Arcus cloud

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Image of a shelf cloud, a type of arcus cloud. Charlton shelf cloud.jpg
Image of a shelf cloud, a type of arcus cloud.

An arcus cloud is a low, horizontal cloud formation, usually appearing as an accessory cloud to a cumulonimbus. Roll clouds and shelf clouds are the two main types of arcus clouds. They most frequently form along the leading edge or gust fronts of thunderstorms; some of the most dramatic arcus formations mark the gust fronts of derecho-producing convective systems. Roll clouds may also arise in the absence of thunderstorms, forming along the shallow cold air currents of some sea breeze boundaries and cold fronts.



Shelf cloud

A shelf cloud is a low, horizontal, wedge-shaped arcus cloud. A shelf cloud is attached to the base of the parent cloud, which is usually a thunderstorm cumulonimbus, but could form on any type of convective clouds. Rising cloud motion can often be seen in the leading (outer) part of the shelf cloud, while the underside can often appear as turbulent and wind-torn. Cool, sinking air from a storm cloud's downdraft spreads out across the land surface, with the leading edge called a gust front. This outflow cuts under warm air being drawn into the storm's updraft. As the lower and cooler air lifts the warm moist air, its water condenses, creating a cloud which often rolls with the different winds above and below (wind shear).

People seeing a shelf cloud may believe they have seen a wall cloud. This is likely to be a mistake, since an approaching shelf cloud appears to form a wall made of cloud. Shelf clouds usually appear on the leading edge of a storm, while wall clouds are usually at the rear of the storm.

A sharp, strong gust front will cause the lowest part of the leading edge of a shelf cloud to be ragged and lined with rising fractus clouds. In a severe case there will be vortices along the edge, with twisting masses of scud that may reach to the ground or be accompanied by rising dust. A very low shelf cloud accompanied by these signs is the best indicator that a potentially violent wind squall is approaching. An extreme example of this phenomenon looks almost like a tornado and is known as a gustnado. [1]

Roll cloud

A roll cloud (Cloud Atlas name volutus) is a low, horizontal, tube-shaped, and relatively rare type of arcus cloud. They differ from shelf clouds by being completely detached from other cloud features. Roll clouds usually appear to be "rolling" about a horizontal axis. They are a solitary wave called a soliton, which is a wave that has a single crest and moves without changing speed or shape. One of the most famous frequent occurrences is the Morning Glory cloud in Queensland, Australia, which can occur up to four out of ten days in October. [2] One of the main causes of the Morning Glory cloud is the mesoscale circulation associated with sea breezes that develop over the Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf of Carpentaria. However, similar features can be created by downdrafts from thunderstorms and are not exclusively associated with coastal regions.

Coastal roll clouds have been seen in many places, including California, the English Channel, Shetland Islands, the North Sea coast, coastal regions of Australia, and Nome, Alaska.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cumulonimbus cloud</span> Genus of dense, towering vertical clouds

Cumulonimbus is a dense, towering vertical cloud, typically forming from water vapor condensing in the lower troposphere that builds upward carried by powerful buoyant air currents. Above the lower portions of the cumulonimbus the water vapor becomes ice crystals, such as snow and graupel, the interaction of which can lead to hail and to lightning formation, respectively. When occurring as a thunderstorm these clouds may be referred to as thunderheads. Cumulonimbus can form alone, in clusters, or along squall lines. These clouds are capable of producing lightning and other dangerous severe weather, such as tornadoes, hazardous winds, and large hailstones. Cumulonimbus progress from overdeveloped cumulus congestus clouds and may further develop as part of a supercell. Cumulonimbus is abbreviated Cb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thunderstorm</span> Type of weather with lightning and thunder

