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Name: Shaya
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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.

Vince Calder


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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