Supercells are the most intense thunderstorms in the Earth’s atmosphere. A supercell thunderstorm always rotates and produce most cases of tornadoes, large hail, and damaging straight-line winds.
There are four key ingredients for supercell thunderstorms to form.
1) An environment that is conditionally unstable.
2) Very moist air in the lower troposphere.
3) moderate to strong vertical wind shear.
4) A trigger mechanism – lifting along a boundary.
Once developed, a supercell would look like the the schematic above. The first thing to look at is the color shaded regions on the inside. From blue to red, this is the approximate strength of rain fall in the supercell. The area shaded in red, is the area most likely to have hail. The forward-flank downdraft also has to do with the high reflectivity due to its origin being right in that area. Air gets sucked into the storm via inflow right into the updraft. The updraft lifts air into the atmosphere, it is one reason that hail is seen just upstream from it. The rear-flank downdraft is seen in the back. As the rear-flank updraft wraps itself around the updraft, a hook forms at the tail of the storm. This hook is commonly associated with tornadic weather, as it gains lots of rotation, and then a tornado forms.
Supercells are extremely dangerous, but can be warned of ahead of time once properly identified. With strong winds, large hail, and tornadic activity, a supercell can be storm chasers dream, but an unlucky persons nightmare.
- Tyler Reis