The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
-Psalm 19:1

Do you know that God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash?
-Job 37:15

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Beautiful Stages of a Thunderstorm

Happy Sky Watch Friday!! It's post time!!! (Please visit our host, Tom, Klaus, Sandy and Imac's Sky Watch blog (click here or on the logo to participate) to participate in Sky Watch Fridays. So much fun!!! I highly recommend it!) Today, I have chosen a stormy sky to post in honor of summer thunderstorm season and hence, my soon-to-be-temporarily-relieved SDS (Supercell Deprivation Syndrome). Specifically, this shot was taken in my backyard before a summer thunderstorm in 2006.
You can see in this shot that one cell has lost much of it's energy and is deep into the dissipation phase (The large cloud in the back which has a wispy appearance, where the edges are fuzzy and lack distinction); however, in that same shot you see a solid tower rising, most likely having stolen the remaining energy from the dying cell and rising now in its cumulus stage up to its own maturity.

The sun heats the earth's surface during the day. The heat accumulates on the surface and warms the air around it. Since warm air is lighter than cool air, it starts to rise (known as an updraft). If the air is moist, then the warm air condenses into a cumulus cloud. The cloud will continue to grow in height as long as warm air below it continues to rise. The formation of a cumulus cloud takes only a few minutes.
When the cumulus cloud becomes very large, the water molecules in it become large and heavy. They start to fall through the cloud when the rising air can no longer hold them up. Meanwhile, cool dry air starts to enter the cloud. This is known as entrainment. Because cool air is heavier than warm air, it starts to descend in the cloud (known as a downdraft). The downdraft pulls the heavy water molecules downward, making rain.

This cloud has become a cumulonimbus cloud because it has an updraft, a downdraft, and precipitation. Lightning and thunder start to occur, as well as heavy rain. The cumulonimbus is now a thunderstorm cell.
After about 30 minutes, the thunderstorm begins to dissipate. This occurs when the downdrafts in the cloud begins to dominate over the updraft. Since warm moist air can no longer rise, cloud droplets can no longer form. The storm dies out with light rain as the cloud disappears from bottom to top.

The whole process takes about one hour for an ordinary thunderstorm.
That's my weather lesson for today.

Things locally are getting exciting over the next couple of days. Today just barely to my north and heading out to the coasts of the Carolinas, we see a slight risk for severe weather as a cold front dips down into near my neck of the woods, which is generating a slight chance for damaging wind, hail and heavy downpours. This drought-stricken region can definitely benefit from the rain, and hopefully the cloud cover will aid in cooling things down from the dangerous record temps we've been seeing. Meso Mike and Rick are hooking up in hopes of chasing some lightning. I will provide sporadic radar support as the need arises. Thursday... ugh.

A huge thank you to Rick for developing this adorable magazine cover and posting it as a surprise on the chase team blog. SO CUTE!... and a terrific lead in for a reminder about the suggestions for OUR WEDDING LOCATION CONTEST, please do send them my way (leave a comment, send me an email, drop me an IM...) My future groom (who cringes at the idea of me abbreviating that to mfg since he doesn't like the idea of being called mf anything... sorry, my fabulous fiance) and I will be touring locations throughout the southeast over the coming months, scoping out locations (your suggestions) for our picture-perfect and very much stress-free nuptuals. For information about the contest, read this blog (click here) or just see the post below. Thanks for the many great ideas we have already received.

5PM Skies... Have fun, guys!Have a wonderful day!


  1. Its so...(sniff) beautiful...;-)

  2. Are you talking about the storm shot or the mag cover you designed? lol Great job, Rick.

  3. Dramatic shots!

  4. Love the top shot and the ones of the cumulus clouds...I need to come back here and learn things!

  5. So lovely - and I always love your weather lessons - so fascinating!

  6. Always good report and beautiful shots.Thanks.

  7. Dew: Interesting post with a great shot. We have had super clouds all week. Cute finish to the post. The Dewrific couple.

  8. storms have a wild beautiful side indeed. as for the wedding location, good luck in finding the perfect one for you!

