A look at the science behind one of nature's most destructive phenomena
If you've ever seen an early summer hailstorm, like many people, you may have wondered "how can huge chunks of ice fall out of the sky when the temperature outside is well above freezing, often times even considerably warm?" Read on to find out more about the natural phenomena that causes hail to form.
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Hail is formed when water droplets and other precipitation inside of a cumulonimbus cloud are forced upward by the pressure inside of a thunderstorm, to such an altitude that they begin to freeze and stick together. As the frozen particle increases in size, it begins to fall, only to get blown back upward again by the updraft's pressure where it joins with more freezing moisture particles, continuously increasing in size. As the newly formed hailstone grows, it once again starts to fall and the entire process repeats itself until the pressure of the storm's updraft can no longer support the size and weight of the hailstone, which then falls to the Earth below. Hailstones are most often about the size of a pea, but it is not uncommon for a storm to produce golfball and even baseball sized hail. The largest hailstone ever recorded, in Aurora, Nebraska in 2003, weighed 2.25 pounds and was 7 inches in diameter, or about the size of a volleyball.