GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — There are four different types of thunderstorms- single-cell, multicell, squall-line, and supercell thunderstorms. This week, let’s talk about the most dangerous type of thunderstorm — a supercell. Not only are they rare, but they are also huge weather systems. 

A basic supercell contains an anvil stretching across the sky with overshooting cloud tops. Bulky cumulus clouds make up the core of the storm with a flanking line to the side. Rain and/or hail is falling at the bottom with a wall cloud stretching across. 

Characteristics of a supercell thunderstorm (Hank Pecos photo)

In order for a supercell to form, basic thunderstorm formation must take place. Warm air at the surface rises because it is less dense than surrounding air. This constant motion creates an updraft.

As warm moist air rises, it cools, condenses, and then eventually freezes into ice crystals forming a stormcloud. Charges within the storm begin to interact with one another, resulting in lightning and then thunder.

A supercell forms once it collides and combines with upper-level winds. This formation is known as a mesocyclone. Mesocyclones form tornadoes at the base of the storm. 

Supercell thunderstorms have the potential to last for multiple hours and are most commonly found in the central plains of the United States as well as the Southeast. These superstorms are the culprit of creating some of the largest and most damaging tornadoes ever recorded.