Super Cell Thunderstorms
Is there a way to look at a thunderstorm and tell if it is
a super cell or not?
In the past this has been difficult and depended upon observations of on the ground
visual observers. Recently, it has been discovered that rotational movement in the
thunder storm and/or super cell emit low frequency electromagnetic radiation
(microwave?? I am not sure). I think a recent issue of "Science" (early 2009)
addresses new finding.
Supercell thunderstorms (technically called mesocyclones)
are normally isolated, are particularly large in diameter
and height, are not usually associated with a cold
front (although they can be sometimes), and must exhibit
rotation in the updraft portion of the storm.
Some thunderstorms can exhibit all of these characteristics,
with the exception of the rotating updraft, but they are not
true supercells. Some of these non-supercell thunderstorms
can spawn tornados, just like a supercell, so it is easy to
misname any thunderstorm that produces a tornado as a supercell.
David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory
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Update: June 2012