Michael Thompson's Australian Storm Chase Diary
Thunder Downunder 2005 - Day 4, 28th November 2005
Maryborough to Mackay, QLD
All photos clickable for larger size

Even from 80 kilometres ( 50 miles ) away the first dryline storm looks impressive - I am unused to tropical convection which can generate very high storms. Photo taken from Sarina, Queensland.

We are at Mackay just as the sun sets. This LP looking storm is located 40 kilometres NW of Mackay. The anvil streams SE for several hundred kilometres.

Chasers Clyve Herbert and Michael King are awestruck by the height of this storm.

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to drive up the Queensland coast and into the tropics. My obsession started back in 1969-1970 when as a young teenager the family was due to go on a road trip vocation to tropical Queensland. We got as far as Brisbane when my father heard that the road further north was in a shocking condition after an active cyclone season. So we turned back.

With yesterdays trough well NE and lingering just over a fraction of north Queensland coastline today would become that opportunity. We know from the synoptic MSL chart that we would need to at least reach the Tropic of Capricorn to catch the trough. We left Maryborough ( 25' 50 S ) with clear skies and a pleasant temperature. Dewpoints were in single figures. Not a trace of trough line could be seen.

At the Tropic of Capricorn just north of Rockhampton we still could not see any convection NE. The sky was also filling with bushfire smoke from numerous spot fires that looked suspiciously like lightning strike fires from the previous night. The AM radio was telling us that storms were about 200kms away. We pushed further north - the smoke finally cleared near St Lawrence and the sight of a huge storm revealed itself far on the NE horizon. In fact there was three major individual storms. It was another 90 minutes before we reached the edge of the dry line. Dewpoints jumped from around 10C to 16C in just a few kilometres, later jumping again near Sarina to 22C. At Sarina it was now clear to all four chasers that these were close to the highest storms we have seen - the isolation due to the dryline helped with the overall impression of sheer height.

We made Mackay ( 21'S ) just on sunset to watch a LP looking storm catch the colours of the sunset.Hail shafts falling from the anvil we evident. Although we never actually made it under one of the storms, none of us went away disappointed. To see structure so impressive was well worth the excursion into the tropics. Later on the local news we heard reports of golfball hail about at Proserpine about 50 kilometres north of Mackay.

The sun lights up hail shafts falling from the anvil of this LP like storm at Mackay.
A sure sign that you are in tropical Australia - these warnings are real ! Mackay - Pioneer River.

An arrow points to our storm with its huge anvil