The atmosphere on Monday, May 23rd, 2016, put on a spectacular show in northwestern Oklahoma.  By the late afternoon near Woodward, Oklahoma, a classic supercell initiated off of the dryline.  Accompanied by two observed tornadoes, severe hail was also documented (some hailstones were near baseball size according to multiple storm reports).

Ping pong ball size hailstone found east of Woodward, Oklahoma. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

This hailstone was the size of a ping pong ball, and split in half upon impacting the ground. You can see the different layers within the hailstone of where the ice coalesced as the hailstone was suspended within the supercell’s updraft. Updraft strengths were calculated near 70m/s² that day, which is more than sufficient for severe hail (hail ≥1.0″ in diameter).

Given strong instability (CAPE ~2,500 J/kg) and very cold air aloft, the hailstones were rather dry as the raindrops above the freezing level would have froze almost instantly upon collision with one another (wet hailstone growth consists of supercooled water droplets coalescing, but not all of the droplets freeze completely compared to a dry hailstone growth environment). There is clearly a “layered” look within the hailstone like rings on a tree, with the embryo of the hailstone clearly seen in the core of the hailstone.

Of course, besides the photogenic hailstones, two weak but beautiful tornadoes occurred about four miles north of Woodward. Both tornadoes were rated EF-0 (65-85mph winds), and mobile Doppler radar sampled winds within the first tornado near 80mph.

The second of two tornadoes that occurred Monday evening on May 23rd, 2016. These tornadoes last for a few minutes, as the supercell began to weaken. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

March 1st is the start of the meteorological spring, and is also the start of the 2017 convective season.  2016 put on quite a show across the central U.S.  We, along with many others across the weather community, are excited for what the 2017 season has in store.  Chase on!

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