Supercell or rotating thunderstorms sometimes seem as if they don’t belong on this planet. They can take on this other-worldly look, resembling a UFO or flying saucer. They are truly a spectacle and awe-inspiring to see in person.
I have assembled 15 examples of striking supercell storms from many of the best storm photographers in the country. (Links in the captions will lead you to more of their photos and multimedia.)
The photos follow – click to enlarge these surreal works of nature:
1. Franklin, Nebraska, 2011
2. Ada, Oklahoma, 2011
3. Marathon, Texas, 2009
4. Valentine, Nebraska, 2009
5. West Point, Nebraska, 2013
6. Ansley, Nebraska, 2013
7. Watonga, Oklahoma, 2009
8. LaPlata, Maryland, 2002
9. Lamb County, Texas, 2005
10. Eldorado, Oklahoma, 2014.
11. Booker, Texas, 2013
12. Chappell, Nebraska, 2012
13. Deer Trail, Colorado, 2013
14. Piedmont, Oklahoma, 2012
15. Simms, Montana, 2012
Sow how do these storms form? A brief explainer:
The critical ingredient for supercell formation is turning winds with altitude, or wind shear. Let’s say winds are from the south or southeast near the ground, but gradually turn to the west and strengthen 15,000-20,0000 feet up. This turning as height increases causes the updraft – the rising plume of air sucked into the storm – to rotate.
Most of the big tornadoes that occur are from spinning supercells, but a majority of supercells do not produce tornadoes. Even when they don’t, the scene they create is as visually stunning as weather gets.
If you’re interested in learning more about supercells in layman but highly useful terms, I’d personally suggest Mike Hollingshead’s storm analysis DVD.
Related: Wow, Wyoming: Surreal supercell thunderstorm time lapse | High Plains magic: Two unimaginably stunning days of supercell thunderstorms (PHOTOS)
The Climax of must-see time lapse thunderstorm videos | “A beast”: Shocking, enlightening supercell thunderstorm photos from Nebraska