What Is A Thunderstorm?


Thunderstorms are some of the most frightening and powerful storms to hit the world.  A thunderstorm can be known as a lightning storm, a thundershower or even an electrical storm.  A thunderstorm is one of the most powerful storms to hit and it forms when the weather is turbulent.  This is when the wind picks up greatly and rain is present, though this doesn’t always need to be present.  However, lightning and the noise of thunder creates the thunderstorms and if there are certain types of clouds in the sky – cumulonimbus, then it could result in thunderstorms.

On most occasions, thunderstorms will bring on heavy rain falls and strong winds.  However, these are the most common types of weather associated with thunderstorms but there are other types of weather that can accompany a thunderstorm.  Things such as hail, sleet and snow are all common factors to present itself during a thunderstorm.  Some thunderstorms can rotate, if they are quite severe, then they can create supercells which are some of the worst thunderstorms.

How Thunderstorms Are Are Created?

A thunderstorm can be created because of a sharp or rapid surge of moist and warm air.  However, as the warm and moist air moves upwards into the air, it will cool down and condenses.  When the air does this, the air will form new cumulonimbus clouds.  These cumulonimbus clouds can in fact reach huge heights of almost 20 kilometres, sometimes much more than that.

Once the air reaches a certain point, at the dew point, ice and water droplets are going to form and start falling towards the earth and the earth’s surface.  It falls from a large distance; however, once the droplets fall, they will be larger because they join up with other droplets.  Once the droplets are falling, they will create a new downdraft of the air which will spread out vastly across the surface.  This creates winds – strong winds which coincide with thunderstorms.

  • Hail
  • Rain
  • Strong Winds
  • Snow
  • Sleet

These are some of the things to spot when it comes to thunderstorms.

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Lightning and church

Where Can Thunderstorm Form?

A thunderstorm can be formed or created in almost any location around the world.  Though, the countries that are mid latitude – this is when the air is moist and warm but comes into contact with cool air.  Thunderstorms can form anywhere if the air is warm and moist and comes into cooler air.  Though, most thunderstorms can be very severe and can cause a lot of damage to landscapes and populated areas also.

Though, most damage that comes from a thunderstorm is due to the larger hailstones which fall with the storm and the down burst winds.  Though, on occasion, there have been flash floods to cause a lot of damage.  Though, with some thunderstorm formations, they can be very strong or – super cells as they can also be known as, and cause water sprouts and even tornadoes.  There are some instances which are not going to be too severe and won’t be anything more than a small rain shower.  Some thunderstorm cells which are stronger than average storms can be fifty times the energy of an a bomb.

The Different Types of Thunderstorms

There are however four different types of thunderstorms including;

  1. Supercells which are the most powerful thunderstorms available
  2. A single cell which are smaller and not too severe
  3. A multi cell cluster which is stronger than a single cell storm
  4. Multi cell lines which are just below a super cell

The super cells are the strongest of thunderstorms that form; and if the thunderstorms are present in the tropics, it could contribute to hurricanes.  However, there are also dry thunderstorms which don’t cause any rain, hail or snow fall, but they can cause wildfire outbreaks.  This happens because of the lightning that occurs; there might not be any hail or rain but lightning still occurs and causes wildfires.

Many weather observers use things such as weather stations and weather radar to help keep a close eye over pending weather storms including thunder.  Interesting though, it has been known for some thunderstorms, can be created on both Venus and Jupiter and not just here on Earth.

The Cycle of a Thunderstorm

The cycle of a thunderstorm firstly starts off with warm air.  The warm air needs to have a lower density than cooler air because the air will start to rise actually within the cool air.  When this happens, clouds will start to form and they will become a little warmer because inside the clouds, it will now carry moisture.

The moisture will condense and when it does, it will release energy out; however, what this does is to cool the air of the condensed air but the surrounding air will stay the same.  If there is instability in the atmosphere then it will create cumulonimbus clouds and that helps to create thunder and lightning.  However, for thunderstorms to form, they need moisture, unstable air mass and a lifting force such as heat to create a thunderstorm.

