But this cloud, which looks like it is on the verge of funneling, is actually a specific, and rare, type of storm, according to USA Today. The photo is of the “rotating updraft of a supercell thunderstorm over eastern Wyoming,” Weather Channel meteorologist Jon Erdman told the newspaper.
A supercell is the “largest, strongest and longest-lasting” variety of thunderstorm, USA Today said, and most commonly forms on the Great Plains. These “highly organized storms,” as the National Weather Service describes them, produce just about every significant tornado as well as those golfball-sized hailstones.
“Supercells are also known to produce extreme winds and flash flooding,” the National Weather Servicesaid. The updrafts can travel 100 mph, produce the aforementioned gargantuan hail and “strong and/or violent tornadoes,” while the downdrafts can travel equally fast, to devastating effect.