RECIPE FOR A THUNDERSTORM
- 1. Water Vapor
- 2. Unstable Lapse Rate
- 3. An initial upward boost or lifting action
LIKE A PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE
- 1. Initial updraft
- 2. Cooling forces condensation
- 3. Latent heat is released warming the air
- 4. Creates buoyancy and furthers the air’s upward movement
- 1. Cumulus
- 2. Mature
- 3. Dissipating
- Characterized by continuous updrafts
- Up to 3000’ per minute
- Soon droplets collide forming big droplets that fall and create cool downdrafts
- Characterized by the start of rain from the cloud base
- Downdrafts have started
- Cold rain within the cloud creates downdrafts
- This cold rain offsets the compressional warming
- Cooler than ambient air then accelerates the downdraft
- Updrafts reach max topping at 6000’ min.
- Characterized by downdrafts
- Anvil head forms
- Rain ends
- Cloud dissipates
- There are 3 main classifications of thunderstorms
- –Single cell or Airmass Thunderstorms
- –Multicell or Steady State Thunderstorms
- Vary with degree of instability and moisture content
- Range from 5 miles to 30 miles in diameter
- Usually the more moisture the lower the cloud base will be
- Tops can reach 65,000 feet or more
- Mesoscale Convective Complexes are the big dog
- Cover an area of 39,000 square miles (200 by 200 miles) for 6 hours or longer
- These systems are bigger than normal thunderstorms but just smaller than extratropical tropical cyclones
- Gravity waves can be seen rippling through the top of the echo at right
SINGLE CELL OR AIR MASS
- Result from surface heating
- Occur at random
- Last a short time
- Middle to late afternoon
- As soon as the rain starts and cools down the surface that caused the storm, it will dissipate
MULTICELL OR STEADY STATE THUNDERSTORMS
- Form in a line
- Last several hours
- Dumps heavy rain and hail
- Associated with wx systems
- e.g. fast moving cold fronts
- Produce strong gusty winds and sometimes tornadoes
- The rain falls outside the updrafts so no cooling
- It does not slow down
MULTICELL STEADY STATE THUNDERSTORM
- A supercell thunderstorm is a convective storm that consists primarily of a single, quasi-steady rotating updraft
- These can persists for an extended period of time
- It has a very organized internal structure that enables it to produce especially dangerous weather
- Updraft speeds may reach 9,000 feet per minute (100 knots).
- Nearly all supercells produce severe weather and about 25 percent produce a tornado.
- A supercell may persist for many hours (or longer).
- New cells will continue to form as long as the three necessary ingredients exist
- Movement is dictated by 2 processes
- Advection is the movement of the storm because of wind
- –Check the winds at about 18,000 feet to predict movement
- Propagation is the movement due to old cell dissipation and new cell development
HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH THUNDERSTORMS
- 1. Tornadoes
- 2. Turbulence
- 3. Icing
- 4. Hail
- 5. Microburst
- 6. Lightning
- 7. Low ceilings
- 8. Visibility in rain
- Associated with violent thunderstorms
- Usually multicell or supercell thunderstorms
- Fast moving cold fronts or squall lines
- Preceded by a funnel cloud
- They usually move from southwest to northeast
HOW DO TORNADOES FORM?
- A change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed with increasing height creates an invisible, horizontal spinning effect in the lower atmosphere.
- Rising air within the thunderstorm’s updraft tilts the rotating air from horizontal to vertical.
- Most strong and violent tornadoes form within this area of rotation.
- In this photo, the rotation is in the area of the lower cloud base. Spotters refer to this area as a rotating wall cloud.
EAST WENATCHEE TORNADO
EAST WENATCHEE HAIL
HAIL 4” DEEP
- Signify areas of high turbulence
- Very frequent lightning and roll clouds
- Hazardous turbulence in all thunderstorms
- Can exceed aircraft structural integrity
- Normal category 3.8 G’s
- Slow to Va
- Hold a constant attitude and accept variations in altitude and airspeed
- Supercooled water, freezing rain
- Clear, Mixed, Rime
- Builds very fast and can accompany a downdraft
- Very hazardous to aircraft
- Large drops freeze others latch on and freeze
- If updrafts are strong enough a large hailstone may build up
- Located in, around, downwind and under the anvil top
Largest Hailstone Ever!