There are different stages to create a thunderstorm.  There is the developing stage, then the mature stag and finally the dissipation stage.  Though, the thunderstorms can vary from size but for the average storm, it is around 24 kilometres.  The period of time in which the thunderstorms can develop is anything from thirty minutes.

Thunderstorm facts and information
Thundershower, electrical storm or thunderstorm.

When the thunderstorm hits the cumulus stage, or the developing stage; a mass of moisture will be taken up towards the atmosphere.  When the moisture goes into the air, the wind will be forced upwards into the atmosphere and will help to develop the thunderstorm.  However, the moisture will start cooling and this will form water drops because of the cool temperatures at a high altitude.

With the mature stage, the air which is now warm will rise further up and will continue to do so until it cannot rise any further and the air becomes at its warmest point.  When it reaches this point, the air will be forced out a vast area and will start to create an anvil shape creating the cumulonimbus clouds.  The water drops will then start to grow larger because they will join up with one another.  They will now be heavier and larger and will start to freeze into ice particles.  Though, as the ice falls, it will become, or rather melt, into rain.

With the final or dissipating stage, the thunderstorm is created.  A downdraft will work up and hit the ground quickly and spread out vastly also.  This can be known as a downburst and the cool air will then cut the inflow and stop the thunderstorm also.  The thunderstorm will dissipate.

The super cell storms are the biggest and the most severe storms to hit.  This is when the super cell storms have different up and down drafts causing the super cell.  It can stretch out to a vast area and can cause a lot of devastation and damage.  When the super cells are created, it will mean that the storms will be accompanied with severe weather.


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What is a Hurricane?


Hurricanes can be described as giant, swirling storms. They are severe ‘tropical storms’ and are usually accompanied by treacherous thunderstorms. These monster storms can reach winds speeds up to 160 miles per hour. They can also unleash a whopping 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day.

Hurricanes occur in the Caribbean Sea, Eastern Pacific Ocean, Southern Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Types of Winds

These same ‘tropical storms’ are known as ‘cyclones’ in the northern Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and similar storms are known as ‘typhoons’ in the western Pacific Ocean. These storms may have different names, but they all have similar and devastating effects.

● Tropical depression

A tropical depression is an occurrence which consists of clouds and thunderstorms joining together. A tropical depression can have wind speeds up to 39 mph. This is the maximum wind speed that is expected from a tropical depression. It has no eye and does not typically have the organization or the spiral shape of more powerful storms. It’s pressure is lower than more serious storms, and this is why it is given the name “depression”.

● Tropical storm

A tropical storm is a group of heavy thunderstorms with a specific surface circulation and greatest constant winds between 39 – 74 mph. During this point, the typical cyclonic shape starts to develop, though an eye is not always present. The Government weather services assign names to the cyclone that reaches this intensity and strength.

● Hurricane or typhoon

A hurricane or typhoon system involved sustained winds that reach at least 34 meters per second or 74 miles per hour. A hurricane can be sometimes referred to as a tropical cyclone, as opposed to a depression or storm. The eye of the storm is actually the calmest part of the storm, and is at this point the pressure is at its lowest. The eye can be observed from satellite images. These images look like small, circular shaped spots that have no clouds. The area that is called the eye wall surrounds the eye of the storm. The size of the area is between 16 -80 kilometers wide. In the eye wall the winds and thunderstorms are the strongest and cause the greatest amount of damage. The strongest winds sustained in recorded tropical cyclones have been measured at 195 miles an hour or 85 meters a second.

Tropical cyclone Facts and Information
Tropical cyclone seen from the space

Where and when hurricanes occur

Areas that are subjected to, and regularly experience hurricanes are all the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas. Parts of the Southwest United States and Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains, storms and floods each year as results of hurricanes that hit Mexico.

