DISCUSSION: When it comes to forecasting and predicting severe weather events, there is no doubt that one of the critical factors in anticipating when and how fast updrafts within a given thunderstorm cell will develop and grow the course of a certain period. A thunderstorm’s updraft is best defined as the core rising column (or metaphorical tube) of air which transports much warmer (and typically ground-based air parcels) higher up into a developing thunderstorm cell. This is shown in the idealized graphic attached above courtesy of Australia's Bureau of Meteorology. Whether an updraft grows quickly or if an updraft happens to develop more slowly will often determine the sort of threats which a given updraft can bring to a given town or city which it is developing over. One thing to understand is that the atmosphere is uniquely a dynamically changing gaseous fluid which means that by its very nature it is nearly always changing on a minute-to-minute and even a second-to-second basis.
For this reason, it is also imperative to understand that such real-time changes in a given dynamic and/or thermodynamic set-up over a given region at a certain time can greatly influence how an updraft develop. For example, in situations where a thunderstorm’s updraft develops and grows more rapidly, this can often facilitate the development of a situation wherein an updraft can quickly begin to generate an increasingly larger threat for very heavy rainfall, large/destructive hail, and damaging wind potential. Thus, if a severe storm is developing with rather vigorous updraft speeds being measured along the way, this would be a situation to concern yourself with if you happen to be in the given storm’s projected path.
On the flip-side, if you are in the path of a given thunderstorm cell which is having a tougher time getting its act together, then there is often much less to worry about. This is because when a thunderstorm’s updraft is having a challenging time growing and intensifying, this consequently greatly lessens the storm’s potential to acquire any in-storm characteristics which are remotely close to those noted above for more severe thunderstorm activity. Hence, when evaluating the given threat level for a given thunderstorm event, one must ask oneself if there is a strong updraft developing within a given storm which can almost always be found out from your local weather broadcaster online, on your local television news station, or on the radio in a given severe weather situation as they are covering it. So, always be prepared and always be paying attention when severe weather threats bear down on your hometown.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz