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Shown is a middle-stage cumulonimbus cloud with the characteristic anvil top. Cumulonimbus, or thunderstorm clouds can produce rain, thunder, lightning, and if conditions are right, tornadoes. As the updrafts-rising pockets of warm, moist air-reach warmer air at the top of the troposphere, the top of the cloud spreads out and flattens. Rain or hail starts to fall when the updrafts no longer have the energy to carry the heavy precipitation. Thunderstorms can last from one to several hours.
Courtesy of UCAR Digital Image Library




Thunderstorms are one of the most thrilling and dangerous types of weather phenomena. Over 40,000 thunderstorms occur throughout the world each day.

Thunderstorms form when very warm, moist air rises into cold air. As this humid air rises, water vapor condenses, forming huge cumulonimbus clouds.

There are two main types of thunderstorms: ordinary and severe. Ordinary thunderstorms are the common summer storm 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 kilometers high.

Severe 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 grow 18 kilometers high. Several phenomena are associated with severe thunderstorms, including gust fronts, microbursts, supercell thunderstorms, and the squall lines.

source: Windows to the universe


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