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Storm Time…

19 May

Or is it?

That’s the same conundrum I’m faced with at this time of the year, every year; as sometimes here where I live the storms appear from about the end of April, sometimes they don’t hit in full swing until the beginning of June. Sometimes it’s the occasional one to start with, or other times we get lots at once.

This year, already I’ve seen two storms, one was back over Winter which was an odd duck, it wasn’t the usual type of winter storm but more a summer storm that was out of place and then we had a small front come over last Saturday which took my attention for an hour.

Usually the first couple, I’m not really good with, not for the fact that I’ve forgotten what I’m doing; but during the winter months when there is not a lot of activity, I spend it working on my rigs, doing upgrades and modifications to things and at the same time, the data providers (so weather forecasters, lightning tracking, etc) are also doing the same thing which in turn leaves me with a lot of slightly unknown variables to work with and get my head around “in the real world”. Sure it’s great being able to simulate something on the desk but a work bench is not a substitute for how something would react in a real scenario.

Last year I built up a prototype triggering system to complement my StrikeFinder, as a lot of the storms that happen around my neck of the woods generally occur middle of the day onwards and I wanted something to fill the coverage gap. A few years ago, I worked with a friend to build a different detection system for radiation pulses, so that became the base for what I started working on; all in it was great, but the problem that I’d encountered was that I’d built a machine which was too powerful (if there’s anything that is, in this game) for the cameras most of us can afford. It was great on something like a Flex4kGS but on a Nikon, not so; but after a few months in winter quarters, I’m managed to reduce the detection range to about 30km in “reasonable”, 15km in bright situations, reduced the noise floor by about 400mV and sped up it’s response time by about 100µS, which on the surface doesn’t sound much. Beforehand I was triggering things like this… So about 6km, in daylight.

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When the storm touched down on Saturday, it wasn’t dropping a lot, and what it did drop was quite a distance out (and the first one clipped at ISO 100, F:/8 with both an ND grad and CPL on there at a distance of 12km) but was also picking up the intra-cloud as well.
On the first it is possible to see some streamers at 100% view, but as it’s not one of the best images, don’t go looking too hard!

All in, I don’t think the first storm of the season was a wasted walk, I’ve got a lot more knowledge from how my rig works over what I had this time last week, and I’m quite happy with the results for the kick off. Hopefully there will be more coming up this season where I can really push the rig to it’s limits (and start thinking about replacing the old D300 on there as well), all the while whilst thinking on how to improve the current “Rig of Doom”, and after getting my head in to the ATtiny85 and having a few lightbulb moments, I think I might be able to bring the size down a bit whilst not losing (and perhaps improving, especially with having a faster clock speed over the ATmega368) to work with.

I know some people may say “But we’re you maintaining social distancing?”, sure I was as at times whilst it seems an odd science to look at, the study of thunderstorms automatically helps with keeping folk away as they are hidden under the duvet at the first rumble of thunder!

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