20 May 2015

Weather explained: yesterday’s thunderstorms in pictures

Yesterday saw thunderstorms across the UK that would be more akin to April than May, with hail, thunder, lightning and gusty winds mixed in.

As I mentioned in the blog that I wrote, the UK has already had all of its average May rainfall in the first two weeks of the month.

Nottinghamshire v Somerset - LV County Championship

Whilst the drenching downpours may not have been welcomed by those of us caught out and soaked, they did offer some stunning cloud pictures that were sent to me on Twitter.

1 – Thunderstorm over London

This moody picture of the London skyline shows just how dramatic a heavy shower can be. The left hand side of the picture shows a dark sky, with a shaft of rain falling. Yet the right hand side of the picture is bathed in sunshine.

2 – Dark sky above Westminster

Dark clouds loom overhead in this picture taken outside Westminster station. The reason that clouds look this dark from below is that they are so tall in the sky. This increases the clouds’ thickness, leading to less light reaching the surface, with more of it reflected back into space.

3 – Towering cumulus

Towering cumulus clouds are on the verge of growing into cumulonimbus clouds in this picture. The sun heats the ground, which then heats the air above, causing it to rise, cool and condense, forming clouds.

4 – Cumulonimbus with ice crystals visible

Once clouds reach high enough in the sky, they will consist of ice crystals, rather than water droplets. This can be seen in this picture, where the bottom half of the cloud has a smooth appearance (a sign of water droplets), whereas the top half of the cloud has a wispy appearance (a sign of ice crystals).

5 – Cumulonimbus with anvil

This great image captures a cumulonimbus cloud with an anvil starting to form. Rising air can’t rise upwards forever and starts to spread outwards instead. When a cloud reaches this stage, it can deliver some lively downpours!

6 – Mammatus clouds

Mammatus clouds, renowned for their udder-like appearance are common in thunderstorm clouds. Thunderstorms have a complicated system of rising and sinking air currents inside them. Where the air sinks, you get these ominous looking cloud formations.

7 – Shower clouds over the sea

This collection of images looking out across the English Channel shows how hit and miss showers can be. Blue sky surrounds blobs of dark clouds, from which you can see rain shadows from showers falling beneath.

8 – Double rainbow over Hampshire

This is a beautiful picture of a double rainbow over Hampshire. Double rainbows form when sunlight is reflected and refracted within a raindrop not once, but twice. The second rainbow always tends to be fainter than the first.

9 – Colourful clouds at sunset

Left over shower clouds always deliver a colourful sunset as the lowering sun causes sunlight to bounce off clouds at different heights in the sky.

10 – Dramatic cumulonimbus at sunset

As the sun starts to set, the contrast between dark sky and sunshine becomes even more pronounced, as shown in this collection of pictures taken in Salisbury.

Don’t forget, you can always send me your weather pictures on Twitter – @liamdutton

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One reader comment

  1. Philip says:

    In the SE London suburbs we were battered by ten minutes of hailstones sufficient to make it look as though it’d snowed.

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