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John Wheeler, Published July 15 2012

Weather Talk: More behind severe storms than just high heat, humidity

I recently watched one of the major television networks doing a story on some bad thunderstorms in the Midwest. The meteorologist quoted in the story said that it was hot temperatures that had made the storm so strong. This is only partially true.

While it is true that hot and humid weather can be an aid to rapid thunderstorm growth, the storm still must be in an environment capable of producing big storms. Upper atmospheric temperatures must not be too warm, and there must be a certain amount of wind shear (wind moving at differing speeds and directions) from the ground to the upper reaches of the storm.

If high heat and humidity were all that were necessary for severe storms, then places such as Dallas and Atlanta would have severe storms every day in summer, when

in fact summer severe weather is rare in these areas. Thunderstorms are far too complicated to be simplified into a five-second sound bite.


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