On September 03, 1970 in Coffeyville, Kansas a hailstone fell with a diameter of a 5.7 inches, a circumference of 17.5 inches and a weight of 1.67 pounds. It held the record for the world’s largest hailstone for over 30 years until…….June 22, 2003 when a storm pounded Aurora, Nebraska dropping tennis-sized hail at will.
The largest hailstone recovered from that storm officially measured 7 inches in diameter and had a circumference of 18.75 inches, this after a good chunk of it was broken off upon impact and some of it was lost to melting before it could be measured.
The Aurora hailstone still holds the record for circumference but on July 23, 2010 one fell in Vivian, South Dakota that measured 8” in diameter and 18.62 in circumference and weighed 1 lb 15 oz
Small hail, up to about the size of a pea, can wipe out a field of ripening grain or tear a vegetable garden to shreds. Large hail, the size of a tennis ball or larger, can fall at speeds faster than 100 miles per hour and can batter rooftops, shatter windows and “total” automobiles.
- Up to 6,000 feet per minute downdraft
- Calm wind shears to a headwind
- Headwind shears to downdraft
- Which then shears to a tailwind
- What to look for:
- –Sharply defined column of showers
- –Roll cloud coming off the point at which it strikes the ground
- –Lots of dust, trees sharply bent over
Microburst From Dense Air
- Dry air entrained into the thunderstorm will evaporate and cool the falling mix of precipitation and air, which may create dry, and in humid areas wet microbursts of strong winds.
- Microbursts may form in areas of virga when the rain’s evaporative process cools the air to such a point that it becomes extremely heavy and accelerates downward.
- The bases of the clouds producing these “Dry Microbursts” may be as high as 15,000 feet.
LLWAS and TDWR
- LLWAS and TDWR (Terminal Doppler Weather Radar) are systems designed to provide pilots with information on hazardous wind shear and microburst activity in the vicinity of an airport.
- Not all airports will have this capability, but more than half of the towered airports will have the capability to provide some level of alert.
- At airports equipped with LLWAS, controllers are provided with gust front wind shear information. Controllers will provide this information to pilots by giving the pilot the airport wind followed by the boundary wind.
- EXAMPLE – Wind shear alert, airport wind 230 at 8, south boundary wind 170 at 20.
- Airports equipped with LLWAS “network expansion,” LLWAS systems integrated with TDWR and TDWR systems provide the capability of detecting microburst alerts and wind shear alerts.
- EXAMPLE – Runway 17 arrival microburst alert, 40 knot loss 3 mile final.
- An airport equipped with the LLWAS is so indicated in the Airport/Facility Directory under Weather Data Sources for that particular airport.
- Characteristics of microbursts include:
- –The microburst downdraft is typically less than 1 mile in diameter.
- –It descends from the cloud base to about 1,000 – 3,000 feet above the ground.
- –In the transition zone near the ground, the downdraft changes to a horizontal outflow that can extend to approximately 2 1/2 miles in diameter.
- –The downdrafts can be as strong as 6,000 feet per minute.
- –Horizontal winds near the surface can be as strong as 45 knots resulting in a 90 knot shear (headwind to tailwind change for a traversing aircraft) across the microburst.
- –These strong horizontal winds occur within a few hundred feet of the ground.
- –Some extreme microbursts have clocked in at 150 kts.
- Visual Signs:
- –Microbursts can be found almost anywhere that there is convective activity.
- –They may be embedded in heavy rain associated with a thunderstorm or in light rain in benign appearing virga.
- –When there is little or no precipitation at the surface accompanying the microburst, a ring of blowing dust may be the only visual clue of its existence.
- –An individual microburst will seldom last longer than 15 minutes from the time it strikes the ground until dissipation.
