How Hail Forms In A Storm - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

How Hail Forms In A Storm

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Hail can cause a lot of damage when it falls to the ground, but how does it form in the storm? 

Temperatures in at least part of the storm need to be below freezing because hail is basically a ball of ice, which require cold temperatures. A strong updraft, which helps the storm develop and holds the storm up in the atmosphere, is needed also hold hail up in the clouds and keep it above the freezing line. There also needs to be some sort of nuclei for the hail to form around. This can be a piece of dust, an ice crystal, or a frozen raindrop, to name a few possibilities.

The strong updraft will push the nuclei up above the freezing line and hold it up in the cloud where it will interact with super-cooled water (water that is below freezing, but hasn't frozen yet) in the cloud. As this interaction occurs, the water will freeze around the nuclei and continue to build and grow the hail. 

Eventually, the hail becomes too heavy to be supported by the updraft and gravity takes over, allowing the hailstone to fall to the ground. 

The stronger the updraft in a storm, the more time hail can spend up in the cloud growing, and the larger it can be when it falls towards the surface. 

Colorado sees a lot of hail, as do many areas in the lee of the Rockies. We tend to be closer to that freezing layer in the atmosphere and the mountain aid in forming strong updrafts. 

Once hail reaches 1" in diameter (about the size of a quarter), it is considered severe. Hail that size or larger can damage crops, vehicles, homes, and even animals or people. When hails falls it's a good idea to seek shelter indoors and away from windows immediately. 

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