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InlineCafe: Storm in a Teacup, Hail, Lightning, Tornadoes, El Niño

eebee's picture

Exciting stuff! This fun NASA article by Dr. Tony Phillips, highlights a 3 year study performed by the National Space Science & Technology Center in Huntsville, AL, about the correlation between lightning formation and ice content of clouds. Not a new theory, but I don't think it had been tested before.


It's not God moving the furniture; it's ice pellets flying up and down in a stormcloud.

After water droplets in a regular old raincloud have been caught in a strong updraft a few times, the cloud towers into cumulonimbus and the water drops become hail. Ice collisions inside the cloud cause enough electrical tension to spark lightning. The study compared the ice content of the clouds, measured by radar, with the strikes caught by a lightning imaging sensor, and found a 90% correlation. According to the study, it takes about 10,000,000 kilos of ice to produce one lightning strike per minute. Incidentally, as the hailstones make their rounds inside the violent cloud before becoming heavy enough to simply drop out the bottom, they can cast that eerie green hue over the landscape, so often seen before a tornado forms.

Talking of tornadoes...more exciting stuff! It seems another El Niño is underway in the Pacific:


Why is this exciting? Because I suspect next Spring's jetstream may come further south to us here in the Southeast of the US, as happened in the 1997-8 El Niño. It has been suggested that this causes a higher number of, and more violent tornadoes than in non-El Niño years. For Storm Spotters, Chasers and severe WX photographers, this makes for 3 months of pure adrenaline! Still, this is all just my own wishful thinking and not a scientific projection.

Of course I'm not sitting here wishing for fatalities, destitute fishing communities, or half of L.A. disappearing into the Pacific. Ideally we'd be safely positioned for witnessing the power and beauty of severe weather. It's an extraordinary reminder that there's so much more to life on Earth than being human!

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