Here's Why That Thunder Tornado Was Beautiful

A photographer captured a rare stationary supercell in the skies over South Dakota.

Planet Earth is filled with majestic sights of immeasurable beauty, of gorgeous and humbling wonders. This crazy thunder tornado is one of them. Captured earlier this month by a photographer in South Dakota, the stationary supercell was a rare form of rotating thunderstorm only created under very specific conditions.

To get these spinning clouds of thunderous death to occur, uneven wind shears must pass by one another and cause a cloudy vortex to build and spin horizontally, but they also need to cause an updraft to funnel the thunderclouds upward into a tornado-y cylinder. The rotating clouds are what is known as a mesocyclone. If these crisscrossing winds weren’t perfect, they would simply blow the clouds across the horizon as normal.

The warm wind in the cell rises, and is capped off by cooler air above it. This causes the supercell to pack itself tightly in one spot and grow outwards from there into what looks like a swirling prophecy of the end-times.

The gorgeous yet apocalyptic light is caused by sunlight shining through the cloud funnel. Water in the air absorbs the hazy red light and blue light gets scattered, which causes the vivid dual color palette seen in the video.

So pack that information away the next time you see one of these things coming. It’s not the end of days, it’s just a very specific sort of day.