2006 - part 1: Cloudbursting!
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The anti-drought continued through
September and into October with style, and the fields
have returned to their customary emerald green. In the
past few weeks I have driven through the heaviest rain I
have ever encountered and slept through a similar
overnight deluge that flash-flooded part of the house I
live in leaving a sorry sight awaiting me first thing in
the morning. This weather stuff's not all fun and games,
Here is the pick of the shots from recent times. Most
date from the weekend of the 29th September-1st October,
when a lot of storms were around, although they mostly
proved exceptionally uncooperative in photography terms.
That's one of the things I really like about doing this
though - you are, at the end of the day, totally at the
mercy of the laws of atmospheric physics and can only get
results when circumstances beyond your control come
together favourably. It's something humans cannot control
at all. I like that.
The above image, and the one below, were taken
late on a September afternoon near Llwyngwiril.
Cardigan Bay is covered by an extensive
stratocumulus sheet - outflow from old storms way
to the SW, and clearer air is visible in the
distance beyond the Lleyn Peninsula. Bardsey is
at the far L. I love the light on this and the
way the cloudbase pulls you towards the
Telephoto of part of the same view....
On to the
weekend at the end of September. On the afternoon
of the 29th, convective towers out in Cardigan
Bay were sporting little funnel-clouds here and
there along their bases, which were better viewed
through binoculars due to a) their small size and
b) their distance from me...
Here's a close-up, about as close as is possible
without the grain of the ISO 100 film becoming
too noisy. Distinct small funnel to the RHS. Had
the convection been more vigorous a group of
waterspouts would have been a nice possibility!
the SW there was more vigorous activity....
...with strong upper-level shear very apparent.
What this means is that the winds aloft - 20,000
feet up or more - are very strong compared to
those further down. Therefore, the fine
cirrus-cloud forming the storm's anvil is drawn
away well downwind, forming a long veil of cloud
many miles long.
September 30th saw another of my exploratory runs
to SW Wales, to check it out as
"chase-country". This time I
concentrated on the area between the Teifi
Estuary at Cardigan and Strumble Head SW of
Fishguard, a place that is approached by winding
lanes like these. A multicellular line had just
passed through when I arrived, with, like the day
before, anvils sheared out way ahead of the
precipitation, which was pretty intense. But it
turned out to be the first and last storm of the
day! So it was time to go exploring instead....
The path up to Garn-fawr, the highest bit of
ground hereabouts with a scramble to reach the
From the top there are extensive views in all
directions. Here, the retreating multicell line
can be seen in the distance, whilst Strumble Head
lighthouse dominates the foreground...
Here's the lighthouse itself, with rocks falling
away to fairly rough seas. It's seriously deep in
places here with fearsome tidal overfalls and
submerged rock-pinnacles awaiting unwary
Moving on up the coast past Fishguard, this is
Ceibwr Bay. Note the retreating multicell line is
This is a photogenic spot and would be a great
place to visit on a really rough day. Even today
the waves were breaking quite high over the rocks
This view looking SW would be quite excellent
with 20ft waves slamming into the pinnacles!
After visiting Ceibwr, the veil of cloud to the
SW had started dominating things, thus killing
off any more photographic opportunities. The
following day, Sunday October 1st, saw
threatening skies moving in from Cardigan Bay. I
headed to Borth hoping for good things....
....but was met by a cloudburst that made the
road awash and brought light levels down to
near-dusk for my trouble!
Undaunted, in the afternoon I headed SE to the
Borders to intercept an apparent clearer area,
indicated on satellite imagery, with a whole
clump of storms following on. However, whilst
heading down there it seemed to have largely
filled itself in! The occasional bright patch
gave hints of stunning mammatus-laden
thunderheads in the distance so I carried on
....only to find more of the same! This is the
road that crosses from Painscastle to Cregrina,
going over Llanbedr Hill, one of a group of
lovely open hills to the east of Builth Wells.
They deserve their own webpage and they shall
have one in due course!
Anyway, sat up there in the jeep, with it rocking
from side to side, battered by squall after
squall after squall, the road a wide river and
the light fading fast, I decided to accept
defeat. A Saturday with hardly any storms
followed by a Sunday with far to many to get a
decent look-in! So at about 6.30pm I set off
home, taking the valley road down towards Aberedw
and the main A470....
...whereupon a huge hole promptly opened up in
the endless cloud-deck revealing what I had been
after all along! Despite dusk rapidly
approaching, I stopped and watched this lot go
by, with the silhouette of Llandeilo Hill in the
...with the anvil cirrus lit by the last of the
....and just a hint of mammatus to finish off
with. By now, the "cloud hole" was
rapidly closing up behind me, as another storm
approached from the south-west. It was time to
Just as I reached Builth Wells, I went into the
core of the next storm's heaviest rain. This was
the stuff that makes giant-sized splat marks on
the windscreen and bounces back 10cm or more on
impact! Visibility dropped right back to less
than 100m and my speed dropped to around 15mph. I
finally punched through the core a few miles NW
of Builth and fled northwards up the A470 to
drier skies, the pub and home.
Later, I returned to these hills on a sunny, warm
October afternoon and wandered contentedly along
the wide trackways, camera in tow. In many
places, washed-out track-bed and rock-fragments
freshly strewn over green grass gave witness to
the ferocity of that final cloudburst of the day.
These were not the most photogenic storms I have
set out to record, and I wouldn't call the day a
success in those terms, but they certainly meant
business and it was good to be out there amongst
them and to feel humble in the presence of the
uncontrollable power of the natural world - a
world with neither compassion nor hatred,
merciless and unrelenting but not deliberate,
neither kind nor cruel.
Such storms have rumbled their way around the
planet for hundreds of millions of years, yet
Homo Sapiens - mankind - has been around for less
than half a million years and civilisation for a
fraction of that again. It is right, therefore,
to feel humbled by the raw power of the natural
world - it doesn't need us, but we most certainly
need it. I remind myself of that often, and when
I forget to, such storms as those I was pounded
by on Sunday October 1st 2006 do a very good job
of reminding me!
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