6th March 2017

Had another great little chase into the wheatbelt this afternoon. I could see cumulus towers popping up out towards Northam, so I headed to a great spot that I like near Meckering that has good views to the east. It was a hot day (37°C+) and the flies were out in swarms. This is not unusual for this time of the year in Australia, but it takes some getting used to when you have lived in the city for a few years.

It was immediately clear that this setup was going to produce something spectacular, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be this good.

There was a line of storms popping up that stretched from the north west to the south east (left to right in the following pano).

As impressive as the main cell in front of me was, it was the small cell to the right that caught my attention. It shot up rapidly and within an hour had became one of the most spectacular anvils I have ever seen. The following sequence of photos highlights the growth of this cell.

At this point, I made the call to move further east towards Cunderdin to follow this cell in the hope that it might became lightning active after sunset. By then, it had grown into a very large thunderstorm and the setting sun lit up the top in an impressive display of colour.

There was a fair bit of lighting in this cell, but by now it was moving away to the SE and I didn’t really plan to follow it that far.

Behind me, another thunderstorm was making its way south and this one was very lightning active, but the rain and dust obscured most of it. I did manage to get a shot of some mammatus that had formed.

As darkness fell (and a gazillion mosquitoes came out) I decided to head back to the Great Eastern Highway to find a better location to try and capture some lighting shots. I finally found a spot just west of Cunderdin and set up the camera. The decaying storm that was approaching still had plenty of energy and the gust front pushing out in front of it made it hard to keep the camera and tripod steady. Even so, I managed a few photos as the storm headed my way.

Even though this chase was only a few hours long (380km round trip) I really enjoyed it. The cloud structures I saw were truly amazing. So here is one more of that anvil.

Be sure to check out my photography page at mattfrickerphotography.com where you can  purchase many of my weather images. Enjoy.

1st March 2017

It’s been a while since Perth saw any decent thunderstorm activity. But Wednesday 1st March broke the TS drought. At 2:45pm, my weather station at home recorded a high temperature of 41.7°C and 78% humidity, so there was plenty of heat and moisture around. The afternoon aerological diagram (T-skew) from the BoM showed plenty of potential for lifting and storm development.


And I guess it was hard to miss these babies developing…


The growth of this particular cell was impressive, as this short time-lapse shows.

So we set off out along the Brookton Highway to Mount Dale, about 4okm’s east of Kelmscott. Going up the hill, I got stuck behind a slow moving truck, which made the view in front of me all the more tantalising.

The photo above was taken on my dash mounted camera (which needs adjusting up a bit) at 6:15pm. The following radar image show the development of this storm around this time.

We got to Mount Dale a few minutes before sunset. After parking in the lookout carpark, we climbed the track to the eastern side of the hill. The view is not the best because of the trees, but there are plenty of places where you can get a reasonable view to the east. And what a view it was. I’ll let the following photo’s tell the story…

Sometimes it is nice to step back from the camera and just enjoy the show.

The view looking up. By this stage, the massive cloud structure was being lit up by the sun even though it had set, which gives you some perspective as to just how high this thing was.

By this time, a second cell was developing overhead and it was getting a bit too dangerous to stay out in the open, so we made the call to head back home. We hadn’t been home long before another set of storms that had formed north of Perth began making their way toward the city. So I set the camera up on the front porch and managed to get a few photos through the trees.

In this photo you can see the CBD skyline with the lightning hitting somewhere in the western suburbs.

More storms passed over the metro area during the night, but it had been a long day for my so I missed them. You can see some great photos from the team at Perth Weather Live on their Facebook page using the link below.

Favorite Image for 2016

Sometimes it is hard to pick a favourite image.

Especially in a year when there has not been a lot of storm action! But for me, the chase on January 23 would have to be the most memorable. And it is from this chase that my favourite photo for 2016 comes.