The Atlantic hurricane season starts in the month of June and ends in November. Mid August to early October is considered as the peak seasons for hurricanes. The Eastern Pacific hurricane starts and ends around May 15 – November 30.

Hurricanes start off in the warm ocean waters as tropical disturbances. The temperature of these waters would be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The pressure from these systems produces energy from the warm water. A storm is termed a ‘tropical depression’ as it achieves wind speeds of 38 miles per hour. (61 kilometers per hour).

A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm when its wind speeds reach up to 39 miles an hour. When a storm’s unrelenting wind speeds reach at 74 miles an hour it forms a hurricane and earns a category rating of 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

The scale is used to measure the strength and intensity of a hurricane. It ranges from one-five rating. The scale is used to give an accurate estimation of the flooding and property damages expected down the coast from the storm. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale.

Hurricanes can be described as giant heat engines that produce large scale energy. They draw heat from warm ocean air and release it through condensation of water vapor during thunderstorms.

The low pressure centre which the hurricane spins around is known as the ‘eye’, or the ‘eye of the storm’. Sinking air makes this 20 to 30-mile-wide area notoriously calm.

The dangers of hurricanes

The major fear we have on hurricanes is its capability to cause catastrophic damages to not just the coastlines but to several miles inland. Today’s stats show that hurricanes are capable of producing winds exceeding 155 mph (miles per hour).These high winds are so powerful and destructive that they can pull entire buildings, boats and farms out of the ground and relocate them to several miles away from where they were originally found.

Apart from it, hurricanes are also able to create and form heavy storm around the coastal areas that can cause heavy damage due to heavy rainfall. The most destructive results of hurricanes are the floods and flying debris from the extreme winds. It’s the slow moving hurricanes that produce heavy rains especially moving to mountainous regions which results in mudslides and landslides. Nonstop heavy rainfall can also causes flash flooding.

Strong tropical cyclones at sea can cause high winds, heavy rain and large waves that causes shipwrecks and disrupt shipping. Tropical cyclones swirl up water causing cool winds behind.

On land, the heavy winds can cause catastrophic disasters and most of the time even destroys vehicles, bridges, buildings, barns and other outdoor structures. The winds can turn debris into deadly objects in a matter of seconds.

The storm surge in sea levels increases to causes problems due to the tropical cyclone, which are typically the worst effect from land falling. It has been recorded that these effects result in 90% of tropical cyclone deaths. The wide rotation of the land falling tropical cyclones and wind forms tornadoes. Tornadoes can also be produced as a result of eye wall vortex, which can persist until landfall.

Damage Caused by Hurricanes
After a hurricane

Over the past two hundred years, these tropical cyclones have been held responsible for causing the deaths of around 1.9 million people worldwide. Large undrained areas had large amounts of water caused by flooding. This results to form infection in many people and contributed to mosquito-borne illnesses. Crowded evacuation shelters increase the risk of disease spreading. Tropical cyclones can had negative effects infrastructure and sometimes they cannot be fixed quickly. This can lead to power cuts, bridge destruction, and can make reconstruction efforts very difficult.

Although cyclones take an enormous toll on human lives and public and personal property, they may have very important effects on the water regimes of locations that they occur in. This is because they transport the very necessary water to drier regions. Tropical cyclones can also play a part in global warming. They help maintain the global heat balance by the warm and damp air being moved to the middle latitudes and Polar Regions. The cyclones also help keep the heat balance maintained by regulating the thermohaline circulation. The hurricanes strong winds and storm surge are usually destructive to human-made structures, but they also affect the water in important fish breeding areas. In fact, it is popular that due to the destruction that the tropical cyclones cause, the local property values increase and will result in development.

Global warming effects on hurricanes

A U.S. Geographical Laboratory has run tests to determine the effects of global warming on hurricanes. Their studies and research conclude that there are high possibilities of extreme and intense hurricanes to occur in the next century since the climate is warmed due to the increase in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

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