22News Storm Team: How hail forms in thunderstorms

Weather News

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Hail. It’s something we’re all familiar with. In the spring and summer, it’s a common occurrence. If it’s big enough, it can cause destruction to aircraft, your home and car, and can be extremely dangerous to people and animals if caught outside.

Remember, when thunder roars… go indoors

Many people understand the dangers of it, many more misunderstand how it forms. 

Hail is solid ice that forms in strong thunderstorm updrafts — or upward currents of air. Those updrafts carry rain droplets high into the atmosphere where they freeze. 

The hailstones grow larger when other liquid drops freeze onto its surface. Once the hailstone grows to a large enough weight, gravity overtakes the updraft, and the hail falls to the surface. If winds near the surface are gusty, the hail can fall at an angle, and if surface winds are particularly strong, hail can even fall sideways. This is called wind-drive hail, and can cause even more significant damage. Since hail requires strong thunderstorms to form, it’s less common in the wintertime since warm weather fuels storms. 

If you see a type of precipitation in the winter that looks like hail, it’s more likely to be something called graupel, or a soft hail that disintegrates when you hold it. 

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