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Radar Echoes Can Exhibit Strange Behavior Severe storms can split and move to the right or left of the mean echo motionStill image:
Size: 3355 x 2516
Acquisition: Graphic, Scanned illustration
Frame rate: still
Clearance: No releases required
Location: Graphic
License: Royalty Free
Usage: Creative and Editorial
Point of view: Other
Geography: N/A
Ambiance: N/A
Time shot: N/A

Season shot: N/A

Still images available: Y
Keywords:   Supercells, Radars, Weather Explanations, Displays and analyses, Thunderstorm, Severe Weather, Weather Radar
Asset ID: 5397
Title: Radar Echoes Can Exhibit Strange Behavior
Concept: Severe storms can split and move to the right or left of the mean echo motion
Detail: Years of research on severe thunderstorms have shown, like kids, they can "do the darndest things." One class of severe thunderstorms are known as "splitting echoes." Gigantic isolated supercell thunderstorms would be moving at approximately the mean wind in the atmosphere....and then suddenly split in two. The right cell veers off to the right and similarly the left cell moves in that direction. Research has shown that both of these echoes are actually in rotation with the right moving cell rotating cyclonically (counter-clock wise) and the left moving anticyclonically (clockwise). Splitting echoes often produce cyclonic tornadoes from the right cell, and on rare occasions, anticyclonic tornadoes from the other. The fact that such bizarre things can happen in the atmosphere shows the extreme difficulty in making point specific forecasts. Even when a thunderstorm is bearing straight down on a city at 50 mph, there is no guarantee someone 50 miles ahead of its path will be struck. The "S curve" is another type of thunderstorm cell. Supercell thunderstorms often begin to rotate cyclonically, like small low pressure systems. At this time, they curve to the right, often moving in an angle which is unrepresentative of the wind at any level in the atmosphere. What causes such bizarre behavior? It is called the "magnus effect," but baseball fans will recognize it more as a curve ball. Any obstacle in rotation will tend to deviate its course due to the spinning motion setting up aerodynamic forces. Thus, if a pitcher wants the ball to curve, he puts a spin on it. Mother Nature's thunderstorm curve ball works roughly the same way, and like the opposing batter, often gives forecasters fits in trying to guess when echoes will start taking off in strange directions.

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