- –The horizontal winds continue to increase during the first 5 minutes with the maximum intensity winds lasting approximately 2-4 minutes.
- –Sometimes microbursts are concentrated into a line structure, and under these conditions, activity may continue for as long as an hour.
- –Once microburst activity starts, multiple microbursts in the same general area are not uncommon and should be expected.
- There are 2 types of microbursts:
- Symmetrical in which the downdraft hits the ground at a 90° angle causing a wind flow pattern of equal intensity around the contact area.
- Asymmetrical in which the downdraft hits the ground at a lesser angle causing a wind flow pattern that has higher gusts on one side.
Flying into a Microburst
- A pilot flying into a microburst must anticipate sudden and strong changes in wind direction and speed.
- Initially a headwind is encountered that lifts the plane, followed by a strong downdraft, and when leaving the storm a tailwind causes a loss of altitude.
- If encountered on takeoff a normal jet aircraft may have only 5 to 15 seconds for recognition and recovery.
- Watch for thunderstorms in the forecast.
- Any LLWS alerts.
- Temperature Dew point spread of 17° to 28° C.
- High wind gusts on the order of 40 to 50 kts or more.
- Severe Weather Watch Reports.
- The Mark IV eyeball.
- Ice, sand, dust, volcanic ash, and precip
- All can build up a static charge
- Windshield, engine nacelles, leading edges
- Saint Elmo’s fire
- 3/10 of the sky covered by T-storms is the limit
- 5/10 of the sky covered be on the ground
- Avoid T-storm cells by 20 miles
- Avoid the downwind side of the anvil (hail)
- Make a 180
- Get as low as safety permits
- Look for light areas of rain
- Pink spots mean sun on the other side
- Light gray means light rain
- White probably hail, maybe snow – stay away
- Don’t get above if cloud is boiling
- Don’t fly directly under the thunderstorm up drafts might pull you up, down drafts might put you on the ground
- Stay in Clear area
- If clear area moves over an airport – LAND!
- If clear area moves over a good landing place – Consider Landing
- If you decide to land, be careful of surface winds, soft fields
If you get into a Thunderstorm:
- Use ATC for Vectors
- Use airborne radar and fly in areas of light precip
- Slow aircraft to Va
- Maintain Attitude
- Turn Auto Pilot Off
- Avoid large control inputs
- Don’t change your mind or heading, just your underwear.
- Squall lines generally form ahead of cold fronts and dry lines
- Produce severe wx spanning several states
- Travel quickly up to 60mph
- The Derecho is a squall line on steroids
- Torrential rains tornadoes, flooding, hurricane force winds
- Land based
- Summer time storms form in midwest and move eastward
- Got to have it to have a thunderstorm
- More and More frequent T storm is more severe
- Less and less T-storm is dissipating
- Can hear it through the headsets
- Can cause ADF needle to wander
- CTC, CTG, GTC
- Charges build up in the clouds and ground
- Shoots toward ground in a series of steps 150 to 300 feet long then stops for 50 millionths of a second this is called a stepped leader
- As it gets closer to the ground voltage increases
- A return stroke surges upward along the path of the stepped leader
- Process is repeated along the same path in a tenth of a millionth of a second this is called the dart leader
- 3 million volts per meter
- Heats the air to 54,000º F causing the air to expand explosively
- Electrons, which have negative charge, begin zigzagging downward
- As the stepped leader nears the ground, it draws a streamer of positive charge upward.
- As the leader and the streamer come together, powerful electric current begins flowing.
- Intense wave of positive charge, a “return stroke” travels upward at 60,000 miles per second.
- As a thunderstorm grows, electrical charges build up within the cloud.
- Oppositely charged particles gather at the ground below.
- The attraction between positive and negative charges quickly grows strong enough to overcome the air’s resistance to electrical flow.
- Racing toward each other, they connect and complete the electrical circuit.
- Charge from the ground then surges upward at nearly one-third the speed of light and we see a bright flash of lightning.