As the light faded in the western sky, a group of chasers had gathered along a fence line to watch the lightning active storm that was sliding away to the SE. The angle of the sun, the right amount of rain and the stunning colors combined to create an almost perfect condition for this image. Add to this the smell of wet grass and the rumble of distant thunder, I could have stayed in this moment for ever. I guess that is one of the reasons I love to chase the weather. It is a soul cleansing, awe-inspiring and humbling experience. And its moments like thee that give me the space and perspective that I so often need. Enjoy.

Pyrocumulus Clouds

A pyrocumulus cloud is produced by the intense heating of the air from the earths surface. The intense heat induces convection, which causes the air mass above the heat source to rise. As the air rises it expands and cools. If the water content in the rising air mass cools to the dew-point temperature in the atmosphere around it (the temperature at which condensation forms) then cloud formation occurs. This is the same mechanism that causes thunderstorms to form on a hot day.
Image credit: ©Amery Drage. Large pyrocumulus cloud from a fire in the Kalbarri National Park, 13th March 2014. The base of this fire is between 50-60km away from the photographer. Notice how the winds at a higher altitude are pushing the top of the cloud over to the right.

Jordan Cantelo 01Image credit: ©Jordan Cantelo. Arial view of the Boddington fire, Feb 2015.

Phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and occasionally industrial activities can form of this type of cloud. The detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere will also produce a pyrocumulus, in the form of a mushroom cloud. Condensation of the moisture already present in the atmosphere, as well as moisture evaporated from burnt vegetation or volcanic steam, occurs readily on the particles of ash in the cloud. In reality, a pyrocumulus cloud is made up of smoke, ash and condensed water vapour. This is why they always have a greyish to brownish colour, with the tops looking more cloud like than the smoke plume closer to the ground.
Brayden Marshall 01Image credit: ©Brayden Marshall. View of the Boddington fire from the Perth metro area. The base of this fire is approximately 120km away from the photographers location.

craig eccles 01Image credit: ©Craig Eccles. Small pyrocumulus cloud starting to form. Notice how the majority of the smoke is blown to the right but the hot air rising straight up is forming a cloud as water vapour condenses.

Pyrocumulus clouds often contain strong updrafts, which can cause strong wind gusts at the surface. This effect can make an already dangerous fire even more so. As the hot air mass rises, fresh air is pulled into the base. Even a relatively small fire can create it’s own in-draft, which further fuels the fires capacity to burn.  A large pyrocumulus, particularly one associated with a volcanic eruption, may also produce lightning. A pyrocumulus which produces lightning is usually called a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, but not all pyrocumulonimbus clouds produce lightning.

There have also been many recorded examples of pyrocumulonimbus clouds producing rain. There are even a few examples where pyrocumulonimbus clouds, caused by forest fires, actually quenched the fire that spawned them.

Sam Kaye 01Image credit: ©Sam Kaye – Sam posted this photo into PWL on 3rd Feb 2015. It shows the pyrocumulus cloud from the fire near Boddington. Notice how the smoke turns to cloud at about the same altitude and the conventional clouds.

This article is reproduced and adapted with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Article source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrocumulus_cloud

22nd March 2014

With out a doubt, the 2014 summer storm season has been a big let down so far here in Western Australia. Up until today that is.

I had some idea late on Friday evening that I would be heading out the following day. After looking at all the charts and models, I narrowed my chase location to an area somewhere around Wongan Hills. So at about 11am, my son Connor and I loaded the car and headed over to pick up my friend and chase buddy, Ramon. We grabbed a few supplies from IGA and headed up Wanaroo Road before turning east. We picked up the Great Northern Highway and headed north towards the target area.

It was clear that by the time we got to New Norcia, we would not have to go as for north as previously planned. So we sat in a clearing on the edge of town for an hour or so and watched the convection around us. We even had a few big and very cold drops of rain. After so long with no rain here in WA, it was almost a novelty. Before long, we made the call to head further east. We passed through the small town of Yerecoin and continued east for a few Km’s before turning south onto Woods Road. We found a fantastic location on top of the highest point around to stop and watch was developing all around us. Click on the image below to see the 360° version.


