The strongest updrafts reach the tropopause and produce overshooting tops. The highest thunderstorms in the world have been recorded in the tropics, where the tropopause is the highest (15-18 km). Thunderstorms reaching 20-22 km high have been recorded there.
The July 23, 2010 Vivian, South Dakota severe supercell thunderstorm, which produced the world record hailstone (20 cm in diameter!) reached a maximum height of 17 km! This is all the more remarkable, since this storm was far from the tropics, with the tropopause at a lower altitude, indicating an exceptionally strong updraft. Recently, on May 26, 2016, a severe supercell thunderstorm on the Mexico-USA (Texas) border was measured at 20.7 km peak height; the storm was so intense it produced lightning up to 95 km from its core!
Keep in mind that the average cruising altitude of commercial airplanes is 11-12 km, so these thunderstorms are up to twice as high as you would normally go on your flights!
And with this example we finish our second part of the tutorial. There will be (much) more coming in the next days as we continue with downdrafts in thunderstorms, tune back in soon and follow us for updates on Severe Weather Europe on Facebook!