Ask Storm Team 11: How long does a single thunderstorm usually last?


Tuesday’s Ask Storm Team 11 question was: “How long does a single thunderstorm usually last?

Summertime is almost synonymous for at least pop-up thunderstorms. Usually this all happens in 45 minutes to an hour’s time.

There are 3 stages of a basic thunderstorm:

The Cumulus Stage occurs when those cumulus clouds (they look like cotton balls) get pushed up by a rising column of warm air, or updraft. You may find a little rain or lightning, but not much. This part of the cycle may take about 10 minutes.

Next, in the Mature Stage, the storm continues to build, growing much taller (up to 40,000 or 50,000 feet high in the atmosphere thanks to a strong updraft. As heavier rain falls, it creates a downward column of air called a downdraft. When you have both a strong updraft and downdraft, a storm has reached its peak and you’re most likely to get heavy rain, lightning, strong winds and hail. Usually this phase won’t last more than 20 minutes.

Finally, in the Dissipation Stage, the storm weakens when the updraft that creates the thunderstorm gets overtaken by the downdraft. The storm just runs out of a fuel. 

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