3 Types of Supercell Thunderstorms

Supercell thunderstorms are highly organized single cell thunderstorms that may persist for hours. They are characterized by strong rotating updrafts that may reach over 100mph. Supercells are responsible for tornadoes, large hail, and extremely strong downdrafts in which winds may reach 100 mph shooting straight down to the ground. These damaging straight line winds may produce damage similar to a weaker tornado. Changes in wind speed and direction with height cause the rotation that is necessary for a thunderstorm to be classified as a supercell. Where precipitation falls in relation to a storm's updraft dictates which one of the three types of supercell it is.

1. High Precipitation (HP)

HP supercells will have the updraft on the front flank of the storm. Precipitation that almost surrounds updraft at times. The likelihood of a wall cloud, but it may be obscured by the heavy precipitation. Tornadoes are potentially wrapped by rain, and therefore difficult to see. Extremely heavy precipitation with flash flooding is also possible.

High Precipitation Supercell

High Precipitation Supercell Captured by Brandon Hammons

High Precipitation SupercellHigh Precipitation Supercell characterized by heavy rain hail core.

2. Classic (CL)

The majority of supercells fall in the "classic" category. These have large, flat updraft bases, generally has a wall cloud with it, striations or banding can been seen around the periphery of the updraft, heavy precipitation falls adjacent to the updraft with large hail likely, and have the potential for strong, long-lived tornadoes.

Classic Supercell

Classic Supercell Diagram

3. Low precipitation (LP)

In LP supercells the updraft is on the rear flank of the storm, a barber pole or corkscrew appearance of updraft is possible, precipitation sparse or well removed from the updraft, often is transparent and you can"t see it, and large hail is often difficult to discern visually. Also, there is no "hook" seen on Doppler radar. LP supercells are a favorite of chasers due to better visibility of any tornadoes and associated wall clouds.

Low Precipitation Supercell

Low Precipitation Supercell captured by Wayne Simoncelli

Low Precipitation Supercell