This ‘ring of fire’ thunderstorm is both stunning and fearsome
It’s the season for “ring of fire” thunderstorms over the Northern Plains. Last Friday night was an explosive night across North Dakota, when severe thunderstorms rocked the northern Plains, packing large hail, damaging winds, isolated tornadoes and beast-mode storm structure as seen above.
The atmosphere was primed for severe weather, thanks to a set-up meteorologists refer to as the “ring of fire.” This occurs when the jet stream buckles far north in a ridge pattern, leaving a blistering hot and often cloudless air mass dominated by strong high pressure to the south. At the same time thunderstorms, often severe, ride along the northern edge of the heat dome, hence the name “ring of fire.”
You may remember a similar photo from last June, when a beautiful supercell thunderstorm consumed the sky over parts of rural North Dakota. Well, photographer Zachary Hargrove did it again this year with an equally astonishing photo!
Because of this northward advance of the jet stream, mid-to-late June is actually the severe season for the Dakotas. It is this time of year when the Northern Plains is climatologically favored for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, and that is exactly what happened last Friday night across North Dakota.
Hargrove was in perfect position to capture this jaw-dropping supercell as darkness fell. First, notice the barber pole structure? The fact that you can see the entire updraft of the thunderstorm means this was a “LP,” or “low-precipitation” supercell. Second, the crisp nature to the storm structure allows us to see the well-defined wall cloud hanging perilously close to the ground. Finally, that anvil lightning! Need I say more?
As a storm chaser, I can personally attest that seeing this types of severe thunderstorms with its breathtaking structure is why we chase. A stringy, rain-wrapped, short-lived tornado doesn’t even compare to seeing something this immense and powerful with your own eyes. Many chasers will chase for decade, and never see storm structure quite like this. Good thing we had Zachary there capture the moment for us!
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photo: Zachary Hargrove