Thunderstorms are one of the most thrilling and dangerous types of weather phenomena. Over 40,000 thunderstorms occur throughout the world each day.
A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm, lightning storm, or thundershower, is a storm characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth’s atmosphere, known as thunder. Thunderstorms occur in association with a type of cloud known as a cumulonimbus.
Thunder storms form when very warm, moist air rises into cold air. As this humid air rises, water vapors condenses, forming huge cumulonimbus clouds. There are two main types of thunderstorms:
- Ordinary Thunderstorms
- Severe Thunderstorms
01. Ordinary thunderstorms: are the common summer storms and usually last about one hour. The precipitation associated with these storms includes rain and occasionally small hail. With ordinary thunderstorms, cumulonimbus clouds can grow up to 12 km high.
02. Sever thunderstorms: are very 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 grown 18 km high. Several phenomena are associated with severe thunderstorms, including gust fronts, microbursts, supercell thunderstorms and the squall lines.
Stages of thunderstorm development:
There are three major stages of the development of a thunderstorm.
01. Initial Stage/ Cumulus Stage:
The initial stage of development is called the Cumulus stage. The sun heats the Earth’s surface during the day. The heat on the surface 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, then the warm air condenses into a cumulus cloud. The cloud will continue to grow as long as warm air below it continues to rise, near the end of this stage precipitation forms.
02. Mature Stage:
When the cumulus cloud becomes very large, the water in it becomes large and heavy. Rain drops starts to fall through the cloud when the rising air can no longer hold them up. Meanwhile cool dry air starts to enter the clouds. Because the cool air is heavier than warm air, it starts to descend in the cloud known as down draft. The downdraft pulls the heavy water downward, making rain. This cloud has become Cumulonimbus cloud because it has an updraft, a downdraft, and rain. Thunder and lightening start to occur, as well as heavy rain. The cumulonimbus is now a thunders storm cell.
03. Dissipating Stage:
After about thirty minutes, the thunder storm begins to dissipate. This occurs when the downdraft in the cloud begins to dominate over the updraft. Since warm moist air can no longer rise, cloud droplets can no longer form. The storm dies out with light rain as the cloud disappears from bottom to top.
04. Thunder and lightening:
Lightening is the most spectacular element of a thunderstorm. In fact it is how thunderstorms got their name. Wait a minute; what does thunder have to do with lightening? Well, lightening causes thunder.
Lightening is the giant spark. A single stroke of lightening can heat the air around it to 30,000 degree Celsius. This extreme heating cause the air to expand at an explosive rate. The expansion creates a shock wave that turns into booming sound wave, better known as Thunder. This is why it is known as thunderstorm.
Thunder and lightening occur roughly at same time, although you see the flash of lightening before you hear the thunder. This is because light travels much faster than sound.
Thunder storms can be really dangerous! Flash floods, lightening bolts, hail, tornadoes… all of these things can hurt you if you are not careful. So here are some safety tips which are necessary to prevent you from harms.
- Go inside rooms if you hear distant thunder or see a flash of light, get indoor immediately.
- Seeks shelters of sturdy buildings, instead lean-tos or out-houses.
- You can stay in your car, if that is the only option of resort. But do not touch metallic parts of the car.
- If you do not find any shelter stay away from the tall trees, towers, poles etc.
- Make sure that you are not the tallest object by crouching down.
- Crouch down, bent forward, and grab your ankles.
- Always keep your head down.
- Do not lie flat on the ground and try to keep out of puddles or other stagnant waters.
- If you get into a school or house or some other building, go down to the basement instead of upper floors.
- Stay away from window if you are in a room. That way if a lightening touches down, you will be safe.
- Do not use phone or some other communication device, like internet devices, radio, TV etc when there is a thunder out side.
- Do not take a shower or wash dishes during thunder and lightening.
- Stay away from the metallic water pipes and tapes during the lightening and thunder, because lightening can strike the plumbing and electrical wiring connected to your room.
- Try to sit on dry places instead of damp and moist places.
The next article is about Tornado