Monday 26 February 2018

Photographer captures rare 'pre-tornado' clouds

Tornadic Undulatus Asperatus captured by Matt Loughrey from Clew Bay, County Mayo
Tornadic Undulatus Asperatus captured by Matt Loughrey from Clew Bay, County Mayo

Áine Ryan

IT is not quite as spectacular as the natural phenomenon of Aurora Borealis but a dramatic cloud formation known as Undulatus Asperatus – predominantly seen in the American states of Kansas and North Dakota – has now been spotted in the Mayo skies.

Murrisk-based photographer Matt Loughrey captured these "tornadic and ominous-looking" clouds late last month.

"To see them here is unheard of but I've paid close attention to the skies over north Mayo since I first saw them, wondering would they appear again.

"I took the idea seriously after I got in touch with the Royal Meteorological Society (RMS). Since this cloud type received some wider attention, they have been requesting the data in order to better build a scientific picture of why they are forming," said Mr Loughrey.

"To be out in the middle of an estuary at low tide and have these clouds form in under 10 minutes overhead is a surreal experience. They look tornadic and ominous."

It is the second year that the cloud formation has been spotted in Mayo.

"Indeed, the RMS got back to me earlier to confirm that these were indeed once again Undulatus Asperatus – same time of year, same location and similar conditions. They were itching to get hold of the data," Mr Loughrey said.

His photographs will now be included in the 'International Cloud Atlas'.

Mr Loughrey added: "In the US plains states, such formations are viewed as a sign of pre-tornadic conditions. Fortunately, we don't have the warm winds to make that happen here."

Experts say that the clouds are not a phenomenon of climate change and have been around for a long time but are just captured more regularly because of the increase in amateur photography.

Undulatus Asperatus is loosely translated as 'roughened waves'.

Irish Independent

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