1 of 10

Storm Chaser

Galatia, Kansas, July 17, 2009. If Michelangelo were alive today, this shot of what was once a low-precipitation supercell might inspire him to paint another chapel. “Arm of God,” as Dobrowner calls it, “looks a lot more dangerous than it was,” he says. “[It] did not drop a tornado but thought about it really hard.” Instead, it puffed out. Photo: Mitch Dobrowner

Goodland, Kansas, July 12, 2009. The clouds at the top reveal a gust front, which consists of colder air being driven along by precipitation. Here the cold air has pushed up warmer air, forming a rufflelike cloud formation. The bright shaft—a break in the storm—reveals the midday sunlight.

Photo: Mitch Dobrowner

Near Lawndale, Minnesota, July 13, 2010. “That storm system took on so many different forms,” says Dobrowner. “[This shot] looked like an atomic explosion.” The dark area of clouds is the base of the storm’s updraft, which is comprised of warm air. Hail and rain pouring out the central core form the cooler downdraft, which is essentially scavenging the cloud away.

Photo: Mitch Dobrowner

Valentine, Nebraska, July 13, 2009. Dobrowner and Hill chased this 60,000-foot supercell for 11 hours. “Planes can’t fly through something like that—they’ll get destroyed,” says Dobrowner. The lighter gray area to the left indicates a mesocyclone, or the supercell’s rotating portion. 

Photo: Mitch Dobrowner

Near Clayton, New Mexico, July 18, 2009. This thunderstorm’s updraft wasn’t too high—between 4,000 and 5,000 feet from the ground, according to Hill—but it seemed low to Dobrowner. “It almost felt like I could lift my hand up and touch it,” he says. Although this was part of a supercell, says Hill, such isolated storms typically occur further north during the summer.

Photo: Mitch Dobrowner

Northfield, Minnesota, July 14, 2010. The state has never seen as many tornadoes as it has this year. The supercell pictured dropped three, and this tornado turned over a semi truck. The turbulent clouds indicate that the view is from behind the storm. From the front, supercells often appear more laminar, or smooth. 

Photo: Mitch Dobrowner

Moorcroft, Wyoming, July 19, 2010. This classic supercell’s tiered structure signifies a strongly rotating updraft. “There’re some times where you chase after a storm, and there’re other times where you can’t get out of its way, and it chases you,” says Dobrowner. “[This] was one of those instances.”

Photo: Mitch Dobrowner

A Colorado thunderstorm in its death throes.

Photo: Mitch Dobrowner