There were some fair sized cumulus towers developing to the north and north-east which were producing pileus caps. They form as a parcel of air is shoved upward by the rapidly rising convective tower. Moisture in the air above the tower condenses directly into an ice fog as the air rises and cools, forming the pileus.



These towers formed and then collapsed several times over the next hour and a half. One that was directly north of us dropped a few bolts of lightning, but it soon collapsed also.


To make things a little interesting, there was also a fire burning to our north-west, so some of the photo’s we got have an orange colour to them because of the smoke.


To the west, we were treated to an awesome display as the sun shone through a gap in the clouds.




As the evening began to cool, the atmosphere  seemed to get less dynamic, but further south we could see that things were just getting going. A quick look at the radar confirmed that there were significant cells developing off the coast near Perth. So we packed up and headed south. After a quick bite to eat in Bullsbrook, we headed over to the coast to see what was going on. As we got closer, we could see the western sky lighting up with flashes of lightning. We made our way to Ocean Reef Marina and parked the car overlooking the ocean towards the south-west. It wasn’t long before we started to see some significant CG lightning dropping somewhere south of Rottnest Island. We set up our cameras and settled in for a couple of hours as we watched the storm cell move slowly in a south-easterly direction. Whilst there, we bumper into fellow storm chaser and photographer Mark Finley. The storm was a long way from us and there was a fair bit of light pollution, so the following images are not as good as I would have liked, but they give you an idea.



The following images were taken by my son, Connor. Whilst I was chatting to Mark (meaning ‘whilst I wasn’t watching’) he thought he would have a go behind my camera. He was pretty excited as you can imagine.



As the cell moved further south, it seemed to start getting less intensive. So we called it a night and headed back down the freeway. As we got closer to the city, we could see that the storm had got active again as it crossed the coast. We made a last minute call to see if we could get some more images from the bank of the Swan River. We found a great spot just west of the Old Swan Brewery, set up the cameras and started shooting. I’m so glad we did. The light show on the other side of the river was amazing. I had some trouble keeping the camera steady because the wind was so gusty, but I managed to capture some CG’s.





Eventually, the storm moved further south-east and the lightning became obscured by rain, so we packed up once again and headed home. All the way home we watched as this system belted the outer southern suburbs with strike after strike. You can see some of the many images sent into the Perth Weather Live Facebook page here.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the lightning and thunder and rain as much as we did. Lets hope we can a have a few more before the season finishes. On an interesting side note, today  is the 4 year anniversary of the March 22 super storm that dumped large hail on Perth. You can read about it here.

May 8-9 Winter Storms

Yesterday saw the first real winter storms for Western Australia and it is not even winter yet! We knew this system was going to be big but just how big was a surprise. As you can see from this Sat image, the front stretched from the North West down into the Southern Ocean.


In the hope of seeing a water spout (we have had a few over the past month) my son and I headed off to the coast with our camera’s fully charged. On the way, I spotted this low, ominous looking cloud off to the south. There was some rotation and it looked like it was dropping, so we headed over to have a look.


May 8-9 Storms-1

This cell dumped lots of rain and as we got close to where it had been, we saw small branches and leaves all over the road. Eventually, it dissipated and moved away to the south, so we continued towards the coast.


We arrived at Kwinana Horse Beach to discover that the waves were washing right up to the dunes.  We had fished from this beach just a couple of weeks ago and normally, the water is about 40m from the dunes. Not today.

The sea was green and angry and every now and then a big set of waves would push foam and debris right up the access track. The wind was strong and blowing a constant gale. My son was nearly blown over a few times. This made holding the camera very difficult and using the tripod was not going to work either. So we sat in the car and waited, watching.

And then , on the horizon, we saw a growing dark mass. As the wind began to pick up, our excitement went up a level. You could tell by looking at the approaching front that this was going to hit us hard. To our right, looking north, we could see another cell further up the coast as it passed somewhere over Fremantle. There were some very interesting cloud formations going on and for a while, I thought we might actually see a spout form.

