Clearing Up Confusion with Storm Clouds

Clearing Up Confusion with Storm Clouds

The line between clouds that just look scary, and clouds that are causes for concern, can sometimes be very thin. Last weekend, non-severe thunderstorms rolled through Wichita Falls, providing beneficial rain, and also picturesque photos.

A confusing cloud was captured on camera across Texoma, known as a tail cloud. Forecaster for the National Weather Service Ryan Barnes explains what we were looking at.

"Storms ingest inflow, so they're basically gathering air from around them. Sometimes air can merge and lift a little bit and form a cloud. Its just air leading up to the updraft of the storm." Barnes said.

Clouds can form below the base of a thunderstorm, these are called scud clouds, and they can look like a developing wall cloud.

"They're not rotating, and they're just pockets of moisture that get lifted near the updraft of the storm," Barnes explained.

Two storm clouds that are often confused for each other are wall clouds and shelf clouds. Wall clouds are blocky in appearance, they extend from the updraft of the storm, and most importantly remain attached to the storm. While most tornadoes form from wall clouds, not all wall clouds form tornadoes.

A shelf cloud is a long, linear cloud, usually on the leading edge of the storm.

"Often times the winds will be quite strong behind a shelf cloud, but they're not tornadic," Barnes said.

But what about the clouds you should be worried about? Wall clouds are only dangerous if they are rotating. Below a rotating wall cloud, a funnel cloud can form.

And while it's not a tornado until you see spinning on the ground, if you see a funnel cloud, you need to take shelter immediately.

Skywarn 6 Meteorologist Dave Caulfield