Severe Thunderstorms – Aspects and Features

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Thunderstorms have three stages in their life cycle: The developing stage, the mature stage, and the dissipating stage:[1]

The developing stage of a thunderstorm is marked by a cumulus cloud that is being pushed upward by a rising column of air (updraft). The cumulus cloud soon looks like a tower (called towering cumulus) as the updraft continues to develop. There is little to no rain during this stage but occasional lightning.[2]

Life Cycle of a Thunderstorm[3]

 

 

The thunderstorm enters the mature stage when the updraft continues to feed the storm, but precipitation begins to fall out of the storm, creating a downdraft (a column of air pushing downward). When the downdraft and rain-cooled air spreads out along the ground it forms a gust front, or a line of gusty winds. The mature stage is the most likely time for hail, heavy rain, frequent lightning, strong winds, and tornadoes.[4]

Life Cycle of a Thunderstorm[3]

 

 

Eventually, a large amount of precipitation is produced and the updraft is overcome by the downdraft beginning the dissipating stage. At the ground, the gust front moves out a long distance from the storm and cuts off the warm moist air that was feeding the thunderstorm. Rainfall decreases in intensity, but lightning remains a danger.[5]

Life Cycle of a Thunderstorm[3]

 

 

 


References:

  1. NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL): http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/thunderstorms/
  2. NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL): http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/thunderstorms/
  3. Image Source: http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/thunderstorms/ [Accessed December 16, 2013]
  4. NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL): http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/thunderstorms/
  5. NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL): http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/thunderstorms/

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