A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm or a lightning storm, is a storm characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth's atmosphere, known as thunder. Relatively weak thunderstorms are sometimes called thundershowers. Thunderstorms occur in a type of cloud known as a cumulonimbus. They are usually accompanied by strong winds and often produce heavy rain and sometimes snow, sleet, or hail, but some thunderstorms produce little precipitation or no precipitation at all. Thunderstorms may line up in a series or become a rainband, known as a squall line. Strong or severe thunderstorms include some of the most dangerous weather phenomena, including large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. Some of the most persistent severe thunderstorms, known as supercells, rotate as do cyclones. While most thunderstorms move with the mean wind flow through the layer of the troposphere that they occupy, vertical wind shear sometimes causes a deviation in their course at a right angle to the wind shear direction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mesocyclone</span> Region of rotation within a powerful thunderstorm

A mesocyclone is a meso-gamma mesoscale region of rotation (vortex), typically around 2 to 6 mi in diameter, most often noticed on radar within thunderstorms. In the northern hemisphere it is usually located in the right rear flank of a supercell, or often on the eastern, or leading, flank of a high-precipitation variety of supercell. The area overlaid by a mesocyclone’s circulation may be several miles (km) wide, but substantially larger than any tornado that may develop within it, and it is within mesocyclones that intense tornadoes form.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Squall</span> Short, sharp increase in wind speed

A squall is a sudden, sharp increase in wind speed lasting minutes, as opposed to a wind gust, which lasts for only seconds. They are usually associated with active weather, such as rain showers, thunderstorms, or heavy snow. Squalls refer to the increase of 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Squall line</span> Line of thunderstorms along or ahead of a cold front

A squall line, or more accurately a quasi-linear convective system (QLCS), is a line of thunderstorms, often forming along or ahead of a cold front. In the early 20th century, the term was used as a synonym for cold front. Linear thunderstorm structures often contain heavy precipitation, hail, frequent lightning, strong straight-line winds, and occasionally tornadoes or waterspouts. Particularly strong straight-line winds can occur where the linear structure forms into 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 can grow to become derechos as they move swiftly across a large area. On the back edge of the rainband associated with mature squall lines, a wake low can be present, on very rare occasions associated with a heat burst.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wall cloud</span> Cloud formation occurring at the base of a thunderstorm

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Morning Glory cloud</span> Meteorological phenomenon

The Morning Glory cloud is a rare meteorological phenomenon consisting of a low-level atmospheric solitary wave and associated cloud, occasionally observed in different locations around the world. The wave often occurs as an amplitude-ordered series of waves forming bands of roll clouds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outflow boundary</span> Mesoscale boundary separating outflow from the surroundign air

An outflow boundary, also known as a gust front, is a storm-scale or mesoscale boundary separating thunderstorm-cooled air (outflow) from the surrounding air; similar in effect to a cold front, with passage marked by a wind shift and usually a drop in temperature and a related pressure jump. Outflow boundaries can persist for 24 hours or more after the thunderstorms that generated them dissipate, and can travel hundreds of kilometers from their area of origin. New thunderstorms often develop along outflow boundaries, especially near the point of intersection with another boundary. Outflow boundaries can be seen either as fine lines on weather radar imagery or else as arcs of low clouds on weather satellite imagery. From the ground, outflow boundaries can be co-located with the appearance of roll clouds and shelf clouds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cumulus mediocris cloud</span>

Cumulus mediocris is a low to middle level cloud with some vertical extent of the genus cumulus, larger in vertical development than Cumulus humilis. It also may exhibit small protuberances from the top and may show the cauliflower form characteristic of cumulus clouds. Cumulus mediocris clouds do not generally produce precipitation of more than very light intensity, but can further advance into clouds such as Cumulus congestus or Cumulonimbus, which do produce precipitation and severe storms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fractus cloud</span> Cloud species

Fractus clouds (scuds) also known as Fractostratus or Fracto-Cumulus are small, ragged cloud fragments that are usually found under an ambient cloud base. They form or have broken off from a larger cloud, and are generally sheared by strong winds, giving them a jagged, shredded appearance. Fractus have irregular patterns, appearing much like torn pieces of cotton candy. They change constantly, often forming and dissipating rapidly. They do not have clearly defined bases. Sometimes they are persistent and form very near the surface. Common kinds include scud and cloud tags.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air-mass thunderstorm</span> Thunderstorm that is generally weak and usually not severe

