Why don’t hailstorms last as long as rainstorms? © Getty Images

Why don’t hailstorms last as long as rainstorms?

Tiny ice cubes pelting you from the sky? Hailstorms are shorter lived than rainstorms thanks to their rapid movement and short bursts of energy.

Asked by: Dave Ferris, London 


Hail is produced during thunderstorms, when an updraught of warm, moist air carries tiny droplets of water upwards. The droplets freeze at high altitude, and the resulting ice crystals grow until they are too heavy to stay suspended.  

For hail to form, a warm air mass has to meet a much colder one (this is what creates the updraught). The hail only forms in a narrow region where these two air masses meet, meaning that it falls over just a small strip of land. 

Why don’t hailstorms last as long as rainstorms? © Dan Bright

These high-energy storms also tend to move quickly, so someone on the ground experiences the hail as a short burst. Finally, as they need a supply of warm, moist air to fuel them, hailstorms relatively quickly run out of energy and dissipate.

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