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. They are usually multicell.
Multicell storms consist of a line of thunderstorms in different stages
Ordinary thunderstorms last about one hour. The precipitation associated
with them is rain and
occasionally small hail.
An ordinary thunderstorm cloud
can have a vertical extent up to 12 kilometers.
Severe thunderstorms are the most dangerous weather
phenomenon in the United States. They are capable of producing baseball-sized
hail, strong winds, intense rain, flash floods, and
tornadoes. Severe thunderstorms
can last several hours and can reach a vertical extent of 18 kilometers.
Several phenomena are associated with severe thunderstorms. These
include the gust
front, microburst, supercell
and the squall
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
You might also be interested in:
What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more
Precipitation 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 is important because it...more
Tornadoes form from severe thunderstorms. They have a very high energy density which means that they are very destructive to a small area. They also don't last very long which makes them hard to study....more
The sun heats the earth's surface during the day. The heat accumulates 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...more
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
When the cumulus cloud becomes very large, the water molecules in it become large and heavy. They start to fall through the cloud when the rising air can no longer hold them up. Meanwhile, cool dry air...more
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
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