Massive Tornado Impacts South Africa! (credit: Peoples Weather via Meteo Europe)
DISCUSSION: Though this is not typically a common point of discussion across much of the African continent, a fairly interesting event occurred earlier today. This phenomena which caught the attention of the world news was the confirmed occurrence and touchdown of a sizeable tornado which impacted a relatively small area within South Africa. That being said, despite the historically low frequency in which tornadoes occur anywhere across the entire continent of Africa, there were certainly favorable conditions in place (i.e., in terms of the larger-scale atmospheric flow regime in place within the lower-to-middle parts of the atmosphere.
In looking at the series of three successive images included in the slideshow attached above, you can clearly see the southerly "dip" which is visible in 850 mb geopotential height contours (i.e., the lines which represent the large-scale orientation of atmospheric height values approximately 1 mile above the surface of the Earth). This "dip" in the 850 mb height contours indicated the presence of an enhanced temperature gradient in the lower portions of the atmosphere. This enhanced temperature gradient was facilitated by the particularly persistent southerly transport of warmer air which emanated from the Sahara Desert and collided with cooler air which emanated from areas to the north of northern Antarctica. Thus, the collision of hot/dry, warm/moist, and cool/dry air created a favorable "battlezone" atmosphere which was conducive for the generation of strong to severe thunderstorms. As proven by the image attached above the slideshow, the official confirmation of a tornado occurring quickly went from probable to definite earlier today as a consequence of these combined factors converging.
To learn more about other high-impact weather events from across Africa, be sure to click here!
~Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
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