Inflow into a storm is important because it is literally the way the storm stays alive.
By ingesting warm and moist air parcels into the updraft, a storm continues to grow and thrive. Whenever inflow gets cut off from an updraft, the storm will promptly begin to weaken and die.
Today’s storm anatomy diagram shows off how to visually discern storm inflow with a great example from a Supercell on October 1, 2014 in southern Kansas.
When you see inflow really cranking into an updraft like this example, it is a really good reason for your ears to perk up and for you to become concerned.
However, this is a great example that, despite strong inflow into the updraft, the storm itself wasn’t quite ready to produce a tornado. Two visual clues are important here:
- Despite the strong inflow, there is no strong low level rotation.
- There is scud hanging out under the lowered area and not really rising up. This is a good sign the storm isn’t as organized as it appears.
What Is Up With the Inflow Then?
My theory on this storm and why it wasn’t quite ready is that you can see at one point the scud train into the updraft does appear to be coming from the downdraft. So despite there being strong inflow into this storm and a massive, blocky lowering — it appears the storm was ingesting a lot of air from its own core.
While every storm will ingest some of its cooled air from the forward flank downdraft, too much has a stabilizing effect on the storm as a whole. Thus, this storm likely wasn’t organizing fully because it wasn’t ingesting the best air possible. Later, this storm reorganized and did produce a tornado.
At least that’s my theory of the case.