From Glossary of Meteorology


An often dangerous convective storm that consists primarily of a single, quasi-steady rotating updraft, which persists for a period of time much longer than it takes an air parcel to rise from the base of the updraft to its summit (often much longer than 10–20 min).

Most rotating updrafts are characterized by cyclonic vorticity (see mesocyclone). The supercell typically has a very organized internal structure that enables it to propagate continuously. It may exist for several hours and usually forms in an environment with strong vertical wind shear. Supercells often propagate in a direction and with a speed other than indicated by the mean wind in the environment. Such storms sometimes evolve through a splitting process, which produces a cyclonic, right-moving (with respect to the mean wind), and anticyclonic, left-moving, pair of supercells. Severe weather often accompanies supercells, which are capable of producing high winds, large hail, and strong, long-lived tornadoes.
See also convective storm, thunderstorm, splitting convective storm, cell, bulk Richardson number.