Killer Storms in the southern Plains and the Southeast

Killer Storms in the southern Plains and the Southeast
  • Credit:

    Image created by Hal Pierce of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

TRMM Reveals Anatomy of Severe Plains Thunderstorm

The Sunday, May 4 super outbreak of severe weather across the southern Plains produced 84 tornadoes, 89 reports of damaging winds (downbursts) and 275 large hail reports. The Tropical Rainfall Measurment Mission (TRMM) satellite overflew the severe weather area during the height of activity. This image shows a vertical cross section through a severe multicell hailstorm over western Oklahoma. While appearing as a single cloud in the GOES visible channel (white regions in the image background), the TRMM precipitation radar has identified three distinct precipitation cores, which have been greatly exaggerated in the vertical to show detail. Two of the more intense cells are shown here. The colors correpsond to precipitation intensity. Light rain and snow (in the colder upper reaches of the cloud) are shown in blue, and the most intense rain cores are shown in red and dark maroon. The thin black lines trace contours of constant rain intensity. Like the layers of an onion, TRMM reveals that the most intense rains are contained in the lower region of the righthand cell, which towers to 16 km in height. In fact, the intensity of the precipitation is such that hail is likely mixed in with the rain near the surface.

For more TRMM views of this historical thunderstorm day, visit the TRMM website (

Images & Animations


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  • Data Date:

    May 4, 2003
  • Visualization Date:

    May 6, 2003
  • Sensor(s):

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration