What is the definition of a “supercell” thunderstorm?

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,
What is the definition of a “supercell” thunderstorm?
Ronnie Jungler,
Chicago

Dear Ronnie,
Supercells are the most severe of severe thunderstorms. They are giants, often stand-alone rotating thunderstorms whose 10+ mile high cumulonimbus clouds have produced twisters which top this country’s killer tornado lists. They often appear as hook-shaped returns on radar displays and can survive for hours—a trait far different from the garden variety of thunderstorms whose life cycles average just 45 minutes.

A rotating updraft infuses the supercell with a continuous supply of latent heat energy and maintains the storm for extended periods, often for several hours. They buck prevailing steering winds and usually veer to the right of surrounding precipitation elements. Jet stream winds are forced around supercells.

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