Cathedral of Dust

The spectacular Morton, TX supercell of may 2022

spectacular cyclic supercell

This is my favourite photo from our 2022 tour as a spectacular cyclic supercell formed on a hot, dry and dusty afternoon on the 23rd of May near the town of Morton in West Texas...

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the storm of 2022

Infamous for the lurid and eerie atmosphere it created as it wrapped itself in mountains of red Texas dust, a cyclic, long-lived supercell of this nature wasn't even forecast to occur. Instead, this behemoth of a storm cycled through at least 3 tornadoes and dropped a 4th as a satellite before lining out in spectacular fashion over the nearby town of Levelland.
Storms and possible supercells were forecast but large hail and damaging winds were the major threat for the day, not tornadoes. Instead, a cluster of towering cumulus hit a weak outflow boundary and went nuts, dropping a substantial cone tornado that was only visible if you were approaching the storm from the west (if you squint really hard you can just about make it out through the dust in this photo).
We did, however, have an exhilarating time chasing this monster and its cohorts as it dragged itself across the prairie. At one point we were so close to the tornado we could hear it yet, bizarrely, couldn't see it for all the dust. It was at this point that we had to evacuate quickly as we noticed a satellite tornado bearing down us just yards away. The sound of a tornado is unique - some say it sounds like a waterfall or a passing train. I can see (hear?) how those similarities can be drawn but I find its akin to actually seeing a tornado in the sense that you will know it once you hear it. Some people, even experienced chasers, are prone to spotting a dust swirl or a funnel and thinking 'is it / isn't it?' but when you see a tornado you know it. Its the same with when you hear one.

This storm will likely go down as the storm of 2022, not just because it over delivered on the day but because it over delivered for what had been a poor season overall.

Photographic print of the Morton, Texas supercell from May 2022 as dust shrouds the updraft base with lightning strikes either side.

shot with:
  • Canon R6 + Canon L Series 24-105mm IS USM @ 24mm | f/7.1 | 1/8sec | ISO200

printed on:
  • Fotospeed Photo Smooth Pearl 290
  • Fotospeed Natural Soft Textured Bright White 315