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Thunderstorms - Windows to the Universe

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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This cumulonimbus cloud has the characteristic anvil-shaped top.
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Courtesy of UCAR Digital Image Library

Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms are one of the most exciting and dangerous types of weather. Over 40,000 thunderstorms happen around the world each day.

Thunderstorms form when very warm, moist air rises into cold air. As this air rises, water vapor condenses and forms huge cumulonimbus clouds.

There are two main types of thunderstorms: ordinary and severe. Ordinary thunderstorms usually last about one hour and can produce rain and small hail.

Severe thunderstorms are very dangerous. They can produce baseball-sized hail, strong winds, intense rain, flash floods, and tornadoes. Severe thunderstorms can last several hours.

Last modified May 27, 2010 by Becca Hatheway.

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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