Hail is a unique weather phenomenon that is formed during thunderstorms and comes in various shapes and sizes. It starts as frozen water droplets that grow by attaching more ice and water droplets, creating layers. The size of hail depends on the strength of the updrafts, ranging from small like a jelly bean to large like a baseball. Hail can occur in warm weather if the upper atmosphere is cold and is most common from May to August. Certain regions, such as Hail Alley in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming, experience hail more frequently.
Hail can cause significant damage, including power outages and property damage. Predicting hail is challenging, but severe thunderstorm warnings can help people prepare. Did you know that cutting a hailstone in half reveals rings that indicate how many times it traveled through the storm cloud? Record-breaking hailstones have weighed up to 2 pounds and had a diameter of 7.9 inches. If you want to learn more about hail, check out the hail research resources available from the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the National Weather Service.
How Hail is Formed and Hailstone Characteristics
Hail is created when frozen water droplets in thunderstorm updrafts merge and grow in size, resulting in the formation of hailstones. These frozen water droplets, also known as ice pellets, are carried upward by strong updrafts within the storm cloud. As they ascend, they come into contact with supercooled water droplets, which freeze upon contact and adhere to the growing hailstone.
The hailstone’s growth occurs as it is continuously tossed within the storm cloud, collecting more ice and water droplets with each journey. This layering process adds complexity to the hailstone’s structure, with multiple layers forming concentric circles within the hailstone itself.
Hailstones can take on various shapes due to the turbulent conditions within the cloud. They can be round, irregular, or even have spikes. The size of hailstones is largely influenced by the strength of the updrafts. In some cases, hailstones can grow to be as small as a jelly bean or as large as a baseball. The average size of hailstones ranges from 0.2 to 6 inches in diameter.
Hailstorms are most common in warmer months, typically occurring between May and August. However, hail can occur even in warm weather if the upper atmosphere is cold enough. Certain regions, such as Hail Alley in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming, experience hail more frequently due to their geographical location and weather patterns.
While hail may seem fascinating, it can also pose risks and cause significant damage. Hailstorms can lead to power outages, property damage, and even personal injury. The unpredictability of hail makes it challenging to accurately forecast its occurrence. However, severe thunderstorm warnings issued by meteorological agencies can provide valuable information, allowing people to prepare and stay safe during hailstorms.
Researchers have studied hail extensively, and cutting a hailstone in half reveals rings that indicate how many times it traveled through the storm cloud. The National Severe Storms Laboratory and the National Weather Service are excellent resources for those interested in learning more about hail and weather phenomena.