  9. Great post, lesson, and photos.

    Wow, you were second. One minute there was no one and the next minute 15 had signed up.

    Good job.

    Our "Sky Watch" is Here.
    Come visit,
    Troy and Martha

  10. Informative post! Great!

  11. Nice pictures and a very interesting lesson. Makes me looking an other way to the clouds!
    Happy Skywatch!
    Dirkjogt, Belgium

  12. great photos! they are all just beautiful with such vivid colors!

  13. Beautiful photos and, as usual, wonderful sky information! Visits to your site are very educational as well as pleasing to the eye.

  14. My favorite kind of clouds from my favorite storm chaser!
    What a lovely couple you make - congrats - I think I missed this somewhere. I'm so happy for you.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  15. Love your posts. I learn so much!
    You have nice shots too:)

    Petunia's SWF

  16. wonderful pictures. The first one is my favorite. Puff on top stormy on the bottom.

  17. Great little tutorial here! Love the illustrations!
    Weather has been boring here... hot hot hot... hoping for a little relief in the next few days...
    Well I could suggest coming out here but I don't think it's on your list... but wherever you guys go, I know it'll be beautiful!

  18. Never thought you would post anything related to weather! ;)
    But I dewed drop in anyway and dewed post my Mr.Linky now, too!
    Great shots and info!
    Cheers, Klaus

  19. We've got clouds building over central Ontario this afternoon. I can hear thunder in the distance.

    Love the magazine cover!

  20. wonderful cloud with high energie

  21. Beautiful and so informative too!

  22. I have been watching your weather lesson in our sky here all day! lol Lovely photos of those clouds!

    Have a wonderful weekend of beautiful skies!

    My Sky Watch Photos are posted Here and Here

  23. Our own weather person too for SW.Brautiful work.

  24. great posts! wonderful photos

  25. Great pictures. Loved the pink one.

  26. what a lovely collection you featured today.

  27. I wish I thought I'd retain all the interesting information you offer. But at least I know where to come if I need to remember it. Your photos are gorgeous.

  28. :) I like how you shared to us the different stages of cloud formation. Those are really good shots too!

  29. Very interesting info, and the photos are great. In the first and last one, the clouds look like ocean waves! Love the intense color in the Stage 2 photo also.

  30. The photo is beautiful, and the education is welcome. Our clouds (New Mexico) are dissipating as they begin. (This I determined after reading your tutorial.) That might explain why rain rarely comes out of our "monsoon season."

  31. Beautiful sky. And your explanation on cloud formation is interesting.

    My SWF is over here. Hope you enjoy my clouds!

  32. Nice weather lesson. I've been watching quite a few of those cumulonimbus clouds out my window lately. Right now the sky is a steel gray with lightening off over the Tucson and Catalina Mountains. So far it hasn't rained where I am, but that could change in an instant! Nice photography. Happy skywatching!

  33. A truly lovely thunderstorme ;)

  34. I love watching the clouds and your photo shows some great ones. We had a rain gush here in eastern Arkansas earlier today and things are cooler for a short time.

  35. Always the most educating skywath and some brilliant shots.

  36. I could sooo be a weather geek. I loved the info and now when they say an "upper level low" bringing in Canadian air brings a risk of severe weather..Maybe I can understand a bit about thunderstorms as we have been seeing many in western NY.
    Happy Sky Watch Friday from Michelle @
    Rambling Woods

  37. Thanks for the info. Great shots!

  38. Wow, how did you learn all that? and great photos, too.

  39. Nice photo for SWF and good information. Have a nice weekend.

  40. Hi! You photo is beautiful. So much to see from one cloud.

  41. Just love those storm clouds. The "weather report" was rather interesting also. But, I think I like the magazine cover best of all!! :)

  42. You are so clever with all your information and your photos just capture it so well. Happy SWF.

  43. Hi Dewdrop - Fishing Guy pointed me towards you and I'm really glad he did. Amazing pics and your information/lesson very welcome indeed! :)

    I raised a question about my Skywatch Friday and Fishing Guy thought you might now the answer:

    Your site is amazing and I shall be back.

