Anatomy of a Supercell

animated radar picture

a one hour time lapse (every 10 minutes) from the La Crosse Doppler Radar.


A supercell is persistent thunderstorm consisting of an intense rotating updraft and downdraft. Usually in thunderstorms, the updraft dominates the storm's life early on. A downdraft then develops with the onset of precipitation, and eventually cuts off the updraft. This essentially "kills" the storm. However, in a supercell, the updraft and downdraft co-exist...producing a long lived thunderstorm which usually produces large hail and sometimes tornadoes.

radar picture of a supercell

Radar Signatures

  • hook echo: an appendage that forms due to precipitation being wrapped around a strong circulation. This is where a tornado can/will develop.
  • inflow notch: this developes before a hook echo and can be viewed as a precursor to a possible hook echo developing. Inflow notches are indicative of a strong "inflow" into the storm.
  • gust front: gust fronts can usually be found along the leading edge of the reflectivity returns. A gust front is created by the rain cooled air being forced outward from the storm.
  • hail: this is the best location for hail in a supercell.
  • v-notch: this forms as the winds aloft are forced around the core (the thunderhead or tower) of the supercell.


click here to see an actual picture of this supercell Click here for an actual picture of the July 1st storm.



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