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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

Watching a Supercell Grow

Watching a Supercell Grow

Supercell development over south Texas, 4-28-2021 (credit: NOAA)


How fast can a super-cell develop? In Texas, surprisingly fast.

The GOES-16 Earth monitoring satellite, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), observed a massive supercell with smaller ones around it, develop, grow, and move across the state. According to the Agency, supercells are storms containing updrafts that rotate about a central axis. The rotation comes from the environmental "shear" of the storm's wind field---a change in direction, speed, or height of the wind---surrounding it as supercell begins to grow. The National Weather Service, part of NOAA, issued severe thunderstorm and tornado alerts across the region as the storm grew in strength. Thunderstorms produced intense winds and large hail, some the size baseballs, while tornadoes touched down near Hondo outside San Antonio.

The geostationary satellite scanned images in the infrared and visible light wavelengths which were then combined to create a photo-animation known as a sandwich loop. Such multi-dimensional animations allow meteorologists and researchers to better identify key aspects of a thunderstorm as it moves and intensifies. GOES is an advanced remote sensing satellite that tracks weather and measures environmental factors, like temperature, precipitation, pressure, and wind speeds, over most of the continental United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Atlantic Ocean to West Africa.

As our climate changes, supercell thunder and rain storms will become both more intense, more common, and more destructive. WHB


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