Q:

What causes a thunderstorm?

A:

Thunderstorms are formed by the combination of three main ingredients: moisture, unstable atmospheric air and an external acting force making the damp and volatile air rise upward. Thunderstorms come in several different categories, which are orographic, air mass and frontal. They form above land and sea, varying in duration and intensity.

 

The physical geography and local atmospheric conditions of land regions play a part in the formation of storms. Thunderstorms forming over mountainous regions classify as orographic storms. Air mass thunderstorms arise following the formation of local air convections. These convections exist as pockets of unstable air, and form storms quickly. Frontal thunderstorms develop from fronts. The volatile air in warm and cold fronts, combined with strong winds and moist air, makes conditions ripe for storm generation.

In all types, warm, rising air from the Earth enters the atmosphere. Cooling water vapor then releases heat and forms storm clouds. Lastly, clouds rise upwards into freezing air, producing ice particles. These particles release and gather electrical charges, producing the sights and sounds of lightning and thunder.

Regardless of size and intensity, thunderstorms undergo a life cycle, starting with the developing stage, then peaking in size and intensity during the mature stage, and finally weakening and dissolving during the dissipating stage.

  Learn More
Sources:

Related Questions

  • Q:

    How do you know a thunderstorm is coming?

    A:

    Obvious clues to look for that a thunderstorm is on the way include a static noise on an AM radio station, the smell of rain and a sudden drop in temperature along with a strong breeze. Other signs are a change in wind direction, billowing and darkening clouds, flashes of lightning in the distance or the faint sound of thunder.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Is it safe to shower during thunderstorms?

    A:

    Though the chances of being struck by lightning while taking a shower, during a thunderstorm, are extremely small, lightning that hits a house can travel through metal pipes and shock anyone who touches a faucet. Approximately 10 to 20 people are harmed this way each year in the United States.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What happens during a hurricane?

    A:

    According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a hurricane is an organized thunderstorm that occurs over water and has sustained winds that reach maximum speeds over 74 miles per hour. These storms originate over the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. When they reach land, they often cause structural damage and flooding.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is a thunderstorm?

    A:

    A thunderstorm is a storm with heavy rainfall accompanied by wind, thunder and lightning. These storms occur when air that is moist and close to the ground heats up and rises to form cumulonimbus clouds that produce precipitation. Electrical charges develop near the bottom of the clouds, resulting in lightning discharges.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore