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Weather Academy: Storm Classifications

Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 6:06 AM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - This week on the Weather Academy, we are focusing on thunderstorms, specifically the different types of storms that we see here in the ArkLaMiss. We have four categories: single cells, multi cells, squall lines, which we see quite a lot here in Louisiana, and supercells. They all have different characteristics, and they can all produce different types of severe weather.

Single-cell storms sound just like it looks, it’s one storm by itself. These are usually very small, brief storms. They’re weak and that is the reason why they don’t last that long. When we see these, they normally produce heavy rain and lightning. Sometimes they can go severe, but it’s a little less common to see these storms produce severe qualities.

Another type of storm is multi-cell. It’s similar to a single cell except that we start to see more storms developing along the same storm, forming a cluster. The reason why this is happening is due to a thing that we call a gust front. A gust front is when rain-cooled air gets pushed out ahead of the storm. That cold air wants to sink and the warm air around it wants to rise. These storms can produce hail, strong winds, brief tornadoes, and flash flooding.

Eventually, the clusters of storms can start to merge into one big line. And this is what we call a squall line. These are storms that can extend over multiple miles. Basically, all it is is just one long line wall of clouds. Usually, the part of the storm that is severe is the leading edge of that line. The front end of the storm can produce some heavy rain, some strong straight-line winds, and it’s a little less tornado-prone, but sometimes we get little kinks in that line. And when we do that can produce some QLCS tornadoes. QLCS tornadoes are brief and very short-lived.

The storms that usually produce our violent tornadoes are what we call supercells. With a supercell, you’ll start to see an anvil or some clouds moving out from the top of the storm. You’ll also see some overshooting top, so some clouds that continue to build their way up in the atmosphere. They usually have a pretty level base on the bottom. In order to be a supercell, the storm has to have a rotating updraft, which is just a column of air that is rotating but the draft is going upwards in the atmosphere. These are the storms that can produce all types of severe weather we’re talking heavy rain, large hail even up to the size of a grapefruit, damaging winds up to about 80 miles per hour, and also the violent strong long-track tornadoes. Now thankfully, we don’t see those as often here in the ArkLaMiss are a little bit more prone to those squall lines.

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