A tilted updraft (also known as a tilted storm) is a thunderstorm which is not vertically erect.This happens as a result of unidirectional wind shear, or a change in wind speed with height. In such an environment, the top of the updraft is pushed further downstream than the lower parts as a result of stronger winds pushing the top, as it is higher in the atmosphere. Storms that occur in environments with wind shear are more likely to be severe.
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.
A supercell is a thunderstorm characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone; a deep, persistently rotating updraft. Due to this, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A gustnado is a brief, 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.
In meteorology, an updraft is a small-scale current of rising air, often within a cloud.
The Lemon technique is a method used by meteorologists using weather radar to determine the relative strength of thunderstorm cells in a vertically sheared environment. It is named for Leslie R. Lemon, the co-creator of the current conceptual model of a supercell. The Lemon technique is largely a continuation of work by Keith A. Browning, who first identified and named the supercell.
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.
The rear flank downdraft (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.
A pulse storm is a single cell thunderstorm of substantial intensity which only produces severe weather for short periods of time. Such a storm weakens and then generates another short burst – hence "pulse".
A splitting storm, commonly referred to as a "Splitting Supercell", is a phenomenon when a convective thunderstorm will appear to break in two, with one side propagating to the left and the other to the right of the hodograph. Mirror image storm splits are found in environments where there are large amounts of crosswise vorticity are present. Storm splits also occur in environments where streamwise vorticity is immediately present to an updraft, however in this situation one split is highly favored over the other, with the weaker split quickly dying; in this case, the lesser favored split may be so weak that the process is not noticeable on radar imagery.
An overshooting top is a dome-like protrusion shooting out of the top of the anvil of a thunderstorm and into the lower stratosphere. When an overshooting top is present for 10 minutes or longer, it is a strong indication that the storm is severe.
An air-mass thunderstorm, also called an "ordinary", "single cell", "isolated" 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 with 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.
Atmospheric convection is the result of a parcel-environment instability in the atmosphere. Different lapse rates within dry and moist air masses lead to instability. Mixing of air during the day expands the height of the planetary boundary layer, leading to increased winds, cumulus cloud development, and decreased surface dew points. Convection involving moist air masses leads to thunderstorm development, which is often responsible for severe weather throughout the world. Special threats from thunderstorms include hail, downbursts, and tornadoes.
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.
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.
A mesovortex is a small-scale rotational feature found in a convective storm, such as a quasi-linear convective system, a supercell, or the eyewall of a tropical cyclone. Mesovortices range in diameter from tens of miles to a mile or less and can be immensely intense.
The following is a glossary of tornado terms. It includes scientific as well as selected informal terminology.