Supercells are the rarest and most severe type of thunderstorm. They're often the most mesmerizing, too, looming overhead with an ethereal, UFO-like grace that belies their knack for wreaking havoc.

We've featured some impressive supercell videos on MNN before, but the cinematic opus above overshadows them all. Filmed by photographer Stephen Locke near Climax, Kansas, it's a nearly flawless portrait of a supercell's birth. Locke found an ideal vantage point to frame the May 10 mesocyclone, then used time-lapse photography to capture a fluid, vivid and high-definition video of his subject churning into existence. Do it justice by watching in HD and full-screen modes.

The key ingredient for a supercell is rotation, spurred by wind shear that slices air into layers and creates a spinning horizontal column. This giant axle of air is then pushed upright by updrafts — which can exceed 100 mph in major storms — to become an iconic vertical vortex. Supercells are responsible for "nearly all the significant tornadoes produced in the U.S.," according to the National Weather Service, but even without twisters they can bring disastrous winds, hail and flooding.

Not only does Locke reveal the storm's overall growth in eye-rubbing detail, but he also absorbs an array of other atmospheric quirks, such as cloud-to-cloud lightning, windswept downpours and the eerie, blue-green glow that sometimes emanates from thunderstorms. For good measure, he even catches a dramatic sunset behind the storm to help backlight the video's final moments.

Stop by Locke's website or Vimeo page to peruse his full portfolio of enlightening weather imagery. And to learn more about the awesome science of thunderstorms — as well as how you can (safely) make your own time-lapse nature videos — check out the related links below.

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