The success of Donegal Weather Channel and the man behind the site


In this week’s edition of The Third Degree, Kenneth McDonagh of Donegal Weather Channel talks to Paul Bradley about all things meteorological from the fascinating aurora borealis to his massive online following.

Hi Kenneth, how are you these days – as a meteorologist, do you also prefer longer brighter days, or does the winter fascinate you?


I prefer a mix of both during the winter months. I find that darker evenings mean I get to go out to enjoy the nice dark clear skies if the weather is clear.

We also receive a lot of interesting types of weather in Ireland, particularly Donegal, so this keeps me busy. During the middle of spring and summer it’s nice to get the longer evenings especially when there is a bit of warmth, I find this and the brighter days also improve people’s moods.

Could you tell us a little about yourself, please?

I am from Ballyshannon in south Donegal. I have travelled to many countries across Europe but I think nothing beats our own. Ireland has endless landscapes and places to visit and in my opinion nothing beats Ireland on a hot sunny day.

What was it that drew you to meteorology? Was weather itself always a source of interest, or were you mainly drawn to the scientific method of maths and predictions?

I have had an interest in weather from a very young age. I spent a lot of time outside exploring during my childhood and one thing that fascinated me was the different types of weather and that no sunset was ever the same. As I got older one thing that got me interested in meteorology was the different types of weather we get and how conditions change so frequently in the blink of an eye, this always fascinated me. I have an interest in both the maths and prediction side of weather forecasting. I taught myself how to read the weather charts over the years and that’s when I started Donegal Weather Channel. I felt there was a need for a more local input into the weather for the northwest and north region. Now just over 11 years in forecasting I have been able to extend my forecasting also to a national level due to the demand from the public.



Your Donegal Weather Channel has been very successful. Was it a surprise to see just how many people follow it (currently about 110,000 people)?

The Donegal Weather Channel is now over 11 years old and grew very fast. I think this is down to the accuracy in my forecasts, from the feedback that I get from my followers. At the start it was a surprise but the more I think about it, the weather plays a big part in our lives, from deciding what to wear in the morning from when we get out of bed to planning outdoor events and activities. Donegal Weather Channel has now 110,000 likes and nearly 117,000 followers. The website receives around 5 million to 8 million page views a year depending on the weather. Our Facebook page reaches between 8 million to 10 million people a year worldwide.

Are there many people behind the scenes, or is it mainly just yourself?

There is only myself behind the scenes. But I have great support from my fiancée and followers.

With your interest in astronomy, you must enjoy things like the recent aurora we had. Does that kind of thing also increase visits to your site?

Yes, any sort of weather or astronomical event would increase traffic towards my site due to the amount of people across Ireland that trust in my forecasts. I really enjoy weather events like the aurora and meteorological weather events, and I feel grateful that I can share advance forecasts and weather warnings with my followers.

Have you seen a measurable change in weather patterns since you first studied it? Is there anything good or hopeful about those changes, or is it all bad news?

There has been a change in the forecast over recent years. One thing I have noticed is that the northwest used to be prone to very strong storms but in recent years a lot of these storms have had a more southerly track with us missing the worst of these storms. There have also been a lot of weather records broken here in Ireland and in other parts of the world over the last 10 years. In my opinion it’s not all bad news. There is much to look forward to moving ahead as we reach solar maximum, with an increasing chance of bigger aurora displays as we move closer to 2025.

You’re also into photography. How much of that overlaps with meteorology, or is it really a separate thing for you?

The meteorology and photography side overlap very well as I enjoy and specialise more in severe weather photography from wild seas to thunderstorms. I also enjoy astrophotography and spend a lot of time under the stars. For example being able to forecast the recent aurora display, which I would say was the most viewed aurora display in the history of Ireland with large volumes of people out. I issued an aurora alert on the Sunday morning 26th of February and was monitoring the space weather and situation during the day. That evening before dark a CME (coronal mass ejection) hit Earth and from there it was all go. It was so nice being able to give others the heads up in advance so they could enjoy such a beautiful view of the northern lights.

What kind of camera kit do you use?

I have three cameras that I use. I have a Canon 750D, Canon 4000D and then for my astrophotography, videoing and photographing thunderstorms I use a Sony A7III which is a low light camera. I also use a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone mainly for the sunsets and dramatic types of weather which alone give a whole different perspective from the air.

Do you get to travel? What kind of places do you like visiting?

Yes I do get to travel. I enjoy visiting scenic places especially around our coasts. I also think I play an important role in promoting the northwest of Ireland due to the large number of overseas followers I have.

Is it possible, with an interest in weather and photography, to entirely disconnect, or is part of your brain always working?

There is always part of my brain that is working. It’s a massive interest in my life and it’s a very helpful skill to have when it comes to my day-to-day planning. It naturally just comes to me. Depending on the weather type I decide on what I can capture next and how to improve on my last photo the next chance I get to take it.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland