Monday’s Supercells - How did they form?

Nicholas Snider has the explanation
Published: Aug. 12, 2023 at 12:53 AM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Hail, wind, and heavy rain – that was all thanks to supercells that occurred this past Monday. Storms even caused a tornado in Lawrence County, KY into a portion of Wayne County, W.Va. Supercell thunderstorms are what caused this event, and to get these it all starts high up in the sky.

The main ingredient you need is wind that’s increasing with height. This is called vertical wind shear. When you get enough of this happening, a spinning tube of wind will develop in the middle levels of the atmosphere. Think of it like you’re rolling a rolling pin in between your two hands.

What does it take for the horizontal spinning wind to be tilted vertically - a thunderstorm. What causes the thunderstorm to develop - instability.

For air to be considered unstable, cooler air must exist higher up in the sky, compared to warmer air. This cooler air will sink, and the warmer air will rise, causing a towering cloud to form. This towering cloud will then take the spinning tube of air, and tilt it vertically, allowing the storm to spin.

The spinning nature of the storm allows raindrops to reside in a zone ideal for hail formation, develops stronger downdrafts to allow for gusty winds and of course allows for a tornado when the spinning winds reach the ground.