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Supercell Thunderstorm

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Photographer Mike Olbinski has captured a spectacular timelapse of a supercell thunderstorm over the plains of Texas. Supercells are characterized by a strong, rotating updraft known as a mesocyclone, seen clearly in the video. These storms are commonly isolated occurrences, forming when horizontal vorticity in the form of wind shear is redirected upwards by an updraft. Such a strong updraft is typically created by a capping inversion, a situation where a layer of warmer air traps the colder air beneath it. (This is why one sees a distinctive cut-off at the top of some clouds.) As warm air rises from the surface, either the air above the cap will cool or the air below the cap will warm. Either situation results in an instability with cooler air on top of warmer air, providing a catalyst for the kind of dramatic weather seen here. (Video credit: M. Olbinski; via io9)

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