Anticyclonic tornado

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An anticyclonic tornado is a tornado which rotates in a clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and a counterclockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere. [1] The term is a naming convention denoting the anomaly from normal rotation which is cyclonic in upwards of 98 percent of tornadoes.[ citation needed ] Many anticyclonic tornadoes are smaller and weaker than cyclonic tornadoes, forming from a different process, as either companion/satellite tornadoes or nonmesocyclonic tornadoes. [2]

Tornado Violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the earths surface and a cumulonimbus cloud in the air

A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. The windstorm is often referred to as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology to name a weather system with a low-pressure area in the center around which, from an observer looking down toward the surface of the earth, winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are often visible in the form of a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), are about 250 feet (80 m) across, and travel a few miles before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour (480 km/h), are more than two miles (3 km) in diameter, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles.

Clockwise one that proceeds in the same direction as a clocks hands

Two-dimensional rotation can occur in two possible directions. A clockwise motion is one that proceeds in the same direction as a clock's hands: from the top to the right, then down and then to the left, and back up to the top. The opposite sense of rotation or revolution is counterclockwise (CCW) or anticlockwise (ACW).

Northern Hemisphere half of Earth that is north of the equator

The Northern Hemisphere is the half of Earth that is north of the Equator. For other planets in the Solar System, north is defined as being in the same celestial hemisphere relative to the invariable plane of the solar system as Earth's North Pole.


An anticyclonic tornado near Big Spring, Texas on May 22, 2016 captured by storm chaser Aaron Jayjack. Bigspringanticyclonictornado.jpg
An anticyclonic tornado near Big Spring, Texas on May 22, 2016 captured by storm chaser Aaron Jayjack.


Most strong tornadoes form in the inflow and updraft area bordering the updraft-downdraft interface (which is also near the mesoscale "triple point") zone of supercell thunderstorms. The thunderstorm itself is rotating, with a rotating updraft known as a mesocyclone, and then a smaller area of rotation at lower altitude the tornadocyclone (or low-level mesocyclone) which produces or enables the smaller rotation that is a tornado. All of these may be quasi-vertically aligned continuing from the ground to the mid-upper levels of the storm. All of these cyclones and scaling all the way up to large extratropical (low-pressure systems) and tropical cyclones rotate cyclonically. Rotation in these synoptic scale systems stems partly from the Coriolis effect, but thunderstorms and tornadoes are too small to be significantly affected. The common property here is an area of lower pressure, thus surrounding air flows into the area of less dense air forming cyclonic rotation. The rotation of the thunderstorm itself is induced mostly by vertical wind shear, specifically clockwise turning as altitude increases (called a veered vertical profile, although backed profiles can occur with anticyclonic supercells]].

Inflow (meteorology) in meteorology, the flow of a fluid into a large collection of that fluid

Inflow is the flow of a fluid into a large collection of that fluid. Within meteorology, inflow normally refers to the influx of warmth and moisture from air within the Earth's atmosphere into storm systems. Extratropical cyclones are fed by inflow focused along their cold front and warm fronts. Tropical cyclones require a large inflow of warmth and moisture from warm oceans in order to develop significantly, mainly within the lowest 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of the atmosphere. Once the flow of warm and moist air is cut off from thunderstorms and their associated tornadoes, normally by the thunderstorm's own rain-cooled outflow boundary, the storms begin to dissipate. Rear inflow jets behind squall lines act to erode the broad rain shield behind the squall line, and accelerate its forward motion.

Mesoscale meteorology

Mesoscale meteorology is the study of weather systems smaller than synoptic scale systems but larger than microscale and storm-scale cumulus systems. Horizontal dimensions generally range from around 5 kilometers to several hundred kilometers. Examples of mesoscale weather systems are sea breezes, squall lines, and mesoscale convective complexes.

