GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Summertime storms can put on quite a stunning display. Warm, slightly humid conditions can allow thunderstorm updrafts to reach dizzying heights tens of thousands of feet in the air.

Surrounding clean, clear blue sky provides a beautiful backdrop. This West Michigan combination can allow for ideal conditions to spot some striking meteorological features.


Mammatus clouds form in areas of extreme turbulence in the underside of an anvil in a thunderstorm cloud. These tiny pouch-like clouds will protrude downward from the anvil as moisture pushes down into the clean air below. Often these clouds will look like the under-side of an egg carton. A thunderstorm does not need to be severe for mammatus clouds to form but intensity of the updraft can help in their formation and size.

When thunderstorms occur around sunset it can make for an even more breathtaking scene.


On hot summer days, thunderstorms that are not severe at radar level can still do damage at the surface. This happens with the air inside the thunderstorm becomes so much colder than the air on the ground that it forces the downdraft down at incredible speeds.

Jim Weaver, Silver Lake

Air buoyancy is to blame for this phenomenon. Cold air is dense and sinks. Warm air is more buoyant and rises. When a strong thunderstorm on a hot summer day reaches its mature phase and begins to drop precipitation in the form of rain and hail, it immediately creates a buoyancy imbalance.

The bigger the contrast between the heat outside and the cold rain in the downdraft, the faster the downdraft will fall towards the surface.

Often times, a sharp contrast between intense rain and clear sky beneath a thunderstorm is a warning that this downburst wind is likely happening.

Robin Long, Cannon Township


When storms bubble up individually in otherwise clear skies it can make for some gorgeous updrafts. The updraft of a storm is where the air is rushing upwards from the ground into the sky at speeds of 10 to 40 mph. As the air rushes upwards it begins to cool. The moment the air is cooled to the dew point temperature, a cloud forms.

Mark Lovett, Allegan

Updrafts have a large sweeping feel. Clouds help to reveal the motion of the air upwards and then outwards when the air hits a stable layer or even the top of the atmosphere. If storm cells form to closely together, the individual updrafts become muddled together and images like the one above are lost.


Clouds reveal the motion of air. Often, thunderstorms can create some incredible air motion and as a result some pretty scenes. When a thunderstorm is powerful and ingesting a lot of moisture, it can produce a strong base to the cloud. These low bases often will run into wind, which smooths its appearance and reveals inconsistencies in the updraft. As the clouds ride the motion of the wind, they can take on a cool striated appearance or an undulating one.


While rainbows are common all across the globe, it takes a special environment to be able to see a double rainbow. Every rainbow technically has a second bow, however the air is usually not pristine and dry enough for the viewer to be able to spot it. A secondary bow is 10% the intensity of the primary bow and will have the colors inverted. This means instead of the colors going from red to violet, they appear from violet to red.

James P. Kooistra

Classic rainbows only form when the sun is low enough on the horizon. This is due to the fact that light must strike the rain at an angle in relation to the viewer on the ground to create the appearance of the bow!

Teresa Weekly

Be sure to keep your eye to the sky the next time thunderstorms roll in the distance. Download our Storm Team 8 weather app for alerts to keep you safe.