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The Shape of Thunderstorm Clouds

14 Sep 2015, 07:01 UTC
The Shape of Thunderstorm Clouds
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Last week we looked at a relatively minor storm system that formed over a nearby lake. In the process, we learned about the important meteorological components required to generate such systems. We’ll be looking at a much larger system this week — one that brings in some new components and can teach us more about these violent natural phenomena.
The photo above was taken on August 30, 2015, just as the Sun was setting (around 19:00 MST). The view is to the southeast. This is a massive storm system. The cloud you see is categorized as a cumulonimbus, and for this one at least, the top of that cloud was at an altitude of maybe 8000 meters (26,000 feet). If you want to see the original image, uncluttered by labels, click on the thumbnail below.

Distance to the cloud was maybe 80 km (50 miles). It formed over the Phoenix metropolitan area, a sprawling mass of concrete, asphalt, clay tile roofs, swimming pools, golf courses, and way too many green lawns. Including outlying towns and suburbs, the total area is 23,500 km2 (14,600 mi2). This absorbs so much heat during the daytime, that it dwarfs the system over Lake ...

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