Supercell thunderstorm that is characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone

A supercell is a thunderstorm characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone: a deep, persistently rotating updraft. For this reason, these storms are sometimes referred to as rotating thunderstorms. Of the four classifications of thunderstorms, supercells are the overall least common and have the potential to be the most severe. Supercells are often isolated from other thunderstorms, and can dominate the local weather up to 32 kilometres (20 mi) away. They tend to last 2-4 hours.

Various processes can produce an anticyclonic tornado. Most often they are satellite tornadoes of larger tornadoes which are directly associated with the tornadocyclone and mesocyclone. Occasionally anticyclonic tornadoes occur as an anticyclonic companion (mesoanticyclone) to a mesocyclone within a single storm. Anticyclonic tornadoes can occur as the primary tornado with a mesocyclone and under a rotating wall cloud. Also, anticyclonic supercells (with mesoanticyclone), which usually are storms that split and move to the left of the parent storm motion, though very rarely spawning tornadoes, spawn anticyclonic tornadoes. There is an increased incidence of anticyclonic tornadoes associated with tropical cyclones, and mesovortices within bow echoes may spawn anticyclonic tornadoes. [3]

Satellite tornado smaller tornado that orbits around a larger "parent" tornado

A satellite tornado is a tornado that rotates around a larger, primary tornado and interacts with the same mesocyclone. Satellite tornadoes occur apart from the primary tornado and are not considered subvortices; the primary tornado and satellite tornadoes are considered to be separate tornadoes. The cause of satellite tornadoes is not known. Such tornadoes are more often anticyclonic than are typical tornadoes and these pairs may be referred to as tornado couplets. Satellite tornadoes most commonly form in association with very large and intense tornadoes.

Mesovortices are small scale rotational features found in convective storms, such as those found in bow echos, supercell thunderstorms, and the eyewall of tropical cyclones. They range in size from tens of miles in diameter to a mile or less, and can be immensely intense.

Bow echo

A bow echo is the characteristic radar return from a mesoscale convective system that is shaped like an archer’s bow. These systems can produce severe straight-line winds and occasionally tornadoes, causing major damage. They can also become derechos.

The first anticyclonic tornado associated with a mesoanticyclone was spotted on WSR-88D weather radar in Sunnyvale, California May 4, 1998. The tornado was an F-2 on the Fujita Scale. [4]


NEXRAD or Nexrad is a network of 159 high-resolution S-band Doppler weather radars operated by the National Weather Service (NWS), an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the United States Department of Commerce, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) within the Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Air Force within the Department of Defense. Its technical name is WSR-88D.

Known "anticyclonic tornado" events

DateLocationNotes and References
08 June 1951 Corn, Oklahoma First known tornado filmed in the US, a companion or cyclic tornado to another significant tornado
06 June 1975 Freedom, Oklahoma [5] [6]
13 June 1976 Central Iowa [7]
06 April 1980 Grand Island, Nebraska [8]
04 April 1981 West Bend, Wisconsin 1981 West Bend F4 anticyclonic tornado
04 May 1998 San Francisco Bay Area, California [4]
19 April 2002 Lubbock, Texas
06 September 2004 Chek-Lap-Kok International Airport, Hong Kong, China [9]
24 April 2006 El Reno, Oklahoma [2]
20 June 2006 Rushville, Nebraska
10 May 2010South-central OklahomaTwo tornadoes associated with anticyclonic supercell [10]
31 May 2013 El Reno, Oklahoma
04 June 2015 Elbert County, Colorado [11]
05 April 2017 Shelbyville, Tennessee [12]
05 January 2019 Seymour, Texas Two possible and confirmation coming[ citation needed ]

See also

Vortex term in fluid dynamics

In fluid dynamics, a vortex is a region in a fluid in which the flow revolves around an axis line, which may be straight or curved. Vortices form in stirred fluids, and may be observed in smoke rings, whirlpools in the wake of a boat, and the winds surrounding a tropical cyclone, tornado or dust devil.

In continuum mechanics, the vorticity is a pseudovector field that describes the local spinning motion of a continuum near some point, as would be seen by an observer located at that point and traveling along with the flow.

