Ask Storm Team 11: How does hail form?

Weather

Hail can form anytime of the year in thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms have updrafts (winds moving up into the storm) and downdrafts (winds moving down out of the storm).

Updrafts carry water droplets up into very cold parts of the cloud. This allows the water droplets to freeze into hailstones. As these hailstones are lofted around by the updrafts, they bounce into supercooled water droplets that freeze on the hailstone, making the hailstone grow larger.

Once the hailstones become too heavy or the updrafts weakens, the hail will fall. The stronger the updraft, the larger the hailstone. 

Hail can be anywhere from a pea size to softball size. Hail that is larger than an inch in diameter and greater is considered severe. 

The largest hailstone was recorded in Vivian, South Dakota in May of 2010. The diameter of this hailstone was 8 inches and weighed 1 pound and 15 ounces!

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