out during dinner break from work to get some lightning.  Fortunately my nose for anticipating where the lightning was most likely to be proved fruitful.  Missed a spate of 4 strikes in one frame as I was setting up, but this one satisfied my thirst at least 5 minutes before I had to return to work!

March 16 storm chase

Leaving work at around 12:45am I noticed some faint flashes within a cloud top about 40km to the east in the rural area.  I was thinking that yes, perhaps something is firing up!  I checked the satpics and radar when I got home and there was a nice cluster of storms maturing just south of Humpty Doo.  The lightning tracker showed 6 older strikes and one recent strike within a 30 minute time period.  Time to chase at last!!

I raced out to Humpty Doo where it was obvious driving there that this was going to be something huge.  Constant flashes inside the clouds, CG action to the rear of the storm.  After waiting a few
minutes and trying to get some shots I realised that my fuel gauge said 'empty' - blast!  Angrily turning back toward the service station I realised I'd left my wallet home - ..not now, please!!

Dashing home I observed through the moonlight a huge anvil that had spread out, it was massive! 

After eventually getting fuel and returning back to the rural area, the rainshaft and downdraught area had caught me by surprise and the drive back there & home was attrocious.  Sheet rain and macrobursts made driving to a speed of 60km/h.  I had to get to the side of the storm as it was obvious I could not outrun it.  I ended up parking just near my home just as the rain shifted and went around me and I was at the rear of the storm.  Powerful CG strikes were around me and captured some of them.  One particularly close one almost struck the car - it was pretty nasty!

I finally arrived home at 5am after chasing this beast and it proved a challenge positioning myself  in a location that gave me the best chance of photos - so much rain and a lack of a decent road network always makes me angry and that proved  frustrating!

Lightning strike too close!

(A regular visitor to my site sent me the above photo with the 'flash' taken out.  You can see how close this strike was by the size of the shaft and the branching is more enhanced!!!!  This is why I storm chase!)

March 15

Want to know what multicell thunderstorms look like?  Darwin received them from 6pm to 2am!  High CAPE, low winds, a thunderstorm with two or more visible domes = slow moving multicell storms!  Generally they are several storm systems that feed off each other, as the lead storm fades others behind replace it. I was stuck at work and could only view this wonderful lightning display go on for over 8 hours!!  (talk about depression...) I managed a couple of anvil and streamer lightning shots from about 2am - all I could gather considering work commitments. :(

Great shot of a weak thunderstorm with ground rainbow!

Perfect shot of deep a convective storm...this is the start of the long night of lightning active storms...

Deep convection Darwin Wharf

March 13 2008

Several storms lined up Darwin for an awesome lightning show this night, but unfortunately remained on the outer perimeter of the city.  There was a couple of fairly active storms with lots of intra-cloud lightning, but not too many strikes to be had.  Made for some interesting photo ops anyway...

March 6 2008

Yet again storms formed in the mid-afternoon.  Several large cells were converging along a boundary just west of Darwin.  By 4pm there was a very large storm skimming the outer side of Darwin.  Produced some of the best structure I've seen in a long while and was very long lived.  Later this evening a squall line formed in the rural area and was headed for Darwin around 6:30pm - but all things being relevant the line died out about 30km from Darwin.  These things always do this and it's very annoying!  I had intended chasing it rural as it was very lightning active, but I had storm photo commitments at the airport for the same system.  Here's some photos from both large storms this day.

March 5 2008

Late afternoon heralded some serious storm activity from inland moving along the outskirts of the city.  By 5pm several cells were growing nicely on the western side of town.  By 7pm they had formed a massive squall line and I hoped it would keep going by the time I had my work dinner break.  Things were very active when I did venture out, although a lot of the strikes had been hidden by rain curtains, the anvil crawler lightning was just superb.  Here's some photos that I captured over the Darwin Wharf eatery area .

March 4 2008

The monsoon trough lying off the north coast and with the influence of a high pressure system from NSW has created a convergence line - or what's known to storm chasers as 'the most likely area for storms to appear'!

Doing all the obs for the morning it was well primed to be a day for storms wherever you were in the Top End.  Clouds began building around midday and by 2pm the cumulus showed definite signs of vertical wind shear - which means that there's energy to push them up, fast!  A weak CAP (the level at which there's drier air and warmer temperatures to stop those bubbles rising..) and low CIN (Convective Inhibition)  which is the same, it acts like a lid on all the instability below) together with high CAPE - (Convective Available Potential Energy -  the  amount of negative instability in the air, all equals one thing - storms!

I captured some wonderful structured storms with strong outflow and deep convective towers before I started work that afternoon, so here's the pics!

It begins with this.....

Storms organized now with very low cloud bases

Gust front approaching Darwin Airport

Smallish tower, but ancillary storm formed to the left of this one and produced lightning

Thunderstorm chases December/January' 08

There were thunderstorms around the Darwin area during these months and easily the best period thus far for some close lightning photographs, so these photos are in no particular order.

I just stuck the camera out of the window to see where the close bolts were coming from - I found out very quickly!

East Arm boat ramp

January 4/5 2008

Tropical Cyclone Helen made an appearance after a developing low pressure system moved inland south of Darwin then NW into the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf during the days leading up to Jan4.  She did not spend too much time lingering over water, which perhaps was a good thing, as the cyclone would have intensified from the CAT2 rating she sustained when she made landfall on the western side of the Northern Territory coastline.

Although Darwin did not sustain a direct hit, her outer rain bands did carry some strong winds.  Gusts were reported around the 140km/h mark at some places and Darwin experienced gusts to 90+ km/h.  Even with this 'small' cyclone, her outer winds caused a damage bill of one million dollars to Darwin, mainly due to fallen trees, power lines etc. Anyone thinking that we would be 'safe' from this little system should have thought twice.  It's not so much the wind that causes the damage, it's the debris and other fallen structures falling down!  A selection of photos below.


Cyclone Helen damage

This palm was uprooted and shifted 2 metres into the air!

cyclone helen

Government Administrator's residence with several large trees blown over.

This large Mahogany tree barely missed this car in a side street, unfortunately the neighbour's fence and house was not so lucky.

Twin pair of Mahogany tress shared the same root system, which brought them both down...