UK Chase

Northampton to Norfolk - 15th August 2002

After expecting storms to develop yesterday across eastern areas for quite a few days, I'd obviously prepared to go out. But as yesterday approached conditions seemed to be becoming rather marginal, though I'd still have been surprised if nothing had happened considering so many of the key indicators were there.

During the afternoon, I watched the skies, some impressive turrets going up near Northampton, but nothing to get excited about. Then, after chats with Nick Verge about the multicell development to the N of London and the various reports that were coming in, I geared myself to go out on the chase. But then some drier air started cutting in ahead of the cold front, which basically killed off convection... at this point I expected it to continue E at the surface, probably also killing off the TS development that was now becoming quite widespread in the E. So I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that all in all the day was going to be a flop... that was until I saw the cloud...

Building storm just N of London viewed from Northampton

There were a line of big Cu and Cb out to my SE running in a NE direction... I could clearly tell these were multicellular by the anvil on the NE side of the cloud and the newly growing cells on the SW side. So I took chase, initially heading towards Cambridge to try and intercept the larger of the multicells (photographed aboive from around 60 miles away). The view was magnificent as these were filling my line of site, each new cell that was growing looked to have an overshooting top and the cumuliform development of the SWestern side of the cells was rock hard... these had to be quite potent.

Towering Cumulus


approaching the storm

As I passed Cambridge I saw my first distant CG as I started to edge under the western flank of the cloud. The sun was very picturesque at this point... low and red, shining under the cloud and through the torrents of rain that were now starting to fall. I decided to head NE towards Thetford and find myself a nice spot to watch the show, by which time I seemed to be amongst 2 or 3 separate cells. I basically drove straight through under the cells, CG's flashing down all around me, probably every 20 seconds or so, before finally getting ahead of the storms and parking up to the N of Thetford. I then sat and watched as the cells passed back over me, fortunately this was the most active period that I was able to watch properly, CG's cracking down every 5-10 seconds all within a couple of miles. By 9:30 or so the most active cell was to the E of me heading towards Norwich and the coast. Although still some spectacular CG's, the frequency was dropping quickly now, so I decided to call it a day and make the long trek back home, well and truly satisfied. Only a 200 mile round trip!

The thing that struck me most about the storms was partly the proportion of CG activity, this appeared to be responsible for perhaps 80% of the discharges, but also the clarity of the forks... they were quite literally dazzling. This may be because, in the main, I managed to avoid the worst of the rainfall (more by luck than judgement I suspect!).