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Air Mass Thunderstorm
Generally, a thunderstorm not associated with a front or other type of synoptic-scale forcing mechanism. Air mass thunderstorms typically are associated with warm, humid air in the summer months; they develop during the afternoon in response to insolation, and dissipate rather quickly after sunset. They generally are less likely to be severe than other types of thunderstorms, but they still are capable of producing downbursts, brief heavy rain, and (in extreme cases) hail over 3/4 inch in diameter.

Since all thunderstorms are associated with some type of forcing mechanism, synoptic-scale or otherwise, the existence of true air-mass thunderstorms is debatable.
Back-building Thunderstorm
A thunderstorm in which new development takes place on the upwind side (usually the west or southwest side), such that the storm seems to remain stationary or propagate in a backward direction.
Dry Thunderstorm
Generally a high-based thunderstorm when lightning is observed, but little if any precipitation reaches the ground. Most of the rain produced by the thunderstorm evaporates into relatively dry air beneath the storm cell. May also be referred to as "dry lightning".
High Risk (of severe thunderstorms)
Severe weather is expected to affect more than 10 percent of the area. A high risk is rare, and implies an unusually dangerous situation and usually the possibility of a major severe weather outbreak.
Marine Small Craft Thunderstorm Advisory
A marine warning issued by Environment Canada Atmospheric Environment Branch when the possibility of thunderstorms is greater than 40 percent.
Moderate Risk (of severe thunderstorms)
Severe thunderstorms are expected to affect between 5 and 10 percent of the area. A moderate risk indicates the possibility of a significant severe weather episode. See high risk, slight risk, convective outlook.
Multicell Thunderstorm
These thunderstorms are organized in clusters of at least 2-4 short-lived cells. Each cell generates a cold air outflow and these individual outflows combine to form a large gust front. Convergence along the gust front causes new cells to develop every 5 to 15 minutes. The cells move roughly with the mean wind. However, the area (storm) motion usually deviates significantly from the mean wind due to discrete propagation (new cell development) along the gust front. The multicellular nature of the storm is usually apparent on radar with multiple reflectivity cores and maximum tops.
Nocturnal Thunderstorms
Thunderstorms which develop after sunset. They are often associated with the strengthening of the low level jet and are most common over the Plains states. They also occur over warm water and may be associated with the seaward extent of the overnight land breeze.
Probability of Thunderstorms
The probability based on climatology that a thunderstorm will be reported at that location during a specified period of time.
Pulse Severe Thunderstorms
Single cell thunderstorms which produce brief periods of severe weather (3/4 inch hail, wind gusts in the excess of 58 miles an hour, or a tornado).
Severe Thunderstorm
A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph (50knots), and/or hail at least 1" in diameter. Structural wind damage mayimply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm. A thunderstorm wind equalto or greater than 40 mph (35 knots) and/or hail of at least 1" isdefined as approaching severe.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
This is issued when either a severe thunderstorm is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm producing hail one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Lightning frequency is not a criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. They are usually issued for a duration of one hour. They can be issued without a Severe Thunderstorm Watch being already in effect.

Like a Tornado Warning, the Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued by your National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWFO). Severe Thunderstorm Warnings will include where the storm was located, what towns will be affected by the severe thunderstorm, and the primary threat associated with the severe thunderstorm warning. If the severe thunderstorm will affect the nearshore or coastal waters, it will be issued as the combined product--Severe Thunderstorm Warning and Special Marine Warning. If the severe thunderstorm is also causing torrential rains, this warning may also be combined with a Flash Flood Warning. If there is an ampersand (&) symbol at the bottom of the warning, it indicates that the warning was issued as a result of a severe weather report.

After it has been issued, the affected NWFO will follow it up periodically with Severe Weather Statements. These statements will contain updated information on the severe thunderstorm and they will also let the public know when the warning is no longer in effect.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch
This is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. A severe thunderstorm by definition is a thunderstorm that produces one inch hail or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. The size of the watch can vary depending on the weather situation. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They are normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review severe thunderstorm safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Prior to the issuance of a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, SPC will usually contact the affected local National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWFO) and they will discuss what their current thinking is on the weather situation. Afterwards, SPC will issue a preliminary Severe Thunderstorm Watch and then the affected NWFO will then adjust the watch (adding or eliminating counties/parishes) and then issue it to the public by way of a Watch Redefining Statement. During the watch, the NWFO will keep the public informed on what is happening in the watch area and also let the public know when the watch has expired or been cancelled.
Single Cell Thunderstorm
This type of thunderstorm develops in weak vertical wind shear environments. On a hodograph, this would appear as a closely grouped set of random dots around the center of the graph. They are characterized by a single updraft core and a single downdraft that descends into the same area as the updraft. The downdraft and its outflow boundary then cut off the thunderstorm inflow. This causes the updraft and the thunderstorm to dissipate. Single cell thunderstorms are short-lived. They only last about 1/2 hour to an hour. These thunderstorms will occasionally become severe (3/4 inch hail, wind gusts in the excess of 58 miles an hour, or a tornado), but only briefly. In this case, they are called Pulse Severe Thunderstorms.
Supercell Thunderstorm
Potentially the most dangerous of the convective storm types. Storms possessing this structure have been observed to generate the vast majority of long-lived strong and violent (F2-F5) tornadoes, as well as downburst damage and large hail. It is defined as a thunderstorm consisting of one quasi-steady to rotating updraft which may exist for several hours. Supercells usually move to the right of the mean wind. These are called "Right Movers" and they are favored with veering winds. Occasionally, these thunderstorms will move to the left of the mean wind. These thunderstorms are called "Left Movers". These supercells typically don't last as long as their "Right Mover" cousins and they usually only produce large hail (greater than 3/4 inch in diameter) and severe wind gusts in the excess of 58 miles an hour. Left Movers are favored when you have backing winds.

Radar will observe essentially one long-lived cell, but small perturbations to the cell structure may be evident. The stronger the updraft, the better the chance that the supercell will produce severe (hail greater than 3/4 inch in diameter, wind gusts greater than 58 miles an hour, and possibly a tornado) weather.

Severe supercell development is most likely in an environment possessing great buoyancy (CAPE) and large vertical wind shear. A Bulk Richardson Number of between 15 and 35 favor supercell development. Typically, the hodograph will look like a horse shoe. This is due to the wind speed increasing rapidly with height and the wind direction either veering or backing rapidly with height.
A local storm produced by a cumulonimbus cloud and accompanied by lightning and thunder.

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     Page last Modified: 25 June, 2009 1:01 PM