Does warm air in t-storms rising to 50-60,000 feet run into warmer air?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Dear Tom,
You have said that warm air in thunderstorms rising to 50-60 thousand feet eventually runs into warmer air above that level that prevents it from rising further. Isn’t air at those elevations much colder, like below freezing?

Jim Moran,
Grayslake

Dear Jim,
It is, but be aware that air temperatures normally decline 3 to 5 degrees per thousand feet of increasing altitude. This is due primarily to decreasing air pressure as one ascends. Temperatures within the rising air currents of a thunderstorm, while decreasing with increasing altitude, are still warmer than surrounding non-thunderstorm air. This creates upward buoyancy within the thundercloud. However, at about 40 to 60 thousand feet aloft (where temperatures, even during the summer, are typically -65 degrees), temperatures remain steady or begin to increase. Storm updrafts, when they encounter this “warmer” air, cease to rise.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.