Lightning

Recording a severe thunderstorm

Following weather forecasts is important if your planning to record weather related sounds, or even if you want to make sure any weather events don’t hamper a recording session. So out here in Australia, I am always keeping an eye on the Australian BOM website (The Australian Bureau of Meteorology) and also another service called Higgins Storm Chasing, who do a good job at explaining forecasts in a much more meaningful way (for a novice such as myself) while also providing in some cases, a more up-to-date forecast. Out here you just never know when a storm may hit so being prepared is always a good idea. There is nothing more annoying that sitting through a huge thunderstorm or heavy rainfall without a recorder to hand!

So the other evening when I was casually browsing the BOM live radar in my area, I saw a large low pressure system with heavy rainfall, high winds and sever thunderstorms heading our way. This particular storm was going to stay slightly north of us, so I jumped in the car armed only with a Sony PCM D100 recorder.

I headed to Montville, a Hinterland town nestled high up, directly in the range of the storm. I took my father-in-law with me too as he’s visiting and loves a good storm.

We wanted to capture the approaching storm first as by the time we arrived it was still a few kilometres away, giving me the perfect opportunity to record distant rumbles of thunder without the rain. So we found a small gravel track that lead down to a clearing in a forest and set up the recorder. Within a few minutes I’d managed to capture some decent thunder rumbles when the wind started to pick up. In fact, we were taken completely by surprise at just how quickly and how intense the wind became. In just a few minutes the gentle breeze had become a fierce storm that was bringing down huge tree branches and blowing other debris everywhere.

We jumped in the car and got out of there quickly. It was a good job we did as the conditions became so intense after this, we’d have been in a pretty dangerous spot.

Once we’d navigated branches scattered all over the road, rain so heavy even the windshield wipers on full blast didn’t allow me to properly see where we were going, we found a spot at the top of a hill and away from traffic (not that many people actually had dared to venture out in this storm). So we sat and recorded the rain, wind and thunder from inside the car.

After around 30 minutes we decided to make a move and head for home. The journey back was spectacular, with huge, thick bolts of lightning striking all around us, lighting up the surrounding landscape in an almost constant light show. There were trees down, debris all over the roads and floods in fields.

This was a great night out and what I’d class as a successful recording session. Luckily for me, out here we get loads of storms, especially at this time of year so I hope another will be along shortly.

You can listen to and download the sounds we recorded that evening for free. Just head over to our nature category.

I'm the founder of zapsplat.com, creator of a large portion of the sound effects you'll find here. I hope you enjoy the site and sfx 🙂