Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mesocyclone


The sky was dark. Occasional raindrops pattered outside. Thunder rumbled. A computer geek sat in the glow of a computer, typing and staring at the screen as if in a trance. He happened to be working on an instant chat application, using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. When he was complete, he would host one version of the app on his Computer Science blog. He later hosted another version HERE.

Suddenly, the wind outside picked up all at once. As it howled, the windows cracked and popped. At one corner of the house came a spooky moaning sound. Only then did the geek come out of his trance; he stopped typing and turned towards the window.

That geek was me. The reason I ceased to type was because I knew that the pickup of wind was unusual, and that it can be a sign of a nearby tornado. I scanned the fields, trying to guess approximately how strong the wind was. The wind had picked up dirt and was blowing it through the fields, so I knew from experience that the wind was particularly strong. I got out of my chair and looked up at the sky through the windows, checking whether a tornado was forming. Ever since I was very young, I was fascinated with tornadoes, and was always on the lookout, hoping to see one. I sometimes dream about tornadoes. Unfortunately, we live in a place where tornadoes are rare, so I've only seen a single tornado my whole life.

I noticed clouds turning in the sky - a mesocyclone. A mesocyclone is a vortex of air within a convective storm - that is, rising air that spins. I called the rest of my family to come look at the turning clouds. I ran and got my camera, and started filming. I really hoped some kind of tornado would form; even a small, weak one would have satisfied me. I watched the clouds as a funnel started to form. Then it dissipated; a tornado never formed.

I had been hoping for a tornado, but what I saw was the next best. I had read a lot about mesocyclones, cumulonimbus clouds, and thunderstorms, and it was very interesting to see it in real life. I could even see the opening for the rear flank downdraft.

I later took the videos I got and removed parts of them. Here's the result:


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