This week’s satellite image was taken this afternoon over Missouri. Every tornado, every hurricane, every severe thunderstorm, every torrential rain, every hailstone and every lightning strike started as a peaceful cumulus cloud like these. Which one turns into the monster EF-5 tornado? Thankfully, probably none of these today. However, that is the missing link (to me) in meteorology; how do we determine which of these benign-looking fluffy clouds will transform into something that impacts human life.
What I particularly like about this picture is the cumulus field that has built in a wavelike pattern over the area. Notice how at the tops and bottoms of this cumulus field, you can barely see the waves of development at one wavelength. The cloud streets themselves show the convection (cumulus clouds) and subsidence (spaces between clouds) in another wavelength. Knowing what I know about wave propagation, I wonder if what other waves are present, and if the storms we see are a result of constructive interference between these waves.
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Satellite Imagery comes from: NASA MSFC Earth Sciences Office