The pressure-gradient force is the force that results when there is a difference in pressure across a surface. In general, a pressure is a force per unit area, across a surface. A difference in pressure across a surface then implies a difference in force, which can result in an acceleration according to Newton's second law of motion, if there is no additional force to balance it. The resulting force is always directed from the region of higher-pressure to the region of lower-pressure. When a fluid is in an equilibrium state, the system is referred to as being in hydrostatic equilibrium. In the case of atmospheres, the pressure gradient force is balanced by the gravitational force, maintaining hydrostatic equilibrium. In Earth's atmosphere, for example, air pressure decreases at altitudes above Earth's surface, thus providing a pressure gradient force which counteracts the force of gravity on the atmosphere.

Related Research Articles

Cyclone large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low pressure

In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure. The largest low-pressure systems are polar vortices and extratropical cyclones of the largest scale. Warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones also lie within the synoptic scale. Mesocyclones, tornadoes and dust devils lie within smaller mesoscale. Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the tropical upper tropospheric trough during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars and Neptune. Cyclogenesis is the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones begin as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones. These zones contract and form weather fronts as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, extratropical cyclones occlude as cold air masses undercut the warmer air and become cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the subtropical jet stream.


A mesocyclone is a vortex of air within a convective storm. It is air that rises and rotates around a vertical axis, usually in the same direction as low pressure systems in a given hemisphere. They are most often cyclonic, that is, associated with a localized low-pressure region within a severe thunderstorm. Such thunderstorms can feature strong surface winds and severe hail. Mesocyclones often occur together with updrafts in supercells, within which tornadoes may form at the interchange with certain downdrafts.

Squall sudden, sharp increase in the sustained winds over a short time interval

A squall is a sudden, sharp increase in wind speed lasting minutes, contrary to a wind gust lasting seconds. They are usually associated with active weather, such as rain showers, thunderstorms, or heavy snow. Squalls refer to the increase to the sustained winds over that time interval, as there may be higher gusts during a squall event. They usually occur in a region of strong sinking air or cooling in the mid-atmosphere. These force strong localized upward motions at the leading edge of the region of cooling, which then enhances local downward motions just in its wake.

Squall line

A squall line or quasi-linear convective system (QLCS) is a line of thunderstorms forming along or ahead of a cold front. In the early 20th century, the term was used as a synonym for cold front. It contains heavy precipitation, hail, frequent lightning, strong straight-line winds, and possibly tornadoes and waterspouts. Strong straight-line winds can occur where the squall line is in the shape of a bow echo. Tornadoes can occur along waves within a line echo wave pattern (LEWP), where mesoscale low-pressure areas are present. Some bow echoes which develop within the summer season are known as derechos, and they move quite fast through large sections of territory. On the back edge of the rainband associated with mature squall lines, a wake low can be present, sometimes associated with a heat burst.

Wall cloud cloud formation

A wall cloud is a large, localized, persistent, and often abrupt lowering of cloud that develops beneath the surrounding base of a cumulonimbus cloud and from which tornadoes sometimes form. It is typically beneath the rain-free base (RFB) portion of a thunderstorm, and indicates the area of the strongest updraft within a storm. Rotating wall clouds are an indication of a mesocyclone in a thunderstorm; most strong tornadoes form from these. Many wall clouds do rotate, however some do not.

Hook echo

A hook echo is a pendant or hook-shaped weather radar signature as part of some supercell thunderstorms. It is found in the lower portions of a storm as air and precipitation flow into a mesocyclone resulting in a curved feature of reflectivity. The echo is produced by rain, hail, or even debris being wrapped around the supercell. It is one of the classic hallmarks of tornado-producing supercells. The National Weather Service may consider the presence of a hook echo coinciding with a tornado vortex signature as sufficient to justify issuing a tornado warning.

Cyclogenesis is the development or strengthening of cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere. Cyclogenesis is an umbrella term for at least three different processes, all of which result in the development of some sort of cyclone, and at any size from the microscale to the synoptic scale.

