On April 26, storm chaser Joel Christopherson captured a timelapse video of this amazing supercell thunderstorm grinding across Texas near the town of Dublin. Severe storms on this day dropped 12 tornadoes across five counties southwest of Dallas, Tex., and hail the size of softballs.
The video that Christopherson captured is a mini-lecture on supercell thunderstorm structure in itself. In it you can see:
Strong inflow — The first thing you might notice about the storm is that it’s sucking up clouds as it moves toward the camera. This is the inflow, and it’s what fuels the storm. Clouds form as the warm, moist air rises into the storm.
Mesocyclone — The spinning column of clouds is the storm’s mesocyclone, which is the feature that makes the storm a supercell. In high wind shear environments, the updraft of a storm will begin to rotate with height. Tornadoes form in thunderstorms with mesocyclones, though not all of them produce tornadoes.
Turquoise hail core — As the supercell moves toward the camera, the mesocyclone starts to look a little turquoise. The color is actually hail that is being held in the storm by the strong updraft. As the hail grows in size, it will eventually outweigh the strength of the updraft winds and will fall to the ground. The stronger the updraft, the larger the hail.
Forward flank downdraft — A rainy part of the storm can be seen on the right and also behind the mesocyclone. What goes up must come down, and the downdraft is where rain and sometimes hail fall out of the storm.
Anvil — At the beginning of the video you can see high-level clouds moving toward the camera. This is the anvil cloud, which spreads out at the top of the troposphere ahead of the storm. As the storm grows tall in the atmosphere, it eventually reaches a point of stability, where air tends to sink instead of rise. This is where the anvil will start to spread out in the direction that the storm is moving.