AUTUMN 2006 - part 3: Seasonal squalls


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Autumn is that time of year that traditionally sees Atlantic cyclones queue up, waiting to maul us with their gales, rain-bands and showery post-frontal airmasses. After a quiet start 2006 has proved to be no exception, from late October onwards at least.

Most of the weatherpix in this page are from November 17th but before that let's just jump back to October 21st when a not particularly photogenic but incredibly intense short-lived squall hit the coast near Aberdyfi. I'd headed in that direction hoping for some decent cloud-photos...

Arriving in time for the show of natural fury, I pulled off the road into a big layby overlooking the Aberdyfi Golf Course and the coast. Seconds later it hit, coming across the greens like a wall of fog and then absolutely hammering it down with rain and hail. Visibility was no more than 30m at its height with winds gusting to storm force. The above image was taken at its height, obviously from inside the jeep! All road traffic simply had to stop for 10 minutes while the heaviest part of the core passed by....

...and this is it easing, or "slowing to a torrent" as a mate I used to work with was fond of saying. The golf course was a mass of pools of floodwater and the road on to Tywyn was awash and littered with bits of debris. Good job this only lasted 10 minutes!

November 21st brought a good convective forecast and I kept a beady eye on the weather-radar from first thing. In fact an early trip to the layby near Llwyngwril appeared to be justified - and although the cloudscapes proved a disappointment, this rainbow duly obliged instead!

Another shot with a bit of telephoto. I don't seem to have many rainbow-pix for some why not take a few more!!

Back home to work, but later in the afternoon a line of heavy showers was apparent on the radar, heading towards the coast, so with about half an hour of daylight remaining I jumped back in the jeep and whizzed down to Borth. Although the light was poor I could see a long, low line of clouds ahead of the approaching storm. This looked promising!

Looking to the R of the last image, with the last light from sunset visible in a gap between precipitation-shafts and again that linear feature low down - a gust-front or shelf-cloud...

As it approached closer it began to look a little bit more dramatic....

This was about as good as it got. Quite menacing with the darkness of the storm's core behind. The shape of the cloud is due to cool outflow air from within the storm moving out ahead of it and undercutting and lifting the warmer air in the outside environment. Lifting that air cools it so that its moisture content condenses into cloud. Shelf-clouds from very powerful thunderstorms can take on a quite evil appearance - this one's just a baby!


Here it is arriving almost overhead. This was the last of the day - it was getting dark and within a few minutes torrential rain and hail began to fall, hurled around by squally winds. Time to abandon my post I decided!

I'll finish this page off with a few odds & ends from October & November. Firstly a few from a walk over the hills above Aberedw - I said I'd dedicate a bit more space to them. I first discovered these hills as a child when regular half-term holidays were spent wandering them. They are not very high and not very steep but nevertheless they have a certain, deep magic of their own - wide expanses of heather traversed by tracks of indeterminate age, here and there a surprise, low crag with weather-stunted hawthorns a-sprouting, and the strange, shallow mawn-pools.... this...


Here is a typical scene along the old trackway that crosses Llanbedr Hill. On a sunny August day the place is aglow with heather, and alive with the humming of honeybees, while skylarks fill the air overhead with sound. Not very high or steep - Jim Perrin said many years ago in a wonderful essay about this part of Wales that the Swiss mountain guide Jean Charlet was reputed to have said of them: "Mon Dieu, but the Almighty has forgotten to put the tops on them!"...

Would look mighty fine with a line of cumulonimbus clouds in the background. However, really this is one of those places where being there is more important than other ambitions - I alluded to this a couple of pages back - it is just special, and wild. I guess it depends on one's perspective of what really matters, and my admission that I have found mine, if only partly! Confusing business, belonging to
Homo Sapiens Globalis...


Anyway - get the right light and there are so many opportunities hereabouts to turn a scene like this into something so very moody and dramatic!


This was done not by having the right light but by deliberately underexposing the scene! Will come back in right light, he promises himself!


Back home now. The Machynlleth sign is up again for a week of festivities involving the whole community. I had a go involving timelapse cloud-video and found it a seriously enjoying experience, to the extent that I find myself looking at online camcorder catalogues and doing those mental calculations that usually mean that one cannot afford the kit (if one could, the calculations would likely be unnecessary)...

Cymru Rydd is a Welsh Republic-seeking political party, and that sign predates the "Machynlleth" one by some years. I often think that if we all had our shoulders together at the wheel then we could stand much firmer against the problems that our rural communities, not only in Wales but elsewhere, face on a daily basis.... trouble is it is never that straightforward, it seems.


Finishing this one off with the hope that the pot of gold really is under the Clocktower! This is the remains of what was the most incredible rainbow seen in town for ages. I ran to get a camera but it was really a mad scrabble for what had passed!

The clock really does need help. It needs at least a hundred thousand quid input to sort it before age and weathering makes it unsafe.

A big fundraising mission is on via the Town Council. It's done well already, and if anyone wants to help either email me or better still Google Machynlleth Clocktower Appeal. Or go and see Ann in the Miscellania shop behind the tower itself.

It's a tiny amount to find really. But how do these things balance? I guess we are somewhere in between the cost of a Cruise Missile fired off into the depth of Iraq and a Jobseekers Allowance Girocheque! How the latter is often resented more than the former by so many! Strange, the numbers game, sometimes! We are often almost as mysterious as the weather, one would be forgiven to assume!


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