What it takes for a thunderstorm to develop


As beautiful and as scary as they are, thunderstorms are the Earth’s way of equalizing imbalances. You’ll be hearing a lot about thunderstorms in the coming months since we are headed into severe thunderstorm season.

All thunderstorms need certain ingredients to come together. The KX Storm Team looks for those certain ingredients so they can give you a heads up on weather that may impact you. There are four main atmospheric conditions we look for.

First, we need moisture. We look for dew points and humidity…. dew points are probably the best parameter to look for in the summer when it comes to forecasting thunderstorms. Not only do they tell us the comfort level, but they will tell us the moisture availability for storm development. Usually, dew points in the 50s are sufficient for a storm but the higher the dew points, the more moisture a thunderstorm has to work with.

Next, we need instability… which is like fuel for the storm. We can often get this from daytime heating and this allows us to know if there will be thunderstorm updraft development. Will we see supercells or small and non-severe thunderstorms. This can also help us decide on whether there will be hail or not.

Next, we need a lifting mechanism. This could be through a cold front or daytime heating that spurs convection – or lift – in the atmosphere. You often hear meteorologists refer to this as forcing. Basically, what’s going to force that air to rise.

The fourth ingredient we watch for, particularly when forecasting severe storms, is wind shear. This is a change of wind with height. The stronger the wind shear, the better the chance for strong to severe storms.

For more Weather Whys topics: https://www.kxnet.com/weather/weather-whys/

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