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Hail Defined: A look at how hail forms and its dangers

Weather Glossary

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Hail is a form of precipitation that forms within updrafts of thunderstorms. It can cause major damage to property, livestock, and people. New York State does get hail, but it is much more common for the middle part of the United States.

Hail is formed as water droplets are forced upward into colder air within an updraft. While suspended it turns into a “stone” of ice. Water droplets continue to collect on the outside of the hailstone until the force of gravity outweighs the updraft and the hailstone falls to the ground. This can happen if the storm weakens or if the hailstone grows, among some other factors.

Larger thunderstorms with stronger updrafts are able to create larger hail. (SOURCE: NSSL)

Hail grows as it moves horizontally and vertically within a storm. It can often grow in layers that, depending on the water droplet, can look different than other layers. A simple experiment can show how these layers form. You can find how to do the experiment from the video above. All that is required is a a skewer, a cotton ball, and some wax.

Here are some examples of hail sizes from the National Severe Storms Laboratory at NOAA:

  • Pea = 1/4 inch diameter
  • Mothball = 1/2 inch diameter
  • Penny = 3/4 inch diameter
  • Nickel = 7/8 inch
  • Quarter = 1 inch — hail quarter size or larger is considered severe
  • Ping-Pong Ball = 1 1/2 inch
  • Golf Ball = 1 3/4 inches
  • Tennis Ball = 2 1/2 inches
  • Baseball = 2 3/4 inches
  • Tea cup = 3 inches
  • Softball = 4 inches
  • Grapefruit = 4 1/2 inches

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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