Shop Windows to the Universe

Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.
This photograph shows the build-up of cumulus clouds.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Steve Albers

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 rain and occasionally small hail. An ordinary thunderstorm cloud can grow up to 12 kilometers high.

Severe thunderstorms are really dangerous. They are capable of producing baseball-sized hail, strong winds, intense rain, flash floods, and tornadoes. Severe thunderstorms can last several hours and can grow 18 kilometers high. Several phenomena are associated with severe thunderstorms. These include the gust front, microburst, supercell thunderstorm, and the squall line.



Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable....more

Precipitation

Precipitation (pre-sip-uh-tay-shun) is any form of water that falls to the Earth's surface. Different forms of precipitation include drizzle, rain, hail, snow, sleet, and freezing rain. Precipitation...more

Tornadoes

Tornadoes form from severe thunderstorms. They have a very high energy density which means that they affect a small area but are very destructive to that area. They also don't last very long which makes...more

Cumulus Stage

The sun heats the earth's surface during the day. The heat on the surface and warms the air around it. Since warm air is lighter than cool air, it starts to rise (known as an updraft). If the air is moist,...more

Dissipating Stage

After about 30 minutes, the thunderstorm begins to dissipate. This occurs when the downdrafts in the cloud begins to dominate over the updraft. Since warm moist air can no longer rise, cloud droplets...more

Mature Stage

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...more

Sound Waves vs. Light Waves

You see a flash of lightning across the night sky. Five seconds later, your hear the rumble of thunder. If lightning and thunder come from the same source, then why don't they occur at the same time?...more

Thunderstorm Safety

Thunderstorms can be really dangerous! Flash floods, lightning bolts, hail, tornadoes...all of these things can hurt you if you're not careful. So here's some safety tips. GO INSIDE! If you hear distant...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF