Updraft depending on the wind

As you watch cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds forming on different days, you will notice on some days the updrafts grow vertically upwards, while on other days they are tilted.

The tilt of an updraft depends on the strength, the upward speed of the updraft and how the wind changes with altitude. Change in wind speed and/or direction with increasing altitude is called wind shear. The more shear there is, the more the updraft is tilted.

We will take a look at three different situations:

  • There is little or no wind shear
  • There is wind shear present, wind changes speed with height, but not direction
  • Wind shear present, wind changes speed and/or direction with height

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