Supercell thunderstorms over the Great Plains •

Supercell thunderstorms over the Great Plains

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features a cluster of supercell thunderstorms that charged across the Great Plains on the morning of May 15, 2022. The storms carried strong winds, hail, torrential rainfall and extreme lightning through parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas.

“When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired the natural-color image, a line of strong thunderstorms stretched from eastern Kansas to Little Rock, Arkansas,” reports NASA.

“The weather front included multiple storm cells with features called overshooting tops and above-anvil cirrus plumes, key signs of particularly severe storms.”

“Overshooting tops are dome-like protrusions rising from thunderstorm clouds and driven by convective updrafts. These cloud top features can rise past the tropopause and the anvil portion of a thunderstorm cloud, sometimes punching into the lower stratosphere.”

“Above-anvil cirrus plumes are comparatively warm patches of cirrus clouds that get dragged into the lower stratosphere by intense updrafts and the gravity waves that they can generate. Cirrus plumes are typically warmer than the underlying anvil cloud because they mix with the air in the stratosphere, where air temperature warms with height.”

Overshooting tops and above-anvil cirrus plumes are not produced by all thunderstorms. They are usually associated with storms that create the most severe weather. 

“Overshooting tops and above-anvil cirrus plumes are often a sign that a thunderstorm will produce hail, tornadoes, extreme lightning, and destructive winds,” said NASA atmospheric scientist Kristopher Bedka. “We know this because an especially intense updraft produced the patterns we see in the satellite imagery.” 

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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