Many people have heard of hailstorms, which are extreme and sudden showers of ice, but very few know about how hail is actually formed. Hail is a form of precipitation that falls when the rain comes into contact with small pieces of solid, frozen water droplets in the air. The wettest parts of the clouds most often are the largest producers of hail. Hail forms from large droplets which freeze before hitting the ground or some other surface and grow larger as they fall to ground level. They can grow to the size of a tennis ball and in some cases even larger. Hail is more than frozen raindrops contrary to popular belief. In this article we will discuss the process of how hail is formed, when it happens, and where it most often happens.
What Causes Hail?
To understand hail, you first need to know how clouds are formed and their causes. Cold air near the surface of the Earth tends to rise, whereas warm air tends to sink. A cloud forms when lots of warm air rises from where the ground is warm, such as over hot asphalt, due to high pressure at the surface. It creates a low-pressure zone at the bottom. This low pressure allows the air to sink. The sinking air cools and becomes saturated with water, freezes into tiny cloud droplets. These cloud drops are too large to fall as rain, and as they are freezing into ice crystals, they collide with each other and grow even more until they become hailstones.
Hailstones are very different from the usual raindrops. Their lightness aids in easy formation, and their shape can reach incredible sizes. A typical hailstone is soft and usually round, but it can be found in many different shapes, including heart-shaped, kidney-shaped, and even more. The length of the hailstones can vary from a few millimeters to over a hundred millimeters.
When Does Hail Happen?
Hail happens mainly in the summer, but it also happens in the wintertime. It can happen when a heat wave over the areas where hailstones are forming. In winter, if cold air is sinking, this allows for a high pressure to form at the surface of Earth, which will prevent any air from rising to form clouds and cause any clouds to dissipate rapidly. It results in clear skies, which aid hail. Hail can also happen when sunlight is reflected by the water droplets of cloud, creating a prism effect, breaking down the water into many tiny droplets which freeze and grow.
Where does Hail Occur?
Hailstorms are common in mountainous areas because mountains create a “wall” for any warm air to flow during the daytime. At night, the land cools, and the warm air meets up with this wall of mountains and rises again, creating another day for any new clouds to form.
Hailstorms are rare and unpredictable. They can be very dangerous for those living in their path as hail tends to cause many broken windows and broken car windscreens. Hail can even have an impact on the economy as it is known for damaging crops. This happens in some parts of New Mexico, California, Colorado, Utah, and Nebraska, where farmers must go through and dispose of crops that have been damaged by hail.
Hail is more than just frozen raindrops blown by the wind as they fall to ground level. Hail forms from large water droplets which freeze before hitting the ground or some other surface and grow larger as they fall to ground level. Hail is also more than just frozen rain. Hail is very dangerous and can cause damage to vehicles, homes, crops and people once it hits them.
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