ATLANTA — Hail stones form inside of thunderstorms. Even though they are made of ice, hail stones are typically a springtime or summer time thunderstorm type of precipitation.
A hail stone starts out as a water droplet in a cloud. Well developed thunderstorms have a strong up-draft which can pick up these water droplets and send them up above the freezing level several thousand feet up in the atmosphere.
These liquid droplets freeze at the freezing level and then make their way toward the ground either by the earth’s gravitational pull or by downdrafts within the storm.
As they make their way toward the Earth, they get coated with more moisture and then can get caught in another updraft and make another trip up into the thunderstorm above the freezing level so it gets another layer and gets larger. As the hailstone continues to grow it can make many trips inside of the thunderstorm up and down until it can’t be suspended any longer and makes its way to the earth in the form of a ball of ice.
Hail is considered to be severe when the hail stones are an inch in diameter or the size of a quarter. Usually the largest hail stones form in very well developed thunderstorms that extend tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere. To take a picture of hail make sure to include something that will help show how large the hail stone is to give it some perspective.
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