An air-mass thunderstorm, also called an "ordinary", "single cell", or "garden variety" thunderstorm, is a thunderstorm that is generally weak and usually not severe. These storms form in environments where at least some amount of Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) is present, but very low levels of wind shear and helicity. The lifting source, which is a crucial factor in thunderstorm development, is usually the result of uneven heating of the surface, though they can be induced by weather fronts and other low-level boundaries associated with wind convergence. The energy needed for these storms to form comes in the form of insolation, or solar radiation. Air-mass thunderstorms do not move quickly, last no longer than an hour, and have the threats of lightning, as well as showery light, moderate, or heavy rainfall. Heavy rainfall can interfere with microwave transmissions within the atmosphere.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outflow (meteorology)</span> Air that flows outwards from a storm system

Outflow, in meteorology, is air that flows outwards from a storm system. It is associated with ridging, or anticyclonic flow. In the low levels of the troposphere, outflow radiates from thunderstorms in the form of a wedge of rain-cooled air, which is visible as a thin rope-like cloud on weather satellite imagery or a fine line on weather radar imagery. For observers on the ground, a thunderstorm outflow boundary often approaches in otherwise clear skies as a low, thick cloud that brings with it a gust front.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Storm cell</span> Air mass with up and down drafts in consecutive loops as a single entity

A storm cell is an air mass that contains up and down drafts in convective loops and that moves and reacts as a single entity, functioning as the smallest unit of a storm-producing system. An organized grouping of thunder clouds will thus be considered as a series of storm cells with their up/downdrafts being independent or interfering one with the other.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scud (cloud)</span> Clouds supplementary feature

Pannus, or scud clouds, is a type of fractus cloud at low height above ground, detached, and of irregular form, found beneath nimbostratus, cumulonimbus, altostratus and cumulus clouds. These clouds are often ragged or wispy in appearance. When caught in the outflow (downdraft) beneath a thunderstorm, scud clouds will often move faster than the storm clouds themselves. If the parent cloud that scud clouds pair with were to suddenly dissipate, the pannus cloud accessory would not be able to be told apart from a fractus cloud formation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cold front</span> Leading edge of a cooler mass of air

A cold front is the leading edge of a cooler mass of air at ground level that replaces a warmer mass of air and lies within a pronounced surface trough of low pressure. It often forms behind an extratropical cyclone, at the leading edge of its cold air advection pattern—known as the cyclone's dry "conveyor belt" flow. Temperature differences across the boundary can exceed 30 °C (54 °F) from one side to the other. When enough moisture is present, rain can occur along the boundary. If there is significant instability along the boundary, a narrow line of thunderstorms can form along the frontal zone. If instability is weak, a broad shield of rain can move in behind the front, and evaporative cooling of the rain can increase the temperature difference across the front. Cold fronts are stronger in the fall and spring transition seasons and are weakest during the summer.

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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of meteorology</span> List of definitions of terms and concepts commonly used in meteorology

This glossary of meteorology is a list of terms and concepts relevant to meteorology and atmospheric science, their sub-disciplines, and related fields.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Altocumulus volutus</span>

Altocumulus volutus is a type of altocumulus cloud. This cloud type has the appearance of a single, small, horizontal, rolling line, it is relatively rare compared with its counterpart stratocumulus volutus, This cloud does not attach to any other cloud. It may or may not appear with altocumulus clouds of different species. When found in a thunderstorm, it forms when cold air from a thunderstorm's downdraft makes the already present warm and moist air rise, expanding and cooling as it rises. It then condenses, although the most likely scenario is that it condenses into a shelf cloud or roll cloud, rather than an altocumulus volutus cloud. When found in environments where it is not associated with a thunderstorm, it forms because of wind shear.


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  3. Sutherland, Scott (March 23, 2017). "Cloud Atlas leaps into 21st century with 12 new cloud types". The Weather Network. Pelmorex Media. Retrieved 24 March 2017.