Weather 101: How does hail form?

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Top Stories January 22nd

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Springtime in the Two Virginias brings a mixed bag of weather. From snow to severe weather, there is no shortage of interesting forecasts when we transition from the cold to warm seasons.

This segment of Weather 101 focuses on the formation of hail during strong and severe storms.

When we get a mature thunderstorm, there is both an updraft and downdraft in the storm. In other words, there is cold air from the thunderstorm sinking to the ground and warm, moist air rising in to replace that rain-cooled air.

Moisture in the cloud forms rain drops. These rain drops get transferred up in the atmosphere due to the updraft.

This allows the rain drops to freeze and form hail stones.

Eventually, these hailstones start to fall. However, they can sometimes get pushed back up into the cloud by the updraft.

When this happens, the hail stones continue to grow.

Gravity will win out and these larger hailstones will fall.

In order to hail to form, we need access to the cold air above our heads. While we do warm up quite a bit in the spring, we still usually have enough cold air that we can get some thunderstorms here to drop hail. It still takes a specific environment to get there, though, which is why we do not see hail every time we see thunderstorms.

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