Gustnado short-lived, shallow surface-based vortex generated by a thunderstorm

A gustnado is a short-lived, shallow surface-based vortex which forms within the downburst emanating from a thunderstorm. The name is a portmanteau by elision of "gust front tornado", as gustnadoes form due to non-tornadic straight-line wind features in the downdraft (outflow), specifically within the gust front of strong thunderstorms. Gustnadoes tend to be noticed when the vortices loft sufficient debris or form condensation cloud to be visible although it is the wind that makes the gustnado, similarly to tornadoes. As these eddies very rarely connect from the surface to the cloud base, they are very rarely considered as tornadoes. The gustnado has little in common with tornadoes structurally or dynamically in regard to vertical development, intensity, longevity, or formative process --as classic tornadoes are associated with mesocyclones within the inflow (updraft) of the storm, not the outflow.

Landspout slang term for a kind of tornado not associated with the mesocyclone of a thunderstorm

A landspout is a term created by atmospheric scientist Howard B. Bluestein in 1985 for a kind of tornado not associated with a mesocyclone. The Glossary of Meteorology defines a landspout as

Bounded weak echo region

The bounded weak echo region, also known as a BWER or a vault, is a radar signature within a thunderstorm characterized by a local minimum in radar reflectivity at low levels which extends upward into, and is surrounded by, higher reflectivities aloft. This feature is associated with a strong updraft and is almost always found in the inflow region of a thunderstorm. It cannot be seen visually. The BWER has been noted on radar imagery of severe thunderstorms since 1973 and has a lightning detection system equivalent known as a lightning hole.

Tornadogenesis process by which a tornado forms

Tornadogenesis is the process by which a tornado forms. There are many types of tornadoes and these vary in methods of formation. Despite ongoing scientific study and high-profile research projects such as VORTEX, tornadogenesis is a volatile process and the intricacies of many of the mechanisms of tornado formation are still poorly understood.

Rear flank downdraft

The rear flank downdraft or RFD is a region of dry air wrapping around the back of a mesocyclone in a supercell thunderstorm. These areas of descending air are thought to be essential in the production of many supercellular tornadoes. Large hail within the rear flank downdraft often shows up brightly as a hook on weather radar images, producing the characteristic hook echo, which often indicates the presence of a tornado.

Convective storm detection is the meteorological observation, and short-term prediction, of deep moist convection (DMC). DMC describes atmospheric conditions producing single or clusters of large vertical extension clouds ranging from cumulus congestus to cumulonimbus, the latter producing thunderstorms associated with lightning and thunder. Those two types of clouds can produce severe weather at the surface and aloft.

Tornado vortex signature

A tornado vortex signature or tornadic vortex signature, abbreviated TVS, is a Pulse-Doppler radar weather radar detected rotation algorithm that indicates the likely presence of a strong mesocyclone that is in some stage of tornadogenesis. It may give meteorologists the ability to pinpoint and track the location of tornadic rotation within a larger storm, but it is not an important feature in the National Weather Service's warning operations.

Hurricane Frances tornado outbreak

The Hurricane Frances tornado outbreak was a widespread tornado outbreak associated with Hurricane Frances that came ashore on eastern Florida on September 4–5, 2004. Outer bands from the hurricane and its remnants, when it moved across the Appalachian Mountains, produced one of the largest tornado outbreaks ever spawned by a tropical cyclone in the United States in terms of number of tornadoes confirmed since records were kept in 1950.

Leslie R. Lemon is an American meteorologist bridging research and forecasting with expertise in weather radar, particular regarding severe convective storms. Lemon is, along with Charles A. Doswell III, a seminal contributor to the modern conception of the supercell which was first identified by Keith Browning, and he developed the Lemon technique to estimate updraft strength and thunderstorm organization also as a continuation of Browning's work.

The following is a glossary of tornado terms. It includes scientific as well as selected informal terminology.


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The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather research laboratory under the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. It is one of seven NOAA Research Laboratories (RLs).