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View Diary: Thunderstorms! (110 comments)

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  •  Never flown in a thunderstorm... (2+ / 0-)
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    tubacat, smiley7

    Hope never to do so. Have flown as fast as I dared once while getting beat up by hail and groppel running away from a cell over Pueblo, CO. I also once landed a 2-33 glider just as a gust front hit near Falcon, CO, and rolled to a stop in less than 10 feet. (!)

    But being a glider pilot, a building cumulus cloud is the ideal source of lift. I've seen ~30 knots lift (upward wind ~30 knots) in clear skies, and something over 60 under a building cumulus.

    The downside (literally) is that if it overdevelops (i.e., turns into a thunderstorm), all that beautiful lift turns into a downdraft as it becomes a storm, and it will spit you downwards at those speeds often while dumping hail on you.

    Up in Boulder, they used to have an instrumented Schweizer 2-32 glider that they deliberately flew into thunderstorms. It got beat up pretty badly by hail at some point (there used to be pictures of it in the NCAR lobby in Boulder), and looked like a squad of goons had taken hammers to every exposed inch of it.

    In the diary picture labeled "That's a big one. I don't want any part of this thing!", you can see a halo-like cloud over the top portions. That's a strong sign that the cloud is growing rapidly upwards, and likely deserves considerable respect. (Clouds w/ powerful vertical development can develop full cap or lenticular clouds.)

    Also, if you look at the very top of a towering cu-nim, it will usually have a soft/fuzzy/wispy quality to it. That's a sign that the water there has frozen -- without that, cu-nims generally can't become full-blown thunderheads: the freezing water transfers huge amounts of heat to the upper atmosphere, providing energy for the thunderhead.

    Another great diary, Major!

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