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Spectacular Shelf Clouds Accompany Storms in the Northern Rivers: Friday 2nd December 2005
Report compiled by Dave Ellem and Michael Bath

It was now day eight in the string of storm chase days I had headed out on since the 25th of November, and once again, the setup looked reasonable, with mostly good shear and instability. The atmosphere was flooded with moisture though, and with so much cloud likely to affect the region throughout the day, the temperature was going to struggle to get above the high twenties. Cells began to develop in a line west of Lismore that was SE-NW aligned. Michael Bath and I headed out around 1.30pm to Tregeagle to observe the line, hoping it would eventually fire. We heard the occasional rumble of thunder from a cell which had developed NE of us and passed over our houses. However nothing further W really took off until around 2.30pm. Michael and I repositioned ourselves near the turnoff to the Lismore to Woodburn road and watched a cell spreading into the area. It was obviously weak, but with thunder occurring regularly and a gustfront starting to form, there was hope!

Due to other commitments, Michael could not chase far, so I decided to head towards Broadwater and stay ahead of the storm in the hope it would continue to get bigger. Michael took these photos of the storm passing by:

On the road to Broadwater I stopped a number of times. At one point the sky looked quite menacing, with dark cloud overhead and what almost looked like a wall cloud sitting behind the hill (it probably wasn’t, but still looked great!).

I had to drive through the remnants of the earlier cell which had passed over my house near Broadwater, and I was worried it would kill off the approaching cell. At Broadwater I stopped in a clearing on the Pacific Highway to see what the cell W of me was doing, and it was looking a little messy.

I pressed on further N, stopping in the cane fields just S of Wardell. The cell seemed to be redeveloping again, with fresh towers billowing up above a gustfront…well, I’m not sure if it was so much a gustfront as just a thunderstorm base. In any case, it was a nice sight, with plenty of thunder rumbling within the clouds. There was some weak rotation under the base of the cell in the second picture below, and this appeared to continue up into the updraft above too, but it was pretty marginal.

Soon the updrafts were beginning to push up over my head as the cell got quite close. It didn’t look like any severe weather was going to occur in my position, so I decided to stay put and let the storm’s base pass to my S. The view to the S was still a bit mean looking.

It was interesting to take note of the change in wind directions. A solid NE had occurred right up until the gustfront moved overhead, when it quite obviously shifted round to a solid N, and then further around to the NW. The cell certainly didn’t appear to have much guts to it once I was behind it, but it was pretty clear that underneath it was copping some very heavy rain.

I headed south to see what had taken place, and surely enough, a lot of front yards in Broadwater were underwater. I headed back on the road that joins up with the Lismore to Woodburn road, as new development was occurring to the NW. At the time though I was more interested in the lovely flanking line on the cell which had now passed out to sea. At times the updrafts looked so crisp – especially when illuminated by the sun.

The cell to my NW was looking fairly week so I decided to head back towards home via Meerschaum Vale. I stopped to photograph some storms that weren’t too far away to the E which had developed behind the initial cell I had chased. I also noticed that another new cell had begun to develop to the NW, and it looked a little stronger.

Before I left I got a photo of the cell to my ENE. I’m not sure if it’s very clear in these photos, but about halfway up the updraft, there were these circular looking bandings – something I had never really seen before.

I was so tired from such a busy week that I thought I might fall asleep while driving around after the next storm approaching from the SW, so I left it behind and headed home, which at the time looked as though it would mean I'd miss the cell moving SE towards Evans Head. I was quite surprised however after arriving home that fresh updrafts were occurring to the WNW, and a gustfront was beginning to develop. I was very excited to have such a lovely looking shelf cloud developing and moving straight towards my house – what a gift!

The southern end of the gustfront looked quite large and ominous – enough to get my mum off the phone and putting all the outdoor furniture into a safe place!

Radar showed that the storm was not particularly intense, and the lack of CG lightning and fairly irregular rumbles of thunder seemed to back this up, so I was not particularly concerned about the storm being severe. I decided to run down to the back paddock to get into a better position for photographing the scene which was passing by to the S.

While I was out in the open, a CG occurred a few kilometres away and let off quite a crack of thunder, and I thought it probably was silly to be so far away from any shelter, so I raced back to our back fence to get some more photos, where shelter was then no more than a few metres away.

The shelf cloud looked quite impressive as it dwarfed our house, but it was very clear now that this cell was not going to produce much more than very heavy rain, and annoyingly, that most of that would miss our place.

In the end we got about 0.2mm from the storm, which was a little disappointing, but still, to finish 8 days in a row of storm chasing with a lovely shelf cloud at my home was quite fitting! It had been perhaps the best week of storm chasing I had ever experienced. A squall line was also occurring inland at the time of the storms I had chased locally, and this moved into the region around midnight, however it had lost intensity as it did, and resulted in not much more than a bit of heavy rain and the very occasional flash of lightning.


From Bureau of Meteorology

  • Grafton local scale loop 0200z to 0800z 02/12/2005 (1pm to 7pm NSW time)

    Satellite Images

    From Weatherzone

    03z 04z 05z 06z 07z 2pm to 6pm local

    Analysis Charts

    From Bureau of Meteorology

    02/12/2005 06z

    GFS Model Analysis

    From NOAA 02/12/2005 06z analysis

  • Liftex Index
  • CAPE
  • Relative Humidity surface
  • Relative Humidity 850 hPa
  • Relative Humidity 700 hPa
  • Relative Humidity 600 hPa
  • Relative Humidity 500 hPa
  • Relative Humidity 300 hPa
  • Temperature (C) surface
  • Temperature (C) 850 hPa
  • Temperature (C) 700 hPa
  • Temperature (C) 500 hPa
  • Temperature (C) 300 hPa
  • Winds (knots) surface
  • Winds (knots) 925 hPa
  • Winds (knots) 850 hPa
  • Winds (knots) 700 hPa
  • Winds (knots) 600 hPa
  • Winds (knots) 500 hPa
  • Winds (knots) 300 hPa
  • Winds (knots) 200 hPa

    Document: 200512-01.htm
    Updated: 24th January 2006
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