Weather 101: Outflow Boundary

More rain out there this afternoon, and while it may not be as heavy as what we saw yesterday, there are still a few gully washers out there. I took a snapshot of the radar at about 4:20pm and labeled a line on there as “OUTFLOW BOUNDARY”. So, what exactly is this? Next time you loop a radar, look for these distinct lines that are moving across the radar screen. These are what we call Outflow Boundaries. So, what exactly is it and how do they help or hurt thunderstorms?

Pretend you’re at home and you drop a water balloon on the driveway. As the water balloon hits the ground, it breaks, and the water rushes out in every direction. Well, imagine a thunderstorm doing the same thing. The air rushes out of a thunderstorm, it hits the ground and then moves in all sorts of directions. This is an outflow boundary. As this boundary moves, it acts as a small cold front. Allowing air to rise and once it collides with another boundary (if one is available), then the 2 boundaries will have enough forcing with them that we see storms develop. Such is the case on what we’re seeing develop in Western Oklahoma County now.

However, sometimes these boundaries can hurt storm chances. If there is just one boundary, usually associated with a squall line, then the outflow boundary can sometimes choke off the inflow of air necessary for storms to maintain themselves and thus, the storms can sometimes begin to diminish.

If you feel like playing a game with your buddies this summer, then see how many times you hear the local meteorologist mention the word “outflow boundary”. If money is involved, you could be rich!

-Damon

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One Response

  1. This reminds me of Gary England BINGO. When he said phrases like “rear flank downdraft” or “mesocyclone” or any other word with severe weather you fill out your bingo card. It’s too bad I can’t find it on the Internet.

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