April 11, 2021

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How much does a mesocyclone rotate? : meteorology

2 min read

I am a stormchaser and I’m trying to understand some aspects of the structure of what I’m actually looking at.

My understanding is a mesocyclone ingests air with environmental vorticity, it rises due to CAPE and lack of inhibition, which causes vorticity stretching. The cloud rotates. Large amounts of wind-shear also helps separation of updraft and downdraft, which can reinforce eachother, and helps the storm to last long periods of time.

However, when looking at a hodograph idealized as a semi-circle around storm-motion, this leads me to think that the air simply changes direction as it rises (i.e. 180 degrees), without there being multiple full rotations within the cloud (i.e. 720 degrees).

However, this image on Wikipedia shows the supercell actually spinning:


Whereas, this image only implies a partial rotation:


And, in this presentation by Leigh Orf at 42:30, shows that a tornado will actually reach near the top of the cloud. Obviously I expect that a tornado completes many complete rotations. But is this specific to tornadoes and not the general mesocyclone itself?


Put simply, if one were to release a balloon into a supercell, would it spin around the storm? Or would it just complete a single partial rotation?


2021-03-28 05:30:24

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