  44. nice pics i like them all. great swf have a nice weekend

  45. Your photos are beautiful and thank you also for the very interesting lesson on clouds and their formation.

  46. Great post, great information as always.. and a great Mag cover of two great people...

    Forgive this 'Copy & Paste' section of my comment.. this is to let you know that we at Sky Watch appreciate your posting and thank you for helping to make Sky Watch so good. Any problems feel free to contact me about them.

  47. Pretty pretty pretty that's all i can happy SWF! TC

  48. "Louis" needs to stop by here more often! He always finds fascinating posts - today's proving the point!

  49. Thanks to everyone who commented on the beauty of the cloud shots. It is that beauty that has me so interested in storm chasing. Such a work of art.

    For those who commented on how they enjoyed the lesson... thank you so much. I love sharing my weather knowledge. I feel strongly that the more people know, the safer they will be, so I share to educate others to help protect them. Thanks for the wonderful positive feedback.

    Rose, stop back anytime to learn. I love to share my knowledge!

    Fishing guy, I hope you've been capturing your "super clouds". Thanks for the Dewrific couple comment... CUTE! Oh, and thanks for referring Tricia to me!

    Lara, Thanks... we are getting some great recommendations! It will be perfect! All that really matters is that the two of us are there... that will make any location perfect!

    Troy, You noticed that too, huh? :O)

    Dirk, Glad to have you seeing the other side...

    Carletta, WOW! Your favorite storm chaser?! Thanks for the congrats! We are so excited and so happy!!!!

    Michele, sorry about your boring weather.... We will have to go up your way sometime, if not for our wedding, just to visit. We'll go boggin' together!

    Klaus, Thanks for getting Mr. Linky up... and glad you dewd drop by. :O) Who me? Post weather? nah... ;O)

    YEGTG, Hope you're enjoying that FABULOUS weather! Thanks!!! I loved it too!

    Kahshe, Glad you get to apply your knowledge so quickly! Enjoy your weather!

    Imac, at your service!!! :O)

    Raven, Yes, please come back anytime, and feel free to ask questions... if I don't know the answer, I will find it for you!

    Sherry, Waves.... hadn't seen them that way. Cool.

    Louise, Not much of a monsoon if it's dry... instant dissipation... cool.

    Kathie, Lightning over mountains?! Beautiful. I hope you're taking pics!

    Brenda, Enjoy the temporary relief... rain is nice for that.

    Michelle, What's stopping you? Go for it!

    Wren, I soak up everything I can learn. I love all things weather!

    Joyce, Thanks!

    Suzanne, Clever? Wow! Thanks!

    Tricia, Sun dogs! Awesome stuff... Come back any time! Thanks!

    Tom, Thanks!!!

  50. Well, it looks like I'm late! Enjoyed your post and the pictures are extra special. Nice to hear there is going to be a wedding!!

  51. So beautiful. When I haven't got a five year old running round I'll be back to read in more depth the info I love stuff like this. Happy Sky Watch Friday.

  52. Wonderful cloud shots - very dramatic. I love the composition on Stage 1.

  53. Very happy to see your photos again! Happy sky watching and week end!

  54. It's a complete sky!

    I haven't words to this post!

    Only I can said "fantastic".

  55. I really have to make it a point to check out your Sky Watch because it's always so amazing. Good luck on finding THAT perfect location. I love weddings! I hope you'll post photos.

  56. Great Blog! Glad I dropped by!

  57. Dot, Thanks! We are super excited!

    Coolgirlsar, come back anytime... the kids got to sleep some time, huh?

    Piedmont, thanks... I've been working on composition!

    System, Glad to have you back!

    Luiz, Thanks.

    Kay, Wow, thanks! I know that you have some perfect spots over there... but it's a little far. I am optimisitic that we will find the ideal location though, and I will definitely share pics.

  58. Update to my comments on this post. I notice you got a nice call for P&P Blogroll for this post at Mike Palmers.


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