Eye of the storm: The jaw-dropping image of an enormous ‘supercell’ cloud
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 4:29 PM on 2nd December 2010
It looks like something from the film Independence Day.
But although it may seem like an alien mothership, this incredible picture is actually an impressive thunderstorm cloud known as a supercell.
Windswept dust and rain dominate the storm’s centre while rings of jagged clouds surround the edge.
A flimsy tree in the foreground looks like a toy next to the magnificent natural phenomenon.
Awe: This massive supercell shows a column of rain in the centre of thick clouds
Mr Heavey, 34, an amateur photographer, created the jaw-dropping panoramic image by stitching together three photos from the 400 frames he took of the violent scene he witnessed in July
It caused minor damage, and lasted several hours before moving on. Massive storm systems like this centre on mesocyclones — rotating updrafts that deliver torrential rain and high winds.
The dangerous outbreak of weather raged for several hours and caused minor damage to local communities – while watchful Mr Heavey captured all its devastating beauty from a distance.
Taking photographs of storms for the past seven years, this year Mr Heavey and his masterpiece are up for a prestigious award from National Geographic.
Called the ‘Mothership’, because of the striking image’s similarity to an alien space ship, the photograph was actually four years in the making.
‘I have two storm chasing friends I met through my wife Toni and they’ve been badgering me to go out with them for that long,’ explained Sean.
‘I’ normally rely on simply being in the right place at the right time for my photography, while I’m out working. But in July I finally decided to do it and thankfully this picture was the result. We don’t usually get weather like this out in Montana, it felt like the perfect storm.
‘The power was awe inspiring.’
A super cell thunderstorm crosses a path and continues unabated across the plains on July 28th
A storm descends in July 2007 over the sleepy town of Glasgow, Montana
‘I felt that if you could walk inside the rain and the wind right into the centre of the storm and stare up, then it would have been like looking into God’s eye.’
Known as the ‘mother of tornadoes’, a mesocyclone can be up to six miles wide and can produce as many as 60 tornadoes.
These severe thunderstorms form where cold dry air meets warm moist tropical air.
The wind coming into the storm starts to swirl and forms a funnel. The air in the funnel spins faster and faster and creates a very low pressure area which sucks more air – and objects – into it.
If the cyclone runs out of wet, warm surface air, it dies out. If it does not run out of this fuel, however, the rotating cloud stretches toward the ground and may become a giant tornado.
Mr Heavey, 34, is an electrician, working in the west of the American state in a town named Glasgow.
Taking photographs of storms for the past seven years, this year Sean and his masterpiece are up for a prestigious award from National Geographic.
The super-cell storm begins to build – before unleashing a powerful torrent of rain down onto a Montana field
The belly of the thunderstorm as it begins to wreak havoc
Photographer Sean Heavey, who has spent the last four years taking beautiful and striking storm pictures, and an image of a lightning bolt in the middle of the storm
‘The ‘Mothership’ picture is a super-cell storm that was around five to ten miles in diameter with hurling winds of around 85 mph,’ said Mr Heavey, who moved from bustling Seattle to sleepy Montana for a quiet life four years ago.
‘I photographed it for over two hours as it traveled between Glasgow and the town of Hinsdale.
‘I can honestly say that the photograph does not do it justice. I caught the shot just as the sun was setting which brought out the colours so vividly.
‘I felt that if you could walk inside the rain and the wind right into the centre of the storm and stare up, then you would be able to see God’s eye.’
As an amateur photographer, storms have been Mr Heavey’s obsession since he was caught under a huge thundercloud on a visit to relatives in Ohio, which is part of America’s famous ‘tornado alley’.
‘I felt the sheer power of that storm as a young boy and I am not ashamed to admit that it scared the living daylights out of me,’ he said.
‘Since I moved to Glasgow I travel a lot in my job as a electrician. The clients that I visit are well aware that I carry my camera with me over the state and they are more than happy to help point out gathering storms on the horizon which they think will be great subjects for me.’
A shelf cloud passes overhead as the super cell storm looms ominously in the sky
Rain feathers dancing across the western prairie in August 2010, in Glasgow, Montana
Like scenes of the apocalypse these incredible images are the stunning results of one man’s mission to capture stormy skies on camera