Do you really live in a “bubble”? The science behind dissipating storms

Weather Whys

When thunderstorms split or end right before hitting your town, you may think you live in a bubble. That term gets thrown around by nearly every town in the country.

A basic thunderstorm typically lasts for around thirty minutes to an hour. A supercell – or much larger ones – can last much longer and can race across several counties in several hours. But they all come to an end at some point.

The thunderstorm is powered by the updraft which takes in warm and moist air – this is the fuel for a storm. When the storm encounters a large body of water like an ocean or the Great Lakes, they take in cooler air which can weaken the updraft and dissipate the storm.

If they run into drier air, that can help shut off the updraft as well. Sometimes when the updraft is weak, the downdraft will take even over and slowly dissipate the storm. So there are several ways a storm will dissipate.

The National Weather Service says there are no cases of any town or feature we have that regularly dissipates a storm. If a thunderstorm is headed for your town and disappears into thin air, it has less to do with where you live and more to do with the fluid and complex nature of a thunderstorm.

There are instances of splitting storms. The science behind this is pretty fascinating. It happens in environments with strong wind shear. That’s the change in direction of the wind with height. A storm can split when the top moves in the direction of the upper atmospheric winds and the base of the storm moves in the direction of the lower or surface winds. This will eventually cause one area of low pressure to split in two causing two updrafts and two storms.

A meteorologist can look at a particular atmospheric set up to see if it’s ripe for splitting storms, but only Mother Nature knows when exactly storms will split.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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