A Waterfall In The Sky: Thunderstorms In May And Fallstripes

May is often a time in the year of short-lived thunderstorms and some cooler rainy days in Middle Europe. However, since some years there is also more severe weather with flash floods and even tornados in May. 2018 had been particularly unusual with new temperature records in April. It was too dry in many areas and it still is. A big problem is that it seems that steady rain is missing more and more. Long lasting rain was a common weather pattern every year which wasn’t very amusing for tourists but important for nature and farming. That changed. As predicted by climate change researchers we have more showers and thunderstorm with extreme flooding now.

When I was younger I remember May not as a very warm month. In some years there was still a lot of snow in the mountains. Often it was very cold in the middle of the month. But this year it was more like midsummer rather than spring.

In Southern Germany, the dry period ended to a certain extent and more and more showers and thunderstorms happened.

The first thunderstorm in my area close to lake Ammersee in Upper Bavaria developed on early evening May 12.

It was very impressing because of the late sun which illuminated the clouds and rain at a low angle. May is a good time for taking pictures of thunderstorms because often the light is better as in July and the air is often more clear. Furthermore, it is a good time to photograph fall stripes of rain which look like curtains and can create very interesting patterns.

The following days more thunderstorms occurred. Weather forecasters had a tough time during May. A couple of time stable, warm weather was predicted. But weather doesn’t behave like it was supposed to be. On Pentecost, May20+21, it should have been warm and dry but there were thunderstorms and showers. May 20 indeed was a surprise, because that “summer day” was more or less a dark day with a heavy thunderstorm and flooding in a village between Murnau and Garmisch Partenkirchen. Already on May 18 an open-air event had to be cancelled due to a thunderstorm in Fürstenfeldbruck, a city not far from Munich.




This is what Sunday, May 20, happened: In the afternoon the sky was loaded with dark clouds and rain. There were also shrouds of mist surrounding the Hohen Peissenberg, which can be seen in the background. Some lightning could be seen in the South. In the evening the weather calmed down.

Morning, May 21, began with a misty sky. There was a low hanging layer of mist between the mountains an the lower areas. The mist soon disappeared and the sky became clear:
The air was still humid and the sun was hot. Perfect conditions for the development of further thunderstorms. In the late afternoon, a thunderstorm cell moved towards lake Ammersee. It was very interesting to follow this thunderstorm since there were fascinating patterns of fall stripes. Furthermore, there was also a rainbow.

It was remarkable that this year in May the thunderstorms were often moving in unusual directions. Sometimes there were moving from South-East to South-West or from North to South. Mostly weather systems are moving from West to East. An unusual constellation of pressure systems in Europe was one reason for the long dry period and the further development.

The thunderstorm on May 21 was coming closer for some time but then stopped. Perhaps the huge lake had an influence. It happens often that lakes are influencing local weather.

In this case, it was again good to know some viewpoints in the area before. It made it easier to follow the weather pattern.

The higher position was particularly helpful to see the rainbow which developed during the thunderstorm.

The rainbow was barely visible for some time but then intensified.

However the most special thing was the development in the upper part of the thunderstorm-cloud.

There were not only fall stripes below the cloud but in this case, it was clearly visible that rain came from the upper levels.

It was indeed like a “waterfall” in the sky.

The unstable weather continued.The title picture was taken a few days later, May 24.

There were further dramatic events in the middle of Germany with flooding. There was also a tremendous portion of hail in some places.
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