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Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.

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When the cumulus cloud becomes very large, the water in it become large and heavy. Raindrops start to fall through the cloud when the rising air can no longer hold them up. Meanwhile, cool dry air starts to enter the cloud. Because cool air is heavier than warm air, it starts to descend in the cloud (known as a downdraft). The downdraft pulls the heavy water downward, making rain.

This cloud has become a cumulonimbus cloud because it has an updraft, a downdraft, and rain. Lightning and thunder start to occur, as well as heavy rain. The cumulonimbus is now a thunderstorm cell.

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Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

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Rain

Rain is precipitation that falls to the Earth in drops of 5mm or more in diameter according to the US National Weather Service. Virga is rain that evaporates before reaching the ground. Raindrops form...more

Cumulonimbus

Cumulonimbus clouds belong to the Clouds with Vertical Growth group. They are generally known as thunderstorm clouds. A cumulonimbus cloud can grow up to 10km high. At this height, high winds will flatten...more

Thunder and Lightning

Lightning is the most spectacular element of a thunderstorm. In fact it is how thunderstorms got their name. Wait a minute, what does thunder have to do with lightning? Well, lightning causes thunder....more

Types of Thunderstorms

There are two main types of thunderstorms: ordinary and severe. Ordinary thunderstorms are the common summer storm. Ordinary thunderstorms last about one hour. The precipitation associated with them is...more

Supercell Thunderstorms and Squall Lines

A supercell thunderstorm is a huge rotating thunderstorm. It can last for several hours as a single storm. These storms are the most likely to produce long-lasting tornadoes and baseball-sized hail. Tornadoes...more

Types of Lightning

Lightning can take place in several different areas of a thunderstorm. Most lightning (about 80%) occurs within a single cloud and is called cloud-to-cloud lightning. Most of the other 20% of lightning...more

Altocumulus

Altocumulus clouds are part of the Middle Cloud group (2000-7000m up). They are grayish-white with one part of the cloud darker than the other. Altocumulus clouds usually form in groups and are about...more

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