May 8-9 Storms-2

May 8-9 Storms-3

We watched this for a while before turning our attention to the cell out to sea. By now, it was just on the other side of Garden Island and closing in fast. We could see the rain curtain and the wind was really howling. I fired a few shots off before retreating to the car. And then it was on us. BANG. It hit with so much force that my car (2.5 tonne 4WD) was rocking and shaking.

May 8-9 Storms-5

May 8-9 Storms-4

May 8-9 Storms-6

8th May 2013 Winter Storm from Matt Fricker on Vimeo.

For a moment, there was a complete white out and the noise was deafening. And then, as suddenly as it had started… it was past. Within a minute or two, there was a patch of blue sky.


We made the decision to go for a drive out toward Serpentine to see if any damage had been done. As we moved east, we could see lots of small branches and leaves over the roads and there was plenty of water on the sides of the road and in the paddocks. By now, our cell was out past Pinjarra. We found a safe place off the road and pulled over to check out some new cells that had  crossed the coast and were chasing us!  I took this 360° image just west of Serpentine. Click here to open the image viewer on a new page.

Although I prefer to head out and chase storms in summer, winter storms and cold fronts can be exciting to witness up close. Having said that, these storms can be dangerous and property can and does get damaged. Remember to stay safe, clean out your gutters and keep those yards tidy.

16 March 2013

Chase Date: 16th March 2013

After picking up a couple of friends and fuelling up, we headed out of the city towards Northam. The plan was to get out past town, park on top of a hill and check out what was happening to the east. As we headed out, I started to think that perhaps I had read the radar wrong. Perhaps the forecast storms had dissipated. But it was a nice day for a drive and we were all keen to get out and take some great photo’s anyway.  The wheatbelt is a fantastic place for a photographer. There is no end to interesting views, plants, animals and man-made objects to photograph.

As we neared Northam, it became clear that there were indeed storms forming and one in particular grabbed our attention.  The excitement level went up a notch and we made the call to head straight for the cell in front of us.  We drove out to Cunderdin and then headed north toward Wyalkatchem.


Half way between Cunderdin and Wyalkatchem, we stopped on top of a ridge to survey the situation (photo above).  From Wyalkatchem we headed east. The storm in front of was growing in size and every now and then it would form a ‘cap’ as it pushed through various layers of colder air.  But this cell was moving to the SE fast and we soon realised that were not going to get in front of it.  So we pulled over to check out another storm that was forming to the north east. I love just pulling over on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. You can find all sorts of interesting things to photograph.  The following photo is a view of the storm that had outrun us.


We also got some great shots of the setting sun from this location.  There is something special about wheatbelt sunsets.


From here, we set off into the growing darkness towards Nungarin, turning north along Karomin Road. As we raced toward Mukinbudin, we were surrounded by storm cells lighting up the sky with internal cloud lightning.


We soon found ourselves on top of Gnammamoning Hill, about 10km’s SWS of Mukinbudin.  With an unobstructed view from the side of the road, we set our cameras and got ready. What developed in front of us was nothing short of awesome.  With the lights of town as a perfect focus point, we were able to capture hundreds of images of this very large system as it passed just north of Mukka.  The following sequence is just a few of those shots.  The storm seemed to stall for about an hour. I think this was due to the strong easterly. I also think there might have been some rotation. This is yet to be confirmed.





After about an hour, the storm changed shape and started heading in a SE direction again.  It picked up speed and the rate of lightning started to drop.  For a moment, we though it was going to head closer to our position. We had a brief discussion about our escape plan, but after a while we realised it was moving away. As it passed directly east of our position, I got these amazing images, which give you a sense of the scale of this system.



It was time to head back to Perth, so we packed up our gear and headed due south toward Merredin.  All the way we had the most awesome light show off to the east.  At Merredin, we fuelled up and grabbed a feed for the trip home.

I hope you enjoyed this chase report.  Hopefully, it will be the first of many.